Flight to Lahore
Recently at a conference in Germany I met a fascinating English gentleman representing a Swiss company but working in the far east for the last three decades. He’s comfortable in Asian culture food and languages and prefer the climate to the cold clammy weather of his homeland. He like me wanted to be a writer and ended up being an underwriter. He had a knack for storytelling and kept us enthralled with anecdotes so that the allotted time for our meeting was exceeded by a big margin without talking any business. Ultimately we hardly discussed business but renewed our contract with a handshake. He was well prepared with the business details and wasted no time in presentations negotiations and questions. This was the best as well as most entertaining business meeting that in I attended at the conference
Here I will share his story about his stint in Pakistan where he had opened and subsequently closed a branch of their company in the nineties. I will retell his story in first person for greater effect
The underwriter’s story
I was stationed in Pakistan at that time because my boss wanted to be rid of me. He hoped that if I didn’t resign at least a bomb bullet or stomach bug would do me in, or I would be kidnapped for ransom which he could then refuse to pay . However I proved to be more resilient and after a couple of years he decided to cut his losses and close down the Pakistan operation
To help me in the process a colleague from USA came down to Pakistan. Having heard stories and read newspapers about this turbulent part of the world he was quite nervous. . A vigorous scrutiny on arrival at par with what people from these parts receive in the US of A did his nerves no good. He couldn’t soothe his nerves with some bootleg whiskey as he was terrified of the consequences in this officially abstemious country. The fact that he had been searched thoroughly by the customs looking for liquor added to his reluctance to imbibe.
Jittery already he boarded the pia flight to Lahore along with me. While waiting for the flight due to the inevitable delays he read in a newspaper that pia was stretched for fuel and carried just enough to reach to cut costs without keeping any safety margin. This made him extremely nervous. On enquiring as to the reason for delay he was given the standard excuse in reply, that of technical snag. This doubled his stress to near panic.
On boarding he found that his seat belt didn’t work. Shakily he asked for help. The attendant responded that it’s okay and we were to just hold the seat in front. We were given orange juice in cracked glasses to cheer up
The pilot announced that the weather was bad but inshallah we should reach Lahore shortly. On my translation my friend really panicked.
Why God willing? What’s god to do with it? He grumbled.
We survived the rough flight clutching the seat in front fortified by nothing stronger than orange juice in cracked glasses when the pilot announced that ground conditions Lahore didn’t look too good but we had no choice as fuel wasn’t enough for diversion so inshallah we would land and we should hold on tight for a rough landing.
Hearing God being invoked again my friend shut his eyes and started praying audibly. But despite his prayers our plane aborted landing on the first attempt
Now the pilot cheerfully announced that we have enough fuel for two more attempts only and not enough for diversion but inshallah he would get us on the ground one way or another
There was complete silence from my neighbor. He was a healthy agnostic from America and didn’t want to leave his fate in the hands of a heathen God especially the God of his mortal enemies.
This time however the flight landed as per the will of Allah and after a breath stopping screech finally rolled to a stop. On deplaning my colleague hastened the process of closing the branch and took an international flight on British airlines out of Pakistan and let me return to Singapore
I need to thank Pakistan airlines and the flight to Lahore for ending my exile