Thursday, February 3, 2011

A walk through Pakistan Park

A neighbourhood park which was at one time informally referred to as the Polo Ground was upgraded to 'Pakistan Park' a couple of years back. An already lush, well-maintained ground was further 'beautified' with miniature versions of Pakistan's significant architecture, your PTV versions of it. Minar-e-Pakistan for Punjab, Quaid's Mausoleum for Sind, and so on. Only Balochistan now has a sexy new addition to the rather bland Ziarat Residence, Chaghi Hill--that sacred symbol of Pakistan's rise in the comity of nations.

The park is on the choicest land right in the middle of Cantt but it is not open to all. Its special club-like atmosphere is assiduously maintained by Military Police, who only allow entry to those with 'membership', I suppose you can't blame them for trying to keep their children from associating with the riff raff. I always wonder where the money for the park's upkeep comes from, for the renovations made inside it are not small scale. Is it funded by the army's budget or the tax payer's money. In either case (and especially in the latter), why can all people not access it?

My parents have valid passes for the park but i don't. I usually get in by studiously avoiding eye contact with the MPs at the gate. My parents have nothing to do with the army, so it means that even non-army people can acquire membership cards if they try, but it is by no means a simple process. At the Cantt Services Club though, built on a huge area just a few metres away from the park, with facilities such as tennis courts, swimming pool, banquet halls etc., it is not possible to acquire membership for a non-army person, regardless of whether you are a professor who managed to do well for himself and put together enough to build a house in Cantt. Of course the very idea of a private club on public grounds is revolting. In the same vein, I would also love to know who owns the sprawling acres that Gymkhana stands on. Does that land belong to the government? If it does, why am I not allowed free access to it, since it certainly doesn't hold classified state secrets.

Coming back to the park, it is a great representation of the kind of resources at the army's disposal, and how they go towards the luxuries of high ranking army officials, for I haven't ever seen any rankers or their families inside the park, though a teeming number of them frequent the RA Bazaar just on the other side of the road.

As my blood often boils over when i go walking inside, i usually amuse myself with the motivational quotes sprinkled all over the place (thankfully I don't have to listen to the assault of the milli naghmas being streamed through the PA system, since I carry my own music). The following quote always tickles my fancy. I am positive it has been put up by someone who does not have the slightest clue to its sarcastic nature. I guess it takes a special kind of intelligence (military intelligence?) to interpret a GB Shaw quote in this deadly serious manner.

I also love the old world fervour of the following. Reminds me of my Taleem-o-Tarbiat and Ishtiaq Ahmed days. 

Today as i walked past the animal cages and the cascading waterfall, the artificial lake and the swans, peacocks, deer and monkeys, I saw a monkey clinging to the side of a cage while a small child repeatedly threw stones at it with full force. I immediately veered off the track and told the child to stop it at once, which he did, him being very young, barely 6 or 7. He was being egged on by a grinning and very obviously army-looking middle aged man, probably his grandfather. I guess that was his idea of teaching his little soldier how to be big and brave, by scaring the defenseless and the meek. Some nice, macho male bonding going on right there. I made sure that as i walked on, i turned back to give them both my best glare, while they watched my retreating figure with muted anger. Pleasant place altogether.