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I Like Driving In My Car

September 4, 2013

A traffic jam in Islamabad is not like a traffic jam in the UK.  In the UK,  you can be sure that any road works are heralded by lurid signs a good few miles from the actual event, getting ever more insistent as they approach the works and are accompanied by a comforting phalanx of traffic cones.  If it’s an accident there will be a wail of sirens, copious police cars and a warm feeling that all will be sorted out soon.

Here, they just close the roads.  It may be on account of a passing dignitary. It may on account of the president driving past which, as I once discovered, then requires them to remove any cars within 10 metres of the road on which his car will drive, causing mayhem and general chaos. It may be because a policeman dropped his mobile and is having trouble putting it back together.  Who knows?  All I know is that when there’s a traffic jam it’s nigh on impossible to know how long you’re going to be in it for.

So it was with a sense of impending doom that I pulled onto the 4 lane highway just outside my house and saw the road ahead completely blocked (and this time there wasn’t a cow in sight).  Two choices presented themselves:

1. Wait.

2. Don’t wait.

Number 1 option was obviously easier but required patience and a degree of zen-like calm that wasn’t flowing naturally at the time.

So I opted for number 2.  Executing a 3 point turn in the middle of the 4 lanes, I swerved around the cars that had started to gather nearby and, dodging a few oncoming cars, drove the wrong way up the motorway.

ImageSomeone else with a similar driving style.  We could be friends.

As I approached the crossroads I realised that I couldn’t see the traffic lights (given that I was coming at them from the wrong direction), so conducted a completely illegal maneouvre across the crossroads onto the free-flowing side road on which my friend lives, and tootled off for a cup of tea.

This wasn’t an isolated incident.  Almost every day I conduct some driving misdemeanour (driving the wrong way down a one-way street; turning into traffic without waiting for a break; straddling lanes down the motorway etc etc) which would have my licence confiscated and me attending driving-awareness courses for the next decade were I in the UK.  The thing is, everyone else here is doing the same.  It’s sort of how it all works and seems to be the only way to get around.  Apparently you didn’t need to get a driving licence to drive in Pakistan until a few years ago.  It shows.

I hadn’t really thought much of it until I read my friend’s post about wanting to take advanced driving lessons.  It caused me to consider my driving style.  I think I need advanced driving lessons too before I’m let lose on the streets of Lincolnshire but in my case it wouldn’t be to add confidence….it would be to vastly reduce it.

[Photo courtesy of]

  1. I love driving – it took me ages to get around to learning but its fantastic. Liking your more frequent posts – I will start again. Post dissertation have developed a deep loathing of my laptop and can’t bring myself to turn it on. I have a post to write about not wanting to write, which as you can imagine is proving tricky! x


    • Hello, hello! Lovely to hear from you again. A dissertation, eh? I’m sure you mentioned it on your blog but I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention. Poor you. I can completely understand the laptop anathema. You deserve a break and a goodly while to work your way through your flavoured gins as a reward. xx


  2. Ooh, a link! Thank you.

    The picture reminded me of this (which unfortunately is rather given away by its title).

    It’s a bit scary that people didn’t have to pass some kind of test to drive. I mean, a car is something of a lethal weapon.


    • I hope you don’t mind the “I have a friend”. I consider you a friend, even though I’ve never met you. Plan B said we’d be friends if we met, and that’s good enough for me!


  3. Good on you for driving at all. I am such a scaredy cat I didn’t drive in Sydney – where they have rules and speed limits.

    But what’s really scary about what you’ve described isn’t the driving. It’s that half the people don’t have seat belts on. And the kids aren’t in car seats. We have family currently living in Islamabad who told us we coddle our children in North America keeping them in boosters until they’re 8 (when she told me this I did not imagine what you’ve just described). Frankly I’d keep them in boosters forever if I knew it’d keep them safe.


    • And then there was the family in the car next to me this morning who had a little one (can’t have been over 2) between their legs in the front of the car leaning against the dashboard. Yep – we definitely coddle them in the west!
      WLDU – if you’re ever visiting your family over here let me know. It would be lovely to meet up for a coffee (and maybe a piece of cake…)


  4. And of course the same goes for if you’re ever up this way 🙂


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