I have been borrowing a dear friend’s car for the past month or so. It’s really useful in a big city like Karachi. I think I’ve finally gotten used to driving here. Some people ask if the driving is difficult. I like to liken it to trying to sprint barefoot across a floor covered in shards of glass while being chased by rabid dogs. Miraculously, my feet are not bleeding yet.
The other night Ruth and her little sister Rani were asking me to show them how to drive. So we hopped in the car and found a nice, quiet area of town. We parked right in front of a mosque. I didn’t actually take them driving, though. They were a little nervous so we basically just sat there while I got them to press the clutch and change gears.
After they had had enough of that fun we decided to go to McDonald’s for milkshakes. So I hopped back in the driver’s seat and turned the ignition. Lo, and behold, the car battery was completely dead.
To understand the humour of what happened next you’ll have to understand some things about Pakistani culture.
Since we had only planned to sit in the car, Ruth and Rani decided there was no need to dress up special. Ladies generally never wear western clothes here and there are outfits fit for home that are not fit for outside. Rani was wearing incredibly miss-matched Shalwar Qamis, which is a very bad fashion faux-pas here. Ruth was wearing the pants of a Shalwar Qamis and a western T-Shirt, a fashion problem so big that I’ve only seen foreigners doing it. All of this was, of course, no big deal because we never intended to leave the car. But now the car was stuck. And, as providence would have it, we had broken down right in front of a mosque.
So I sent my ill-clad girls out to push the car. I was surprised by their enthusiasm. Girls are genereally not allowed to help with mechanical things here, so it was exciting. Their excitement faded a bit when the doors to the mosque opened and all the devotees started walking out, having finished their prayers.
But by this time they had already started to push, so there was nothing to do but continue. So amid stares and confused looks they pushed the car down the street until I got it started.
And if, at this point, you’re thinking to yourself that my little story was boring and a little pointless, just trust me on this: If you were Sindhi you’d think it was hilarious.