Pakistan Part One: The Squagel

20th January 2014

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I arrived in Karachi yesterday after a long flight, my lasting memory of which was ordering something called a Squagel whilst in transit in Dubai* airport. How I decided on ordering this particular culinary marvel I’ve no idea. I was tired and hungry and there were flashing neon lights with pictures of food on them. ‘It’s a square bagel. Makes sense when you think about it’ said the beaming cashier. I refrained from telling him about the cheese and tomato Bandwich I’d eaten at home the day before for fear I might blow his mind. I tried not to think about how the egg in my Bacon and Omellette Squagel had also become uniformly square.

After getting through Karachi airport I was met by Talha Mufti, Arts Manager for British Council Pakistan, who led me to an armoured white Toyota Landcruiser. Talha’s easy-going and asks me about the trip whilst we’re driving to the hotel. After clearing the edge of the airport we stop at the side of the road as an armed security guard in uniform gets in. Talha and I continue to chat as I watch the traffic go by, extremely colourfully painted buses packed with people, and equally colourful rickshaws all jostling for space with cars and lorries. A moped with two kids and presumably their dad driving; I suppose I can sort of see the sense of dad being the one who gets to wear the helmet.  Apparently Karachi is second only to Bombay for traffic mayhem.

I slept for  most of the rest of Sunday I’m feeling refreshed today.  First some lunch (yes, I slept pretty well), a bit of guitar string-changing and nail care, it’s off to Diplomat Room 3 in the hotel to meet and rehearse with Sajid Hussain and his son – both sitar players – and Haroon Samuel, who plays tabla. Also present are Malahat Awan and Sharif Awan of the Tehzeeb Foundation, who with British Council Pakistan have jointly funded and set up this collaboration. It doesn’t take long before we’re playing a very different-sounding version of Jack Hall (they seem to know this one already), replete with a section of improvisation based on an Indian raga; they compliment each other pretty well. Antioch 277 (Dreams Are Made Of Money) also sounds very much at home on the sitar, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else we can cook up over the next couple of days’ rehearsal.

*’Hang on, did I just fly for six hours only to end up in Selfridges?’ I thought to myself, horrified.