When people ask me as to what made me leave Lahore and settle down in the hills near Islamabad, my reply is to invite them for a meal at my rustic home. Nine times out of ten, these individuals return nursing an answer that is beyond words. I cannot detach myself from the City of Gardens, for I was born and bred there. Lahore taught me to look at life, like only Lahoris are wont to do and this great city also bestowed upon me the attitude that has ‘stood me in very good stead’ through trial and tribulation.

I was fortunate to find myself a quiet niche, where I could spend my waning years in an environment doing what I like doing best – investigating culture and history. From the beautiful vale and its crowning glory i.e. Taxila in the West to the exciting Margalla Range in the East, lies a land exploring which, is nothing short of pure ecstasy.

I have often walked as if in a time warp, amongst the ruins of centuries old settlements that made up the great Kingdom of Taxila or more appropriately Takshaçila (Prince of the Serpent Tribe). It was during one of these jaunts that I ascended the hill to Julian Monastery receiving strange looks from returning tourists, who must have wondered what I was doing going up at sundown.

The Julian Monastery was a thriving seat of learning during the 5th Century CE, where saffron clad Buddhist monks spent their time meditating and contemplating. It was here that these peace-loving gentle people met a violent end as Hun blades sliced through their flesh and fire began licking at their home.

As I entered the ruins I felt the familiar feeling of having traveled through time. With the sun sinking below the horizon, I was gripped by the feeling that I was not alone. Cold fear gripped me as the edge of a saffron robe momentarily appeared only to vanish behind a column and the whispering of the breeze amongst the wild olives turned into a chant. Turning my back on the ruined buildings, I almost ran down the stone pathway and to my car. To this day I am not sure if my experience was a glimpse through the window of time or the result of my passionate involvement with history coupled with vivid imagination.

The land on both sides of the Taxila - Khanpur – Haripur Road is one of the most fertile fruit and vegetable growing regions of Pakistan. I have often interrupted my journeys on this ancient highway to nibble into a freshly plucked orange or a white radish straight - from the field. I have no hesitation in endorsing that whatever grows here, carries a unique taste and flavor. 

To the East of Khanpur Road and the Vale that it bisects, the Margalla Hills extend North and North Eastwards where they merge with the higher mountains of Hazara and Murree. The Margallas hide many secrets in their forested fold – from small Buddhist Shrines to narrow claustrophobic caves enclosing displays of amazing crystal formations. I have seen the latter and have no reason to doubt the existence of the former. Some of these crystals come in different pastel shades and when appropriately exposed to light produce an out of this world effect. My sources in the area tell me that some village folks have found, what to me sounded like fossilized animal bones. I have yet to verify this information, but if it is true then it adds another dimension to the attraction that these hills have to offer.

My forays into the forest overlooking Islamabad have produced moments and sights to be cherished for posterity. On one of these trips, I stumbled across a shady glen and stood transfixed at the variety and profusion of wild flowers and their aroma. The picture perfect setting was made complete by hundreds of butterflies that were flitting around the place. Arranged by the unerring hand of nature, this garden nook was a masterpiece of color, placement and form. This was definitely heaven on earth.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.