Things are cheap in Pakistan. Last night we ate at a little street restaurant in Lahore somewhere. Sitting outside watching the passing traffic is a joy. So too is watching your meal being cooked on a hot plate on the other side of the footpath.
My burger was made with an egg placed on top of a patty made from spicy chickpeas and chicken. It cost the equivalent of one Australian dollar, including fries and salad. It tasted like it was worth a hundred dollars. It was that good. I’ll be back for another.
The crew joked with me that given the meal was so cheap, they can’t guarantee that the burger meat was actually chicken. I didn’t really care what it was to be honest.
The morning was full with both an open press conference to the TV news channels about the purpose of my trip, followed by a more intimate chat with influential Lahori bloggers, tweeters and MySpacer’s.
The TV thing went smoothly, but there were a few questions that attempted to lure me into the Pakistan vs India debate. I played a straight bat. Mainly because I haven’t thought about it too much. But it gave another insight into the insecurity of this nation against its larger brother.
The blogger chat was more fun. I recalled to them the story of when I had to face my wife and tell her that this stupid idea to come to Pakistan was going to happen. I knew the exact moment. It was 48 hours after I started my crowd funding page and it had ticked over $5,000. The messages of support I was getting alongside the donations was what got me there though. The feeling that this task was more a quest, and that so many people wanted the story told.
As I relayed this to the gathered keyboard warriors, I started to cry. Just as I did when I told my wife why I had to go. I started this trip as something for me. But it very quickly morphed into something for Pakistan. That’s a heavy burden, but one that I’m tackling face first.
I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here, that sponsors are covering my costs, and that I get to film the whole thing. I’m so nervous about how the final production will hold up. I really want to nail it.
We had arranged to meet the great Misbah-ul-Haq at 2.30pm at the National Cricket Academy.
As usual, we arrived slightly late, but it didn’t matter. Misbah had left the Academy by 1pm.
Friend and Pakistani youth icon Ahmer Naqvi was waiting for us. He suggested we grab an icecream at a cool little café jutting out of Gaddafi Stadium. While we did that, we would send the hounds out to find out where Misbah was.
Over my chocolate chip single scoop, Ahmer delved into a discussion on Pakistani youth culture. Music. Dating. Sex. Movies. The normal stuff.
Then the call came. Misbah was at his home and would greet us there.
“CHALO CHALO [Let’s go] !!!!”
Misbah lives in an affluent area of Lahore. You can tell just by looking at the streetscape. It is simply immaculate.
He came out to greet us. A man of similar height to me, in traditional dress, but with a presence larger than any I’d encountered for a long time.
In his study, he talk about everything.
Kids and family, Islam, Pakistan’s youth, Younis Khan, the future of Test cricket, match fixing and more.
His eyes told me that when he speaks about Islam, it is from the heart. Something that is deeply important to many here. I ask Misbah where Pakistani’s get their resilience.
“Believing in Allah takes all fear away from you”.
The whole time we speak, Misbah is composed and thoughtful. His most playful reply was when recalling the time he hit the world record fastest Test 50 and 100 against Australia.
I asked nicely if you would indulge me in a push up challenge. He never directly said no, but the crew politely shot it down. I discovered later that Misbah wasn’t comfortable doing it in the clothing he was in. He asked us to come to the ground he is playing at later in the week and we could do it then.
He also said he can probably do 30 now, but when playing for the national side, he was up to 70.
I reckon this will be a neck and neck race if we can make it happen.
30 is about my limit too.
We had planned to visit the Wagah border. But by the time this had finished, it was too late. A real shame as for me, this is a must see. We will try again, but need government permission to go. This constant chasing of permits is a nightmare.
So instead, one of the bloggers from earlier in the day suggested we join him at a drum circle. Essentially, it is a gathering at a private residence where random people come, get given drums and smash out some group tunes.
It was tantric.
I got to chat with plenty of the people there. Families. Youth. Singles. Just a bunch of friendlies out for a bit of fun. I truly loved every moment.
It’s what you do when you have no pubs or nightclubs I guess.