The story continues thus.....
We crossed over to the Pakistani side and were required to show our passports to a soldier sitting at a desk near the gate. The rest of us made for the soldier, while R continued to walk blissfully into the sunset, lost in heaven only knows what visions of happiness. It took the startled shouts of the soldier and our combined yelping to bring her back to earth. We were quite tired, because in a misdirected fit of woman power, we had dragged our very heavy luggage for over a kilometre on the Indian side (okay, alright, it wasn't just about the woman power. We were pretty sure the porters on the Indian side were trying to rip us off). So, by now, the backaches and shoulder pains were getting too insistent to be ignored. At this point of time we were accosted by a Pakistani porter, and A very quickly began the inevitable process of haggling.
A: - How much?
Porter: - Fifty rupees.
Me (secretly pleased) : - Hah!
A: - Way too much.
P: - Baaji, I'm not trying to cheat you. You are our guests, four ladies, lugging so much on your own. Fifty is at a special concessional rate just for you. Consider.
My thought bubble: - 'Baaji'! How sweet! (I really think it was the novelty of the word. I never get really thrilled when anybody addresses me as 'behenji'. Actually, the pejorative dimension of the word 'behenji' sadly overshadows the 'respect' dimension of it).
Me to A: - I think its okay.
Then followed the long drill with some more incredulous officials at immigration and customs, this time on the other side. After half an hour or so, we went out into Pakistan, met P, co-hosteller, gracious host and nervous wreck. After exchanging pleasantries, we set off for Lahore. I looked out of the window, looked some more. It was so hard to believe that this was it.
Once in Lahore, we made our way to Lahore Fort. It was simpler and more understated, under restoration. Being the sucker that I am, I took a zillion pictures of panels, and relief details, and pretty trees....you get the idea. The fort was in the same complex as the Golden Temple at Lahore and the Badshahi mosque. In the evening, the mosque was lit up, and we walked into a little bit of magic. The sheer beauty of these buildings never fails to amaze me, I cannot stop getting astounded by the sheer perfection of Mughal architecture. We managed to lose our guide in the mosque.The poor man was rather irate when he found us again.
Next we made our way to a reastaurant called Cuckoo's Den. It is set in an 18th century (maybe older) building, on the second floor. On the ground floor were exhibited some paintings that the previous owner had made of some prostitutes. The deadened expression in their eyes is something that I cannot forget, alongwith the complete resignation expressed in their person. Pulling ourselves away, we went to the restaurant, climbing steps which brought the reality of Humayun falling down stairs and his consequent death home to us (I'd always thought it a bit of a silly way to go). The restaurant was beautiful, with a view of the fort-mosque complex, but a Coke cost us sixty five rupees! Using history to rob. Ah well.
On getting to the guest house, we were told that the son of the tour organizer would be taking us out for dinner. He landed up in a while, and then the mean one in me came to life again. Here was an NRP, forced by his parents to take out a bunch of very dull women for dinner, when he also had a party to attend that very night. The UK accent first made me realize that fun was on its way. Then the two huge diamonds on the ears and the gaping tear in the jeans made my evil cackle ring out in my head. Anyway, we we driven to the restaurant in an opulent car that actually purred inspite of being driven by this boy, who evidently thought that driving was pretty much whatever he wanted it to be. We almost ran into two people, and R was thoroughly nauseous by the end of it. We were taken to a restaurant by the name of Bundu Khan, because the young one had visited the branch in London. Priceless. He ended up ordering everything on the menu, and we ended up eating all of it. We offered to go dutch on the bill (some 3000 bucks!) but were relieved when he refused....we really didn't wanna go broke on day I in Pakistan.
The weary lot made its way back to the hostel, and crashed. As I slept, I wondered if my dreams would be different in Pakistan. I discovered that they were. They had an infinitesimal bit more colour.
PS: - In winter, having a phone conversation from under one's blanket is about as cozy as it gets.