Visit to Muree

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Visit to muree
It's snowing in Murree and the heart is melting
Weather is a great metaphor for life -- sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's little you can do but carry an umbrella. Or you can opt for Murree and its all-weather beauty and balm for the troubled Pakistani soul By Adnan Rehmat

Murree is probably Pakistan's favourite all-weather hill station. In the summers it gets crowded by people seeking to beat the heat of the plains. The cool scent of pines and the wheezing breeze feel like a soothing balm on tired sores. In the winters there's the same crowd but for a different reason: the snow. Heaps of it; a layer of white on all layers of all colours… on trees and hills and houses and roads. Come winter and a mass of people of the plains, mostly hordes from Punjab's north and central belt, make a beeline for what is popularly christened as the 'Queen of the Hills'. Make no mistake, Murree in the winter serves as the poor man's Switzerland. The rich man, of course, maintains strategically located - mostly off-road and off-the-beaten-track - bungalows and cabins with sloping roofs and logged fireplaces, terraced and winding tracks leading to them from the main roads. For them public is not a delight; their pleasure is private. Murree is also where you take your wife to for the honeymoon (if you live within 500 miles of the station) whether immediately after the nuptials (to light up the nascent flame of love), or even 10 or 20 years after, to relive a youth slipping by like water through your fingers and to light up a fire going dim inside you both. You can pick out the new couples in winter Murree straight away; their woollies and jackets are new and bright colours always slip out of corners to defy the drab dull shades of their overalls. Many are not shy to hold hands and their steps are pregnant with purpose. Their measured gait is akin to drawing a map for found lovers, the snow and the cold acting as an antidote to runaway passions. The snows fell unusually late this year in Murree, prolonging the mad rush that inevitably follows when everyone and their aunts make a beeline for the hill station. A fortnight ago, my friends and I decided to make the annual pilgrimage from our life's station in Islamabad to the snows of Murree. The weekend sky was deliciously overcast, the swirling grey clouds pregnant with the possibility of snow falling during the day also. The drive to Murree takes barely an hour, the distance being hardly 50 km although the option of a 30-minute pause for freshly-made spicy pakoras in one of the dozen 'mid-way' stopovers to snow land is one that is usually availed. Four-fifths of the way up to Murree, nestling 7,500 feet above the sea level, there was no snow and we started to suspect that the news was false and that the TV channels had run old footage. But in the last 15 minutes, before hitting town, the snows became visible, growing in spread, thickness and piles all around us. Everything was white as we swept into town. We deliberately chose to avoid central Murree between what's called the 'Pindi Point' and 'Kashmir Point' because it is uncomfortably crowded with too many people trying to negotiate too many slopes and bends with crowded shops selling interesting trinkets and souvenirs that hold charm for only the first few timers of Murree. The town part of Murree was built in line with early European cities, complete with a church at its centre and The Mall nearby. Sure enough, The Mall in Murree is there as a reminder of the alien rulers of yore, running along commercial spaces and administrative offices. As it was in the run up to the Partition in 1947 it is still now the centre of attraction for tourists, although until August of that year natives were not allowed in this part. As far as traffic and people go, it's different today. The Mall in Murree is a favourite of women (a large number of them out of their hometowns for the first time with the new men in their lives)...
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