Most of us can recall the puzzle that every newspaper used to publish in the kid’s corner where the reader was asked to take the cat home through the small maze leading to her home at the other corner. Just to keep your innocence alive and make you feel ‘young’ at heart, the Islamabad administration keeps on designing such ‘delightful’ and ‘playful’ activities for us all. 

Ever since the 14th August sit-ins were announced this overdose of childish glee has been thrust upon the residents of Islamabad, who keep on drawing mental maps so they can reach their destination on time.  Thanks to the interior ministry and the CDA each Islooite has become the Columbus of his /her own life discovering new petrol stations, sittay walas (grilled corn vendors), mechanics and tyre repair shops on  way to the our respective destinations. 

The bad news is that containers have hit the streets of Islamabad once again like an iceberg in the ocean. These misplaced packaging paraphernalia make any driver yell and scream in desperation when met at the end of a closed road. The ones living in Islamabad had felt a bit of relief when the containers contaminating our daily lives were lifted after almost three months but the merriment could not last long.

Imran Khan has called the new Jalsa on 30th of November and with this announcement all hell had to break loose. The containers with the lifters have once started sprouting up like some dinky cars giving the impression that within a few days’ time we would again be transported to our childhood favourite game. 

Once the shipment containers are in place you would have but few options to analyse which way to go.   Fasten your seat belts and get ready for a very turbulent ride.  Try recalling the rituals you were going through just few weeks ago before beginning the drive. Yes, making phone calls was one of the top priorities before leaving the house or the workplace.  The guy on the other side of the phone can actually be as much in need of calling someone for route help as you were, if this happens; the day might be even harder than what you had anticipated in the start.

Call some other desperate soul.  In case you get the idea which way to steer your car through do not ignore the expressions of the fellow riders coming from the opposite side. I would suggest ‘keep an eye’ and try recognizing the ‘symptoms’ to assess if the way is thorough or if it has been blocked in the name of security and ‘vigilance’ as well.  If you find yourself being raided by the commuters on the wrong side of the lane with sallow faces, mumbling profanities, rest assured the road ahead is blocked. You do not even have to think twice. 

Turn around go back and restart the journey. That is the safest. Relying on obsolete information, (anything more than an hour ago) about the operational routes can be detrimental.  In case you took the same route in the morning do not dare think that to be open by the time you are done with your work. Recheck.  Stay prepared to join the long queues snaking through the winding roads of Islamabad. The check points with tired police sergeants with hoarse voices and coarse behaviour might not be your favourite stopover in this maze but these cannot be avoided.  

The conversation at these check points can vary from being polite (if your car number plate is green) to bearable (if you have the official card to dangle before their eyes) and absolutely obnoxious if you are the ‘ordinary’ citizen of Pakistan.  

If it’s the latter case, you better recall where your father worked when you were six years old or who gave you this idiotic idea to come to Islamabad on days like these before you have up close and personal encounter with the man in the uniform standing in front of your car.  This might be your last challenge before the kitty reaches home. 

If the charade had been a success you can pat your own back; but in case you were not satisfied with the way you ‘decoded’ the path.  Start again! Or wait for a new Jalsa to be announced so the administration starts running for their lives in panic and draws a new maze for all of us.

Geti Ara is a story-teller, journalist and a documentary maker