Two Things You Can’t Find In Pakistan

The mechanic took the wheel off my car, stuck a jack underneath it, and levered it, wobbling, into the air.  The brake pads were squeaking and needed changing.  He hitched up his oil-stained kameez, grabbed a hammer, and started whacking at the brake discs with worrying force.  It was 9am and the bazaar was unfurling itself into life like a cat waking groggily from a fireside nap.

The shop-owner flicked through a newspaper while he waited for his chai to cool down.  He clicked his tongue in sympathy at the news, a veritable cavalcade of depressing stories: political deadlock, the anti-terrorist campaign in North Waziristan, the floods in Multan.  He read out one particularly heart-rending story about a bridegroom in Multan who was caught in floodwater and drowned in front of his new bride, shaking his head sadly and saying “Allah, have mercy”.

I asked him whether he would be able to find replacement brake pads for the car.  He smiled and reassured me that it would not be a problem.

“I had forgotten”, I said, smiling, “in Pakistan everything is available!”.

He fixed me with a bleak, level gaze and muttered, in a funereal tone:

“Everything, except for two things”.

I raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

“A man who tells the truth, and a man who is sincere”.

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