By Shoaib Hashmi
It is not nice to diddle an honest
man out of his innocent little pleasures! There
was this stir in the papers, and I thought here
was the beginnings of a rollicking fight; and then
there has been nothing because someone, somewhere
has chickened out. A small item said someone was
planning to dig a tunnel under the Margalla Hills,
and even as he was groping for his spade handle
there were half a dozen screaming columns saying
how the tunnel would wreck the ecology of the Himalayas,
and he would dig it over our dead bodies!
Now one always thought a tunnel was this little
hole in the ground which sat there whistling a merry
tune and not bothering anyone. The French and the
English resisted digging one under the Channel for
centuries because each thought the other would walk
over bringing his fish'n'chips, or frogs’
legs. They did dig one, and neither has reported
any untoward desertification and the fish and the
frogs are still doing well. And the Italian Alps
are still standing despite hundreds of tunnels.
But there has been no more of the controversy, and
no one has even asked the big question -- where
was the tunnel going? The Margallas are this line
of lovely hills running alongside Islamabad, which
make the place a picture perfect setting for a town,
and on the other side of them is. What?
There is to begin with, Taxila and the ancient ruins,
and the Engineering University named after it. No
need to dig a tunnel there because the Margallas
are only about knee high, and students make a habit,
on a nice day, of walking across them for a burger
and drink at the Supermarket, and then back in time
for the next class.
For the rest, as the map says, there is the village
of 'Rehana' which is a rather come-hitherish name
for a village; and it made it to the maps only because
it was the birthplace of Ayub Khan. When he became
President they quickly made a fine carpeted road
across the hills, and it stayed pristine because
only Ayub Khan used it, once a year, to go visit
his arthritic aunt there.
Then the man left and the road fell into disrepair
and then went to pot and no one noticed because,
let's face it, there are not many people, even in
Islamabad with arthritic aunts in Rehana, so who'd
want to go there! And the question remains: They
wanted to dig a tunnel from Isloo, to where?
If you have noticed, in the more populous areas
of Karachi there are rows upon rows of these marvelous
edifices called 'Wedding Palaces'. They are just
very large halls which people can hire for their
children's weddings, so the guests can gormandize
away from the rain and wind and sand.
But they are built for effect and for ostentation,
so they come “pre-dequorated” with much
fake marble and tinsel and chiffon curtains. And
one great element most of them have is a magnificent
curving staircase, complete with mock-marble balustrade,
rising out of the middle and sweeping up to end
in the back wall!
They were all designed by the unemployed set-designers
of our film industry, see, and as you know all our
films had this mandatory scene where the heroine
made her great entry sweeping down this great staircase
down to the multitude of extras dressed to kill.
I am told they are not making them in the new wedding
halls because many a bride tried to make a grand
exit up the staircase, and got a bloody nose running
into the brick wall. Maybe that is why it has quietened
down and no one has heard any more about the Margalla
Tunnel either! (Courtesy The News)