We make a steady climb through mountainous terrain. I thought to myself, once this stretch of immaculate highway carries us over the top we’ll be there. When we topped the crest, the road ran on through mile after lush green mile. These are peach orchards, I am told. No, they can’t be! Ridiculous! No one ever mentioned peaches! I am on the road to the North West Frontier. On so many levels nothing is as expected. Not a single vista corresponds to the landscapes of my imagination. There is not even an inkling of the devastation I have come to see. Nowhere can I detect visible wreckage or any intimation that just a year before an immense disaster had overtaken the land.
My trip had not started this way. I was giddy with excitement as I stood within the landscape of my imagination on my first excursion around Lahore. Friends took me to the House of Wonders. There was the great gun, zam zammah, standing before the gates, exactly as it should. In my mind’s eye I could see Kim sitting nonchalantly atop the gun. Nowadays it would be a perilous perch as the gun is marooned resplendent on a spit of grassy turf dividing a dual carriageway alive with jostling cars and motor rickshaws. The House of Wonders, however, is just as it should be — a grand edifice of red sandstone with white pointed cupolas in that incomparable Anglo Mughal style that reeks of Orient.