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  • Writer's pictureGreen Silk Road


When I said I'd finish the story tomorrow I didn't really mean it in the strict sense of the word. "Tomorrow ", "Naliki", "Manana", "Kal" all mean the same thing: some time soon.

Travelling shows what humans across the world have in common. And unfortunately one of these commonalities is bureaucracy. Omid explained this with the story of the Black Chickpea.

When we applied for a visa to travel through Pakistan the official told us to get a "no objection certificate " (NOC) from the interior ministry in Pakistan first. But how to get approval from within a country you're not allowed to enter?

Fortunately we have friends in Lahore who helped by talking directly to senior officials in Pakistan. The next impossible task was to apply for the NOC because one of the required documents was a copy of a valid visa!

The 3rd impossible task showed up when our friends were told that this case was exceptionally complicated and could easily take 6 weeks.

By this time Omid pointed out that it was a Black Chickpea situation. When you want to get rid of people who are bothering you, you send them off to find a non existing treasure: a black coloured chickpea.

Meanwhile my dad reminded me of the hypocrisy of "globalisation" where capital can cross borders more easy than people can. He works with deportees kicked out of the USA by the thousands so he speaks from experience.

Now where does that leave the Green Silk Road? We looked for a plan B to get to Iran while flying as little as possible. There are ferries from the gulf (Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Sharjah) but to get into these Emirate states you need to be rich. Any visa requires a bank balance of $10,000 which we don't have. And we hoped to sail on a dhow from Mumbai and catch the Sharjah-Iran ferry...

Plan C was to fly to Iran. But not before we could see the impenetrable barrier with our own eyes. So we set off to Amritsar, and from there to the crossing at Attari (Wagah) where soldiers on both sides perform a bizar show every evening, involving a mix of macho posturing and nationalist song & dance.

At least a thousand spectators attended the performance as if it was a soccer match - complete with merchandise, slogan shouting and an infectious sense of brotherhood. Well, on "our" side of the gate obviously. The others were clearly losers: their women less good looking, their loudspeakers weaker, their flag hanging limp on its pole while "ours" flowed proudly in the wind.

But at least we got to see real Pakistanis in their own habitat -be it with a few lines of barbed wire and men with guns dividing us. A borderless world zindabad!

While in Delhi we visited a school where the principal told us about an Indian astronaut who was asked “what does India look like from space?” She replied “there are no countries to be seen from space. Borders exist only in our minds.”

TravelApplause from Tugay Başar and

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