I have recently begun walking around my house with an amused expression, eliciting worried looks from my family. I have assured them time and again that I have not ‘lost my marbles’ and that my visage is a mere reflection of what is going on inside my head.

I have often wondered what would happen if our longstanding association with the darned Americans would bear fruit and lend credence to the old Urdu adage regarding ‘kharboozas’. So far, this business of ‘melons acquiring colours’ appears to have worked in a one-way mode, westernising us to an extent that we have all but forgotten our own traditions. In fits of idle fantasy, I have found myself vengefully turning this situation around into America turning Pakistani. It is in this euphoric scenario that I find myself negotiating the streets of New York, much at home amidst the litter and spit, overflowing sewage, roads that were dug up months ago and left as driving hazards, persistent beggars, on edge tempers and an apathetical state of law enforcement.

I was recently in Lahore for private business and had the opportunity to savour all of the above with loadshedding and dengue thrown in to spice things up. I also fell to wondering if the situation in the Punjab capital and elsewhere in the province was all part of a higher game plan to discredit the provincial government. I brushed the thought away with a shake of my head, which forced my better half to enquire if was feeling drowsy and continued to drive amidst the mayhem that is now Lahore.

Other events quickly overrode ugly thoughts and I forgot what I had sworn to do to all those moronic drivers and ‘rickshaw wallahs’, who tried to smash into my car at every turn and crossing in blatant disregard of traffic lights and smooth-faced traffic wardens, who appeared to have graduated the same day from high school.

The day of our departure for Islamabad dawned wet and grey and I was happy to be going back to the serenity of the Margalla Hills and my humble home. It was in this euphoric state of mind that I naively ignored my wife’s urgent query as to why was I not taking the Ring Road to get onto the M5. I was jerked back into the reality when I became part of a traffic gridlock near the Garden Town Commercial Market. One hour (and raised blood pressure) later, I found myself heading towards the overhead bridge at Niaz Beg and ‘freedom’.

I had once again forgotten that there was no freedom from the quagmire of Lahore till the time one was actually cruising on the motorway itself. No sooner had I negotiated the top of the Niaz Beg bridge, when I saw the traffic taking a U-turn and coming at me from the far exit. There was total confusion as both streams met - queries flew from window to window as to the reason why vehicles were turning back. All I could see from my vantage point was a seething mass of people near the exit.

I quickly gave in to discretion and turned about, only to lose my way in the various towns that now form Lahore’s periphery. I heaved a sigh of relief as I found myself in the familiar environs of Walton Road, to find my way blocked by a jumble of vehicles and wildly gesticulating locals. It was more than three hours later that I finally hit the Ring Road and then the M5.

At two of the gridlocks that I went through, I saw grey clad traffic wardens peevishly and ineffectively trying to perform their duties. Their demeanour was submissive and resigned, and they appeared like lambs surrounded by wolves - in fact, the overall impression they conveyed was one of ineffectual authority. Perhaps, these were the men, often highlighted by the media, who had been inducted at the behest of some important entity for reasons other than professional capability.

Many of Lahore’s roads have been dug up to make way for a mass transit metro system. The city of my birth has needed such a system since long and once complete, it should provide some relief to the city’s traffic and mass transit issues. My worry stems from the historical experience, wherein mega projects that affect the life of citizens, fall prey to change of governments. I can only hope that either the project is completed before elections or whosoever comes into power in Punjab, overrides political rancour and carries on with the work and finishes the system.

My heart bleeds for the city of my birth every time I visit it - it bleeds to see disorder, chaos and a complete disregard for rules. Being a ‘man of the pen’, my only recourse is to write what I see and experience, in the forlorn hope that someone in the Punjab administration reads this and takes cognisance of the pain that is slowly devouring the ‘City of Gardens’.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.