The card arrived on a grey afternoon a week ago. It was maroon with a dash of gold and read:
‘Mrs. Tahira Begum (w/o Late Ghuman Nabi Batt) feels extremely grateful to seek your benign presence and solicit distinguished presence on the auspicious occasion of the marriage ceremony of her son Nadeem Ahmed with Taseema (d/o Mrs and Mr Abdul Rehman Batt of Zalla) at her residence.’
It went on a bit more explaining the details and much to the young one’s excitement, it was decided that they would postpone their trip to the city by a day so that they could attend one of the wedding functions.
It was dark by time they set off for the pre-wedding function to be held in the village of Cherot, 80 minutes away and so they each carried a torch for the stretch where the moonlight was blocked out by the pine forest trees. The wise man had contemplated taking his gun in case they came across the grizzly bear that had been frequenting the corn fields for awhile now but returned from the house empty handed as it had been decided by his fearless daughter that the gun was unnecessary; an assessment not entirely understood by the youngest. In place of the gun, a quick bear recap was done and after it was decided that the party would opt for ‘play dead’ instead of ‘run’ if they did indeed stumble across the grizzly, they set off. The youngest amongst them, hailing from the city, turned on her torch long before the forest began and the older one reprimanded her soon after for ‘blocking the moonlight’ and so, scared and ashamed, she turned it off and stumbled along.
The path to Cherot cut diagonally through the side of the mountain. At its widest, the path was a little over half a meter in width and at points, alarming in their frequency, barely a foot wide. The older one led the delegation and the wise man brought up the rear, forming a sandwiched layer of protection against bear attacks for the two volunteers. Attacks were only a concern from the front or back, it was explained, as the mountain towered above them to the right and fell at almost ninety degrees to the left. ‘If you lose your balance, make sure you lean right’ the older one had said, ‘and if you can’t manage that, grab onto anything and at some point you should stop falling’.
The young one thought about the weddings she had attended back home and wondered how those ladies in skin tight clothing and six inch heals would negotiate their way along this path. The thought amused her and after glancing down at her Mexican inspired dress, now tucked into her jean’s pockets to avoid tripping and falling to her death, complimented with her designer hiking boots (which did absolutely nothing for her posture), she chuckled to herself.
They cleared the forest without incident and the wise man pointed to clusters of lights on the mountains across the village. ‘Can you see that?’ he asked to no one in particular. ‘The opposition says there has been no progress, but look. Look there,’ and he pointed again before continuing on, ‘look where electricity and running water has reached. How can that not be counted as progress?’ We looked to where he pointed and gazed at the sprinklings of lights that broke the seemingly endless darkness. Maybe their ‘thank you’ emails hadn’t reached the opposition.
The delegation stopped a little while later and the youngest amongst them pulled out her camera, knowing full well that the scene could not be captured, but determined to try anyway. They rested for a bit and when they finally got up to leave, the wise man told them to switch off their torches and allow the moonlight to guide them. Apprehensive at first, they followed his orders and after a few dangerously misplaced steps, they seemed to get the hang of it and trekking 80 minutes through the mountains to get to a wedding on a Monday evening, seemed like the normalest thing in the world.