I was recently asked to write where I would spend my summer. For a few minutes I kept my anguish at Pakistan’s situation aside and wrote the following lines for the NEWS. Indulgent and nostalgic, it was fun nevertheless.
Hackneyed as it may sound but Murree remains my favourite destination for the summer.
Alas, the luxury of spending months at the alluring foothills of Himalayas is no longer available with the day-jobs, and other commitments. But there was a time, over a decade ago, when I lived in Murree for three glorious years. It was May when I moved there with a wild rose bush joyously waving with the summer breeze and dahlias smiling at the mellow sun. For the next three years, despite the rigmarole of work and banal matters, Murree kept me happy as if I had been adopted by the place.
This is not to say that the loveable hill station of yore is an idyll any more. It is treeless in many parts, stinks when overflows of callous tourists who throw garbage here and there; and which the little municipality can barely manage. It is now cursed with the menace of ugly construction everywhere — tasteless concrete blocks with an aesthetic that makes the little British-era cottages ashamed of their incongruity.
But all of this cannot take away the curious Murree ‘season’ as is known in the local parlance. The season to make money, to serve and sometimes fleece the tourists and to be hospitable as well. The season for outsiders entails half finished love stories, casual strolls along the Mall among other things.
For me the colours of a summer day are enchanting and I remain in search of them. The golden-red hues of pre-dusk sky and the crimson at the sunset remain unforgettable. A sunroom has lived with me as a constant companion, of beauty, of friends and of solitude. The only tribute I could pay to this memory is a painting that I made when I had to live abroad for a few years, far away from the clouds that flirt with Himalayas. The little makeshift sunroom that was once a verandah in the Raj days, is now covered with windows caressed by creepers and comforted by the changing light.
I want to return to my sunroom this summer. After a few hours of solitude, I want to walk in the nearby woods, breath the air that has just filtered through the pine trees and is crisp after an unexpected shower.