How a Land Cruiser can change your life
I didn't realise how differently people would look at us when we drove a Land Cruiser.
My dad had two childhood dreams. The first was to get a commission in the army. Providentially, he says, he became a doctor.
His second dream was to own a Land Cruiser.
We do not belong to the religious, feudal or political elite, so a Land Cruiser was no ordinary car for us. Imagine our surprise when my dad surprised parking a big, dark green, gigantic SUV outside our house a couple of weeks ago. He had fulfilled his childhood dream at last.
The Land Cruiser didn’t look at all appropriate parked outside our humble home, especially because it had a Lakki Marwat number plate. We thought that buying the Land Cruiser was the biggest shake up. Bigger ones were yet to come.
Make way for the SUV
The city we live in doesn’t have a single traffic signal. even though it’s the eighth largest metropolis of Pakistan. Traffic would be a sheer muddle until quite recently when traffic police were positioned at the most demanding areas.
In feral excitement, my brothers, went for a maiden drive in the city. As they reached one of the busiest square, their side was stopped by traffic police so the other sides could move on.
But that was before our cop saw the Land Cruiser turn up. He immediately stopped the traffic on all sides and especially made way for the giant vehicle, letting it pass. My brothers felt flabbergasted and self-important too.
Big cars first
Later that week, on a cold night, we were going to a family wedding in Lahore. There was a “gas ki hartaal” and no gas was available at the fuel stations since that was a day in our city.
We had bought a big, bulking vehicle but that didn’t mean we could afford to drive it on petrol the whole journey.
So we traveled aimlessly from one fuel station to another in the hope that we might ‘illegally’ get LPG from somewhere. Unfortunately, all three stations we visited had their meters cut by inspection teams in case some one attempts to sell gas.
Tired but determined to attend the wedding, we stopped at the last station before the motorway. As soon as the head of the station saw us, he came running towards our SUV and gestured for to come inside from the chor darwaza, a side entrance to the station.
We saw that a couple of other vehicles were also being attended to. But as soon as our Land Cruiser came to a stop near the dispenser, the man shouted to the others:
“Oye sab nu chaddo, ae pehley iss Land Cruiser vich gas pao.”
“All of you, forget everything else. Attend to the Land Cruiser!”
We were staggered at the protocol we received for we neither knew the head nor the owner of the station but it seemed as if the former knew us very well. At least, he behaved so.
It was later, when my brother was making the payment, that he told us that the station belonged to a particular gujjar and so no inspection team could ‘dare’ come near their station.
Removing their meter was out of the question. From what we could guess from his behaviour was that he was sure that we were best friends with the gujjar and deserved all the protocol and even more because he secretly told my brother
“Waapsi pe bhi gas ki zaroorat ho tou idher hi ayiye ga. Koi tension nahin.”
or “If you need gas on the way back, you must come back here. Don’t worry.”
Land Cruisers and land owners
My dad works in a particular rural health centre near Sargodha. The land on which the hospital stands as well as the thousands of acres of the surrounding land (collectively known as the Calra State) belong to a particular feudal family known as the Tiwanas. The local MNA also belongs to this political elite family.
Early one morning, when it was raining lightly and the sky was heavily overcast, my brother and I went along with baba to drop him off at his hospital. It is vital to mention that we were riding in our cherished Land Cruiser or this story would lose its meaning.
While we were coming back, I asked my brother to stop the car near a beautiful field covered with sarson (mustard leaves). Although the road we moved onto had fields, mostly of orange and mustard on both sides, this was the largest and the most fine-looking field we saw.
Both of us got down and were enjoying the cool breeze and the panorama when a donkey cart passed by. The middle-aged man first cast a look on the Land Cruiser, then at us and slowly brought the cart to a standstill.
Very respectfully, he came down from it, came near my brother, greeted him with a humble salaam and asked him:
“Sahab, are you selling this land?” he asked, pointing to the mustard fields.
Our land? My brother threw a weird look at me. Our Land Cruiser had somehow made us the owners (if only make-believe) of the land that we could only dream of buying.
Sadly, owning a Land Cruiser showed us that people in our society respect commodities more than human beings. Most people gauge others not by the content of their character but by the luxuries they can afford.