What a catch
On THAT side of the border
Just how a 15-member delegation got stranded on the Indian side of Wagah when it could not make it to the border in time…
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many managers can play havoc with an event or trip they try to organise. This is exactly what happened with the 15-member delegation from Pakistan, which had gone to Chandigarh, India to participate in a regional cultural festival last month.
The group got stranded on the Indian side of Wagah border when it could not make it to the border in time while returning from Chandigarh, and allowed the bus driver to leave immediately. What marred their return journey and how they spent an extra night in the deserted border area are the questions answered in the lines below.
This group that included seven malangs from the shrine of Hazrat Shah Husain in Lahore and four faqirs from that of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhit Shah, Sindh was supposed to perform at the SAARC Folklore festival in Chandigarh, India. As the majority of the delegation members were visiting India for the first time, it was very difficult to convince them about the tedious immigration procedures involved in travel between India and Pakistan.
The situation was a bit under control when they started their journey in the morning and crossed over to India on foot. They had ample time at their disposal to go through all the required procedures and even honour the requests of the officials at the customs and immigration counters. It was a brief dhamal performance by malangs, amid beats of dhol, that lightened the mood of the otherwise stern-looking officials and helped get the group a swift clearance. The same was the case on the Indian side where the officials were also in a jovial mood and making similar requests.
The onward journey from Wagah to Chandigarh was smooth and free of stress as the first day was free of any event-related activity. The next four days were very hectic and full of fun, enjoyed to the heart's content by the delegates coming from all eight SAARC countries and the audience.
It was immediately after the concluding ceremony that the managerial skills of a couple of Pakistani delegates, including the scribe, got at work. All of them came with suggestions on how to manage the return journey from Chandigarh. There was a suggestion to begin the journey from Chandigarh at night, have a brief stay in Amritsar and from there reach the Wagah border around 11am. Another was to leave from Chandigarh at 6am and reach Wagah around 11am or 12 noon, and spare half an hour for breakfast at some convenient spot along this 240 km road.
The second option was approved by the majority that wanted more time to rest. The organisers were informed about the decision, so they sent a bus at Himachal Bhawan -- the place where the delegates were staying. The bus reached the place well before 6 am but amazingly most of the members were nowhere in sight, including the one who had proposed this travel plan. It took a good three hours for every body to board the bus and begin the journey which later on proved to be a race against time.
For those who were making simple distance-time calculations a day earlier, as if they would be travelling on motorway, the situation on ground turned out to be quite different. Frequent roadblocks, traffic jams, diversions -- as the road to the border is being widened -- strictly enforced speed limits and the pitiable condition of the bus; all contributed to make this journey a never-ending one.
All through the journey, the passengers were blaming each other for the delay they were facing, barring one who advised others to stay calm and just pray. At one time, all the delegates got united and put the blame on the foreign hand -- the bus driver, a Sardar, who was making sure we didn't reach in time. A few showed their resolve to cooperate in this situation by announcing that they had refused to answer the call of nature and expected similar determination from others.
Despite all efforts, the bus reached the border 20 minutes prior to closure. Here, one of the self-proclaimed but undisclosed group managers asked the bus driver to leave. The decision to let the bus go proved disastrous as the Indian immigration officials refused to accommodate the delegates without having the approval of those on the Pakistani side. They did contact Pakistan Rangers but there was no breakthrough. The delegates were told that the border closes at 4pm Indian time and there was no way all the immigration procedures could be completed in less than an hour, especially when most of the delegates could not fill their forms themselves.
The border area that bustles with people in the afternoon, especially at the time of retreat ceremony, gives a deserted look as soon as it is over. All the shops are closed, vendors leave and the Border Security Force (BSF) intensifies vigilance in this highly sensitive area. It was this situation in which the delegates found themselves. Right when they were yelling and looking for the person who allowed the bus driver to leave, a customs employee advised the hapless lot to approach the owner of Aman Umeed Complex, a tourist facilitation centre at the border, taken over by a private party recently.
The said person, Amit Chohan, was approached who turned to be a very cooperative person. Instead of cashing on the opportunity and demanding high fares from people in distress, he allowed 12 members to stay in two huge rooms for a very nominal rent. This was not all. He took three of the delegates to Amritsar in his own car and dropped them at the house of an acquaintance. The reason he gave for this show of courtesy was simple. "I went to Pakistan with my family at the time of Indo-Pak friendship cricket series. The love and care I received there cannot be described in words. I am returning a part of it," he said.
The next day everybody was at the border by 11am including the three members who had come from Amritsar. The signs of weariness were over and everybody was talking about the favours extended by the owner of complex. Luckily, he was there that day. Had he not been around, the delegates would have spent the night under the sky.
A day-out fishing on Red River…
By Syrrina Ahsan Ali Haque
It was in the wee hours of the morning that we set off for our fishing trip to Lake Texoma, Dallas. Rearing childhood memories of fishing experience at River Sutlej, I imagined long hours of sitting with a wooden stick threaded with string, a rusted hook and a jar of earthworms. The product of this tedious feat usually was one slimy, slithering fish...
Lake Texoma is at a juncture where one-third of it is in Texas and the other two-third in Oklahoma. It has a maximum depth of 100ft and the water is a feast for starved eyes. Dallas is devoid of any variation in vegetation, but the aquatic vegetation of this lake includes a variety of water willows, American lotus floating and bushy pondweed. Anglers with Texoma license (for USD 12) can fish the entire lake, others' fish within the confines of their respective states. We were informed that there was a dearth of fish at the impoundment of Red River, therefore, it would be better to fish at the river itself. So, as we arrived at the lake, after one-hour drive from Dallas, we acquired a fishing license.
We left for Red River; treading through marshy land till I saw an unusual contraption, namely Airboat. Once boarded, with headphones to reduce the sound of the boat, we finally looked around: Red River forms a boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, the river flows through Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Brisone, Hall and Childress Counties, moves across Alexandria and arrives at the confluence of Mississippi. The banks that envelope the river have red clay soil and the water when reflecting sunrays endorse the brilliance of this river.
However, we were warned that amidst this play of red and gold are snakes. And as if that was not hair-raising enough, our boatsman narrated stories of disappearing fishermen, since there were pockets of quicksand around the river.
Once anchored, fishing equipment was handed out to us. It seemed like NASA had engineered the rods. The bait was ironically enough, small fish for the big fish. The fishing variety within the waters of Red River is Blue and Channel Catfish, White and Striped Bass, Largemouth Bass, Spotted, Smallmouth Bass, Black and White Crappie and Blue Gilt. Yes, there is a great variety of Bass here.
The laws are very specific and levied in a bid to avoid paucity of fish. For striped Bass the daily bag limit is 10 fish and possession limit is 20 fish. Only two fish, 20 inches long can be retained each day. Blue and Channel Catfish can be bagged, but the minimum length is 12 inches. This is to ensure that the baby fish are not fished out of the river. Flathead Catfish and Crappie can be bagged up to 5 and 37 respectively. Enforcement of such laws allows undeterred fishing all year round.
Nature contributes in making these waters conducive for fishing. The free-flowing current in Red River allows Lake Texoma and Red River to have a self-sustaining population of Striped Bass. Also, Lake Texoma is one out of eight inland freshwater reservoirs all over the world. There is are rocks, boulders, timber, submerged stump beds, channels, rocky bluffs, sandy flats beside the Denison Dam, which are breeding spaces for the fish. It is because of these laws and regulations that the fisherman never returns without a catch. Between the six of us we caught 55 Bass fish.
We fished from our Airboat. The catch of 55 fish and a speedy ride of the river ended our day trip of fishing at 11a.m. No fish tastes as good as the one you have caught yourself and that is why all 55 Bass that were caught that day were devoured at a single meal.