My travels along the length and breadth of the country were generally done in the company of AD, a doyen amongst drivers. With him at the wheel, I could comfortably slip into slumber land, only to wake up somewhere close to where we were headed. I had read somewhere that Napoleon had the ability to take a power nap, while sitting on his horse (even during battle) forcing some wise guy to comment that if he had stayed awake and seen how the British were maneuvering, the result of Waterloo may have been different. My habit of falling asleep minutes after wheels began turning, drew serious advice from well-wishers to the effect that sleep was rather infectious and therefore undesirable in a vehicle moving at high speeds. What these advisors did not know was that AD had found the most reliable method to stay awake – constant ingestion of heavily sweetened candy-bars. This antidote had only one disadvantage that over time, this faithful member of my team began to manifest an obvious (and perhaps undesirable) rotundity.

I once had the opportunity to take a rural road in the company of a gentleman from Finland, who was on an official visit to Pakistan under the UN banner. Ten minutes into the journey, my companion began snoring, while in a bid to keep my eyes open, I delved into my briefcase to look at some files. It was then that I noticed a group of rural rustics sitting on a culvert, doing (would you believe it) nothing. As we drove by, the trio raised their hands in greeting, as only simple village folks are apt to do, when they come across a ‘gora’. I hit the roof, when the snoring Finn raised his right arm in spontaneous response without a break in his nasal symphony. To this day, the act has defied a logical explanation.

On another rural road, I was rudely awakened by a stream of angry unprintable phrases. With a shock I realised that the source of the invective was none other than my perpetually smiling and otherwise unruffled driver, while the unfortunate victims were a pair of middle aged men from the nearby village. It transpired that these individuals had chosen to sit on the edge of the road with their backs to the traffic, totally oblivious to passing buses and wagons, which whizzed by perilously close to them. Continuous blowing of the horn had failed to move them, forcing AD to stop, only to discover that both individuals were not only squatting, but sleeping, while doing so.

A few months later, I was staying in a rest house, when I received an unexpected visitor. It took me some time to recognize Shahamand Khan, an old acquaintance of my grandfather. It turned out that the old man from a Chak near Lyallpur (now known Faisalabad), was visiting his son, who had settled in a village close to the ‘dak bungalow’. Resistance to an invitation for dinner at the ‘dera’ was futile and minutes later I found myself sitting in a rickety old Opel bouncing along a track, listening to a nonstop attempt to update me on family events of the last two decades. My habit of falling asleep would have come in handy in this situation, had not I been shaken awake every time I came close to entering dreamland. Having eaten a hearty meal of ‘desi’ chicken, freshly harvested veggies and ‘lassi’, I sought permission from my host with a request to be dropped back at the rest house, only to find that he had happily gone to sleep, while still in a reclining position.

And last, but not the least, there is my old school mate, who has acquired the ability to sleep with his eyes open. Research has revealed that he perfected the habit while a cadet at the Military Academy and managed to hoodwink his instructors to get a successful commission and rise to a fairly respectable rank before retiring. Social interaction with him is a psychological test of nerves since one never knows if he is listening or simply sleeping.