A man, wearing a grubby, white, slept-in shalwar kameez, was marching up and down the narrow road over the garden wall in perfect imitation of a constipated chicken. Arms bent, elbows extended, jutting forward from waist up, striding six steps forward and then the same in reverse, turning purple in the face with effort. It looked painful! Two more, one in a crumpled suit straining to contain him at the seams, the other in sloppy jeans and once white t-shirt, were halfway up the very tall, iron spiked side gate when I finally paid attention to the insistent warning of my barking dogs.
“Hey!” I yelled at the two would-be intruders. “Get down from there. This is private property.”
“Aah!” expelled the chicken. “I’m an estate agent, you’re the gori and this property is for sale. They,’’ he pointed at the two rogues, “have come to buy it.”
“It isn’t for sale,” I told him in surprise.
“Yes it is,” he self-righteously insisted. “Open that gate and let them in.”
“No. This is my property and it is not for sale so please go…Now.”
“It is for sale. I say so. Open the gate,” he squawked, testing my patience to the limit in the process.
“Suno tum paindoo…it is not for sale. You two get down from there before I do something about it.”
“Give me the key and I’ll open it,” the chicken declared. “Give it to me now. You have to let them see the plot.”
Leaving my vantage point on the wall, I went inside the house, returning seconds later with a rifle in one hand, cell phone in the other.
“Suno,” I angrily said through gritted teeth. “This is a rifle and I will use it if you don’t go away. This property is not for sale. I have phoned the police to come and arrest you for trying to break in. They are on their way right now. So…what is it to be?” I asked visibly slipping off the safety catch.
“But,” the chicken squawked. “They have come all the way from Lahore to see this plot…let them in.”
I took steady aim… all three turned a sickly shade of green and, slowly, with their hands in the air no less, backed off and vamoosed.
‘Paindoo season’. It comes around every year and I loathe it.
The season opens around May and runs through until the end of September with a little give and take at either end depending on the weather. Prior to the advent of road access five years ago, this obnoxious breed of person, mostly, for some unfathomable reason, originating from Lahore and its environs, restricted themselves to haunting ‘possible’ properties adjacent to the main road on the other side of the mountain or parading up and down the Mall in Murree. But the access road came and they, much to my dismay, quickly followed. They, it appears, are under the impression that every single piece of property in the locality is theirs for the asking and rarely admit defeat. In their book, everything and everyone one has a price, a price which can, after downward negotiations in their favour, be met. They can be extremely stupid and insulting to boot.
Take the couple that Forest Gump delivered to my gate recently: “Madam, Madam,” he yelled as if the entire mountainside was on fire. “I have brought some guests.”
The ‘guests’ were his not mine.
“They want to talk to you and look around your garden.”
The couple, he overweight, badly dressed and somehow brutish, she also overweight, decked out in all that glitters including the kind of gold jewellery more fitted to attending a wedding than wandering round in the mountains, were complete strangers to me but, initially at least, I was reasonably polite.
“Hello!” I greeted them over the wall. “Did you want something?”
“Yes,” replied the brute. “We are thinking of buying some land off this man and he told us that a foreigner lives here so my wife wanted to meet you. She has some questions. I want to see your garden. I will look around while you are making tea.”
“I’m sorry. This is private property, not a restaurant and I happen to be busy right now.”
“Oh, but I need you to tell me some things,” wailed the woman.
Noting Forest Gump’s dismay, he is a neighbour after all and this is a very small community, I took a deep breath and said “Yes?”
“Aren’t you going to let us in first?” asked the brute, a man used to getting his own way to judge by his attitude.
“No,” I replied before turning to his wife. “What do you want to know?”
“Where do you come from? What are you doing here? How many rooms are in your house? Where do you do your shopping? How many servants do you have? How much a month does it cost to live here? What do you eat?” all rattled off at the speed of sound as I raised my eyebrows at the awfulness of it all while her golf-playing husband leered on.
“I happen to be a Pakistani national,” I replied. “I live here. The inside of my home is none of your business. I shop in the bazaar like everyone else and the other questions you asked have absolutely nothing to do with you.”
“But…but…” she almost blubbered… “What do you eat?”
“Where I come from,” I told them both in no uncertain terms, “We eat people like you!”
Naturally, the effort was wasted. It sailed completely over their ignorant heads as if I hadn’t uttered a single word.
“You must be a Christian,” was the woman’s response.
“And you must be Hindus,” was, to her shock, mine.
“No. No. No,” she screamed. “We are Muslim of course.”
At this point, a rather deflated Forest Gump decided that using my presence to ensure a sale wasn’t a very good idea and, thankfully, escorted them out of my sight, the brute trailing behind still insisting that he wanted to see my garden.
This ‘brass not class’ brigade of ‘Johnny-cum-latelies’ are, on the whole, totally devoid of manners. Expecting their money to do their talking for them which, unfortunately, it does in their own peculiar crowd and with servants, when it comes to communicating with ‘real’ people they are out of their depth, and quickly discover that putting their money where their mouth is, simply doesn’t hold water and certainly doesn’t equate with respect.
The amazing number of paindoos — the term is certainly not applicable to all Lahorites some of whom have impeccable manners — who have enough wealth to invest in or construct holiday homes in the hills does make one wonder as to the real, above board, economic situation of the country.
Forest Gump meanwhile, is smiling all the way to the bank while I curse him for the paindoo problems to come. I just hope that he invests part of his windfall in a lawnmower so that he no longer needs to pester me for mine.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2010.