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”.