Since the time I wrote and published my last article some 6 months ago, a lot has happened around me. March came with full force and the advent of spring brought new lease of life for the flora and fauna that grows around abundantly in Islamabad; a city which I have come to appreciate and love since the time we have moved here from Karachi to Islamabad in July 2002.
The beauty of Islamabad (unlike Karachi) is that you can get to appreciate all four seasons i.e. summer, autumn, winter and spring. Although the summers are extremely hot and the winters quite harsh especially for us Karachiites but the spring and autumn are so beautiful that we always somehow manage to cope with the summers and winters here.
April passes somehow quietly but with the coming of May, school (for the kids) got tough since final exams come in May and this May was no different when most extracurricular activities came to a grinding halt with focus on studies and preparation for the exams. Adil (my oldest) was appearing for the final exam of his O ‘levels through Cambridge while Mohsin (my younger prince) was appearing for his grade seven papers and my little princess Ayesha was appearing for her grade five exams.
The battery supporting the uninterrupted power supply (UPS) had given way in March this year and with the advent of the sweltering heat, it had to be replaced and replaced it was in May. With the load shedding of electricity after every three hours for one hour, one cannot live without a UPS in Pakistan. Thanks to our government who have been lying for the last 20 odd years that there will be no load shedding and we have come to terms with this blatant lie and a few privileged souls like us spend around 20-25 thousand rupees to procure a UPS and a battery which usually lasts us for a good three hours in such load shedding. Reminds me of the brownouts that I faced in the Philippines when I was doing my Masters there b/w 1993-1995
Poor Adil had to appear for 14 papers in his GCE O’ level exams this year. Although he had taken 6 subjects but they all had parts and thus the total number of exams summed up to 14. He went through the grind for about a month and was almost exhausted by the end of this ordeal.
June was as hot as it could be. While the school closed but my office did not and I continue to enjoy my summer break in the office. Laughter.
On the dreadful morning of 22nd June 2016, around 11:00 a.m., Amjad Farid Sabri, the talented son of the (late) Qawal Ghulam Fareed Sabri was shot dead in Karachi, a troubled city since the last 30+ years. He was assassinated in cold blood and his apparent fault was that he was a Qawali singer; an art which is abhorred by the fanatic moulvis and the jihadi element. I was still suffering through the APS massacre of Peshawar since Dec 2015 and now this brutal murder of a very humble and loving personality pushed me against the wall and the pain and suffering continued. I wonder how long the sons of this soil will be killed in cold blood like this and would this ever stop?
Come 8th July and the world’s richest poor man died; yes Abdul Sattar Edhi is dead, a man who donated his life for the downtrodden, the hungry, the widows, the orphans, the poor, the needy, the illegitimate born. A man who spent his entire life in two shalwar suits, who owns no property in his name, has a fleet of private ambulances which put his name in the Guinness book of world records. He is no more among us and he has made the entire nation yateem (Fatherless)!
Thank God, he was given a state funeral by the Armed forces of Pakistan, an honor which has been bestowed only on two civilians so far; the first being Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation and the second one being Edhi sahib. He was buried in Edhi village, about 25 kilometers off Karachi and millions mourned his death within and outside Pakistan.
Having said all the above, let me now draw your attention to the reason why this article is being written. The Federal government decided to inaugurate yet another trail in the Margalla hills for the hike loving inhabitants of Islamabad. Yes, in late 2012; the Interior Minister inaugurated the ‘Trail # 6’ track which starts behind the Faisal Masjid in sector E-7 in Islamabad.
Some of us hikers had already been here thrice but the trail was given a formal name by the then government of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP) in late 2012. And it is not possible that a new trek is opened in Islamabad and we do not visit.
So on 17th Feb. 2013, a reasonably cold morning; we decide to go hiking on this trail. As usual, I got up early around 6:00 a.m. and then wake up my better half and the kids around 7:00 a.m. and start to get ready for the hiking trip ahead. Sabeen prepared the breakfast for the family and I help her in making burgers for the hike while I had already purchased chips, dry fruit and juices for the trip earlier.
We leave the house around 8:45 a.m. and reach the west side car park of the Faisal Masjid at 9:00 a.m. Mr. & Mrs. Dr. Tahir Rasool from Air University, Ahsan Mumtaz’ s family, Rizwan Ahmad Khan’s family and Khawaja Zaheeruddin sahib meet us at the car park.
Within five minutes we reach the starting point of the trek and took the ritualistic pictures. This article will carry a lot of family pictures. Incidentally, two families have left for the US after this hike.
(Details of the Trail # 6)
(With the abundance of cell phone cameras, a family picture was a must)
Ahsan Mumtaz, a colleague who initially worked with me at HEC and had later joined PTCL after clearing his international PMP Exams had joined PTCL, the national telephone carrier. He later left for the US while accompanying his wife and children. Mrs. Mumtaz won a Fulbright PhD scholarship in Computer Science and they are now living somewhere in Massachusetts, USA.
After taking the above pictures, we start the hike around 9:30 a.m. Within a few minutes, we saw a newly erected signboard which gave us two choices:
And since we were heading for the Jabbi village, thus we went east leaving the Kalinger trail behind. I had befriended Dr. Tahir Rasool, a foreign faculty member from Canada who had lately moved to Pakistan and was working at the Air University, Islamabad. I sometimes used to see Dr. Rasool on the way while going to my kid’s school in F-11. Dr. Rasool would usually carry an umbrella and a back pack and could be seen striding off Margalla avenue on his way to work; a good 6 kms walk.
One day, I just could not resist stopping my car and asking him if I could give him a ride and hesitatingly he decided to hop in and thus we became friends. He would walk to work daily and traverse the 6 kms distance like a piece of cake. And but of course he was a hiker too. It was destined that we would meet since birds of a feather flock together.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Rasool could not handle the hike and soon decided to turn around. We had to bid farewell to the Rasool family since there was no point in dragging the poor lady all the way up and down for 8 kilometers. Dr. Rasool would later twist his ankle badly and would almost get off the hiking circle for over a good one year. This is indeed very painful for a regular hiker but life is like that sometimes.
Within half an hour of walking, we took this portrait picture:
Within 35 minutes of our walk, we reached the Phoenix sit out, a resting area where you could relax and appreciate the chirping of the local birds.
This picture was so lovely that I could not help resist putting it here. Children are the life blood of our existence, a source of unlimited joy to the parents.
Rizwan Ahmad Khan and his family was another group that accompanied us for this hike. Rizwan used to work for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and lately resigned from HEC on 8th July 2016 and took immigration in the USA. He was another good company and since he was becoming a couch potato and gaining weight; I would always force him to come hike with us
Within 1:28 hours, we reached the ‘Palm Spring’, the first pond and a natural spring. We rest here for a while, fill our water bottles and move up.
(A very old banyan tree in the background)
Since we had small kids accompanying us, we took this hike as more of a family picnic, a get together and a light walk and thus were in no hurry to reach our destination. We would stop every half hour to take water breaks and would shoot as many pictures while enjoying with our kids.
By 11:45 a.m. we had reached another spring which had a much larger pond as compared to the previous one where we had stopped earlier. Since Jabbi was another hour’s hike from here, we decided to have our lunch at this spot and out came our lunches, snacks and juices.
(Who is this American couple with a Coloradoan Bandana and a Texan 5 Gallon Hat?)
We ultimately reach our goal post i.e. Jabbi around 1:00 p.m. while passing through a standing crop of mustard. The field was ripe with mustard flowers and accorded us a beautiful and serene look.
(Green fields forever)
The entire hiking party reached Jabbi and found their places to relax but Ayesha was very tired and thus Sabeen and she walked rather slowly and I had to go down and fetch them for the last leg of the hike.
(The victorious lot at Jabbi)
Jabbi was an extremely small place probably owned by one family and they did not like us, intruders. Although the government had opened up this new trail for hikers but the family residing at Jabbi had no idea about this and they were initially very upset with us as to why we were intruding in their area. Later, we tried to convince them that we will not be here for long and will not disturb their peace, destroy their crops and would stay here for a while, catch our breath, take a few pictures and retreat.
After staying at Jabbi, we started to retreat around 1:30 p.m.
By 2:54 p.m. we had covered half the distance on our way back. We did not stop for any break and came down in leaps and bounds.
(The last of the Mohicans on the way back)
By 4:15 p.m., we had reached the starting point, counted all our jewels and parted ways after saying our sweet good byes to the wonderful families that accompanied us for this memorable hike. I wonder when we will get a chance to go hiking again with this group
We left for home around 4:30 p.m. while reaching here by 5:00 p.m. As usual this family hike will be cherished for a long time to come.
Adil’s GCE O’ Level result was announced on 11th August 2016 and much to our surprise and amazement, he has topped in the entire Northern region at the City School by securing 6 A* in his O level part II exams while he had already secured 3 A* in the part I exams last year. Thus, he clinched the highest position with 9 A* which is a feat in itself. He continues to make us proud parents while adding more and more feathers to his cap. Family members say that he has taken after his great grandfather, Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Ibrahim (Khalil) who was bestowed with the title of ‘Taj us Shura-e-Sind’; (the crown of the poets of Sindh, Pakistan), a very learned scholar who was fluent in 8 languages, completed his Medical degree from London and his specialization in skin and venereal diseases from University of Vienna, Austria (all on scholarships).