Everyday public transport journeys can be fascinating in their own way. On a short haul to work, school or elsewhere, you meet people from all walks of life and sub-cultures and end up having interesting conversations. Once in a while, one might build a new friendship that outlasts the trip.
Sometimes talking is not even necessary. Gleaming smiles, pensive faces and telltale wrinkles reveal stories that can keep one betrothed throughout the journey. It gives the traveler a quick glance into a city’s sprit and native culture.
On a recent visit to Lahore, I hopped on the Metro Bus with a few friends to get to the inner city. I was lucky to have my camera on hand. We got on from the Ghazi Chowk station – crossed Model Town, Qaddaffi stadium, Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College (MAO) College and got off at the congested District Courts station which was thirteen stops away. While on the bus, I struck up conversations with a few people who intrigued me and considering the fact that they mostly belonged to conservative backgrounds of small towns and villages from around Lahore, I was surprised that they let me photograph them. These people, despite having communication barriers, were more forthcoming and open-minded compared to the ones working corporate jobs, living comfortable lives in the city. When the journey ended, I had already made up my mind to take the same trip around Islamabad upon my return.
Photographing and conversing with passengers in Islamabad/Rawalpindi was a completely different experience. The buses were not as crammed as the ones in Lahore, making my task a lot easier. Since it was a weekend, most people on the bus were on their way to public spaces and shopping areas.
20-year-old Sameen is on her way to college where she completes her Bachelors in Science at the end of 2015. “I’m the youngest in the family and have four older brothers who played a incredibly positive role in making me who I am today” she shared. Having a background in Computer Sciences and being supportive of my passion for education, they encouraged me to pursue a degree in the same field so they could help me with my university assignments, she added.
Nadeem works as a sanitation-worker at Islamabad’s PIMS station. “Work keeps me busy since I’m the only cleaning person deployed to this station” he expressed. 22-year-old Nadeem lives in a slum in Sector G-7 and walks to work every day.
“I’m going to see my son who was jailed for dealing in drugs eight days ago” shared 73-year old Sajda Bibi. Apparently he had been involved with the drug mafia in Lahore for a decade but didn’t let drop any such information to his family. “I’m worried because he has little children and we’re not even sure if he was rightfully accused” she expressed, as tears welled up in her eyes.
Gulfam Prince works on his company’s finances while he waits for the next bus. “I have a stationery business in Gujranwala and travel to Lahore every month to purchase stock for my shop” he shared.
54-year old Sakeena is on her way to Satellite Town to shop for her niece’s wedding. “This is the first wedding in my family so we’re naturally very excited” she said. The entire family is getting new clothes, shoes and accessories to match our outfits, she added with a beaming smile.
“Do you know my name means beautiful?” Missel is on her way to a park in Saddar, Rawalpindi. “I completed my homework on time this weekend because my parents promised to take me to the park. I haven’t been on the swings in weeks.”
Safdar performed his first Hajj this year. “I’m here to visit my family in Rawalpindi and will head to my village in Punjab tomorrow.” Safdar lives in Sargodha with his wife and three children and works at a hospital as an administrator during the day.
2-month-old Miral was born with a hand-disorder and is on her way to a hospital in Islamabad. “My son is hearing-impaired and my other daughter is speech-impaired” shared Hina, Miral’s mother. My husband and I have a tough life but we’re willing to do everything it takes to help our children, she added.
Waqas and his wife Nuzhat are on their way to a mall in Islamabad. “My wife is from Peshawar and I haven’t taken her around the city since we got married” he expressed. Now that our baby boy is one, we’re thinking of visiting a new place every weekend, he added.
Wajahat came to Islamabad from Satellite Town to collect his father’s medical reports. “He’s been unwell for a few days so we got his blood test done two days ago” he said. I’m the only child so I have to help out with a lot of things at home, he shared with a smile.
Huma Choudhary is an Islamabad-based photographer for The Express Tribune. She tweets @huma_choudhary
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 15th, 2015.