Within days of having got married I had realized, a planner like me, had signed up for a different kind of life with a partner who enjoyed risk-taking and adventures. A life like I wanted, of planning ahead, for next 5-10 years was not his cup of tea. He had conveniently left the longterm planning to me, “Yeh lambi planning tum karo.”
We had common interest to travel, but not the same way or form. ‘Traveling by air, staying in a hotel and sightseeing standard tourist spots, museums and castles ‘ was not his idea of travel.
Fasih wanted to see the world by road.
Our very first trip was soon after our wedding was in Feb 1990 to Simla. Papa insisted we take a flight, as being a Pakistani, it was safer, but Fasih had read about the Kalka Simla train and insisted to ride on it.
We made various unique road trips in past 30 years. None of them were from any travel guides.
One of the trips along Nile I have already mentioned elsewhere.
Another, one of the weirdest plans we made was to travel by road from KL to Bangkok in 2000. Yes, from Malaysia to Thailand. We took a beautiful train from KL to Penang and then crossed the Malay-Thai border by taxi. As we were checking out of Malaysia, the Malay Customs asked us, “Pakistani?”
Fasih replied, “Yes.”
The customs officer took him to a senior officer as kids and I sat for almost an hour dreading what happened. He returned laughing with the officer. The Malay authorities had informed him that we can cross to Thailand, but will not be allowed back to Malaysia on return because Pakistanis were not allowed road entry to Malaysia from Thailand. So they ensured we knew it. Fasih had already done his homework and he showed them the air ticket he had from Bangkok via KL to Jeddah.
The road trip within Thailand from border to Hatyai, a small town in Southern Thailand on a Tuktuk was very scary. It took us 2 hours. I had the horrible fear that we will be kidnapped for ransom. But much to our surprise, it was a very simple town, with simple and hospitable people. Being predominantly a Muslim city, we found halal restaurants everywhere. And the best Thai food we ever had was in Hatyai. Thai authorities again did not aloow a ‘Pakistani’ to travel Southern Thailand by road, and we had to take local flight from HatYai to Bangkok.
Our Malaysia stay coincided with Eid Al Fitr and witnessing Eid in KL was a unique experience in itself. They call it “Hari Raya”.
We went early in the morning to central mosque in KL for Eid prayers. Fasih and Ismail sat in the first row. An hour or so later, they saw the President Mahathir Mohammed with few people walk up to the front row for prayers. Fasih & Ismail went up to him, shook hands, introduced himself as a Pakistani tourist, and stood with him for prayers. After the prayers President Mahathir Mohamed invited us for a communal Eid lunch at Putrajaya, his official residence. We met him there too, in the afternoon. Almost half of KL had lunch with him in his residence. Apparently this was his last year before retirement and hence he had an open lunch invitation for all his countrymen.
Fasih often joked, “we haven’t met any of our own Presidents ever, but we met President Mahathir Mohammed twice the same day.”
Road trips in Pakistan were also Fasihs dream that could only be partly fulfilled. We lately travelled upto Chinese border at Khunjerab in June 2019.
There were so many road trips on our bucket list, including one across Japan. Fasih’s father had been to Japan in 1964 for a year for a research on TB then. He was so fascinated that he would narrate his stories of Japan with a twinkle in his eyes all these years, until he lived till 2014. Fasih and his siblings grew up in an awe for Japan. Our next trip would have been a trip train trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima is the sometime in 2020/21.
Now that Fatima is located in Manila for some years, Vietnam, Laos, Koreas and Singapore had been added on his to-go list in the coming years. He would often message in our family group chat, “I want to visit Rahma every few months. Damn this pandemic.”
This wretched pandemic took away this wandering soul to the final journey too early, too fast. I can only hope he gets his kind of road trips up there as well.