Margalla Tunnel
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)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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