On a recent visit to a friend’s house in Islamabad, I met a few people, who lived in close proximity of the road that links the scenic Simly Dam with Islamabad. One such community located just a couple of kilometres from the aforementioned road is facing a crisis-like situation because its access road has become a nightmare of potholes and loose rocks.

It is ironic that this community lies next to an area that is under development by Pakistan’s biggest land developer cum newsmaker, and the road in question is in constant use by the company’s heavy machinery and wheeled traffic. What the residents can only do is to helplessly watch, while their only link with the federal capital is ripped out bit by bit, making it unfit for cars and other light transport.

People living in close proximity of Simly Dam Road have no Sui gas connectivity, in spite of the fact that the main pipeline passes just a few kilometres away from their homes. I was told by one resident, who lives a mere one kilometre from the pipeline, that he was being asked to pay an exorbitant amount by the concerned company to provide his community with this utility.

I happened to visit Lahore last weekend in deference to domestic harmony. The evening before my departure, a school friend spoke to me from his home in Ichra and on being informed of my itinerary (which included a visit to his house and a self-invited meal), advised me not to come if I wanted to keep my blood pressure at the normal level.

To my great regret, I ignored the warning and found myself in a cesspool of mismanaged construction work, a traffic that by no means indicated that the people driving the vehicles were civilised and a total absence of traffic wardens to untangle the mess.

It was one hour later that having covered a distance of four kilometres, I turned into the lane that led to my destination. I must have appeared like the ‘tasmapah’, when I told my host that I would not leave his house till the madmen on the main road had gone to roost for the night.

For those of my readers who have not read ‘Alif Laila’ or its English version called the ‘Thousand and One Nights’, the character ‘tasmapah’ was a demon, who appeared to travellers on the road in the guise of a frail old man and requested if he could be piggy-backed for a short distance. Once hoisted on their backs, this fiend wrapped his legs around the victim and did not let go till the unfortunate person collapsed from fatigue.

The next day, I became part of another street show, which was repeated at two out of three intersections that I happened to negotiate on my way to a professional meeting. As I approached the crossing, I saw the man in grey open the way for my traffic stream, but my admiration for this smartly turned out individual turned to horror, when the man pirouetted and also signalled for the right-hand side traffic to proceed.

What followed next was the mother of all gridlocks with the hapless and, by now, thoroughly confused policeman in the middle. The high point of this show arrived, when the man threw up his hands and scampered up the grass divider to disappear from view, leaving the traffic to sort out itself.

A week ago, I was in the beautiful Murree Hills enjoying a long overdue get-away from work. Now Murree carries some pleasant childhood memories for me, including tea in Lintotts and strolling on the Mall without being jostled or having females of the family subjected to indignities. It is to preserve the images of the Mall of long ago yore, that I always declined to go to the town and its well known central promenade.

This time, however, I agreed to go along with my children and grandchildren in the hope that much of the riff raff would have departed as the season had ended. While I found that I was right about the absence of the ‘on season crowd’, I was dismayed to see that the town and its roads had been devoured by tall multi-storied buildings and the ‘Queen of the Hills’ had been mutilated by unchecked commercialisation. This led me to speculate about the stresses that these structures were generating on the geological makeup of the area and what would happen if the mountain gave way under this anomalous pressure. The mere thought of the disaster made me shake my head, prompting a question from my better half if I was feeling alright. I said I was and silently murmured a prayer for the residents of what was once an ecological paradise.

I may not have accomplished much, but have tried to make public, some voices that were raised in my presence, in the forlorn hope that someone in a position to listen will do so. And then, maybe, this person will hearken to what is being said and take steps that will transform the pain in these voices to gratitude.

The writer is a freelance columnist.