Usman Mustafa has worked as a writer and script consultant for different Pakistani channels and is known for writing stories for the series Mystery Theatre. Residing in Australia since 2012 and working in corporate sector, he is now gearing up for a full-time writing career.
  • 31 Mar - 06 Apr, 2018
  • Mag The Weekly

Standing down corrected can be just as bit bitter as revenge is sweet. True, it can humble you, but it can also make you look rather ridiculous.

It is to do with little motorbikes, which I reckon would be quite pertinent to the readership in Pakistan, be it for quite divisive reasons.

Before taking on residence in Australia, I had a very peculiar opinion about the damn things. I thought they were pesky, occupy too much space on the road and their hero riders being cheeky is an utter nuisance. That said, if I am entirely honest, I also saw them through the slant of a class-divide, one in which the occupants perhaps are forever stuck. I couldn’t imagine myself on a 70cc mosquito, what I wanted instead was a European convertible, to ferry around with an Australian blonde smoking Marlboro Lights.

To the young lad I was back then, the thought of getting a little motorbike for transportation was repulsive. It was scary. So much so that even in the earlier days of working, when I couldn’t afford to run a car, let alone buy one, I figured my best bet at staying mobile was not what automotive world of the two-wheels had on offer, rather what my mother had given me – my legs.

In my defence though, it’s an easy assertion to make that I am not the only one subscribing to these notions. The truth is, everyone does, including those who take on their days and nights on their two wheelers.

What a shame.

Australia may have been the smallest continent but as a country, it is huge. To put into perspective, the area 10 times that of Pakistan wouldn’t be quite so big as one Australia. Interesting, this 10 to 1 ratio: for an odd 10 Pakistanis, there is one Australian. This means that the population of this vast, colossal, piece of earth down under is pretty much the same as that of Karachi.

And then there is its road-networks: the custodians of the world records will tell you that the roads in Australia form one of the top mega structures of the world. Stretched out straight, its road-networks are of the length which will take you all the way to the moon, then back on an entirely different route, with thousands of kilometres to spare. Roads made to stand the highest possible standards: smooth, wide and equipped.

Consider now, if you please, the way people drive on those roads: it’s hard to describe it but I can tell you that people here drive with the mannerism and order we Pakistanis maintain exclusively to reach valima receptions. Having gone through a stringent licencing procedure, driving though has become an egalitarian language for everyone to communicate in. I reckon the only people who could have done it with any more discipline, structure and affinity to obeying instructions, wore Swastika and yelled ‘Hail Hitler’.

‘Incredible’ perhaps is the word for the Australian driving standards, but to the folks out here, it’s a mere routine.

So, how, may I wonder, would you expect the traffic to be in Melbourne? In a country 10 times in size, yet one-tenth the populous of Pakistan – in a country with an extensive and first-rate road-network, and overwhelming majority of drivers driving with all the care and consideration in the world, not just for the road rules but for each other as well? Well, put simply, it’s a bloody standstill.

During peak hours, the overall traffic moves at the same speed as that of an iceberg. It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say that for at least some parts, my European convertible can easily be beaten by someone on a horse, or even a donkey for that matter.

The trouble is that vast as though the roads are, everyone owns an automobile, some quite large during school and office hours, everyone is out on their four-wheels, and occupancy rate, especially of those heading to or back from work is almost entirely one-person per car. Every human hence, is not the size of a human, but that of a mid-sized elephant, and the infrastructure simply can’t keep up.

Last week, I had to pull in a supervisor from the company floor for his crumbling attitude towards work. The poor sod, I learnt, spends some four hours in traffic, getting to work and returning, every single working day of the week. At this juncture, I wanted to take my boss hat off, and do with him what the occupants of a same boat should: rest our heads on each other’s shoulder and weep copiously for about an hour or so.

But then, I had an epiphany.

Yes – it’s a motorcycle! And it’s brilliant.

As I see it, I am offering everyone a bit of a treat, of which I am the biggest recipient, bequeathing to every other driver on the road, square-yards of space, keeping to myself what feels only an inch. Think about it this way, next time you belittle your liberators on their two-wheels, swarming around you, buzzing, on I. I. Chundrigar Road.

The simple fact of the matter is that if the population size of Pakistan had the same car-ownership ratio as Australia has, you’d need to be a mouse to be able to cover a yard on the road. The streets will simply become unending parking bays, taking on a look of a cattle yard. There will be permanent tea-stalls every third car, vendors will sell you tomatoes, potatoes and peas, grown freshly in their automobiles; there’ll be goats tied to bonnets and wheels, boots will make coops for chickens to lay eggs in. It really would have happened, happened it would have surely, had it not been that so much of traffic in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, was on two wheels.

Of course, there aren’t very many things of infrastructure the western civilisations could learn from what used to be their colonies, but here, on this matter, there is indeed a lesson, hearty enough to be learnt.

I love my two-wheeler. And yes, it is capable – and allowed lawfully – to go through stationary traffic in lane-splitting, and yes, it means that the hours and hours I used to spend wedged in jams, wondering who killed Bob Marley – getting so worked-up at the Freemasons and the illuminates that often considered harming myself – can now be spent strolling gently, next to the Werribee river, near home. And yes, there is a back seat, ample for the blondie in her shiny helmet.