It was late morning. Somewhere in the Highlands of Peru, the sun had just emerged from the fog. I was huffing and puffing on a steep uphill when a voice hit my ears, “Hola, amigo! (Hello, friend!)”
I turned around and saw a woman, carrying a white chicken in her hands and baby wrapped in the shawl around her back, waving at me.
“Buenos días (Good morning)”, I stopped and greeted her after catching a breath.
“Where are you from?” she asked.
“Where is Pakistan?”
Instead of giving them a direct answer, I usually asked people to guess. Most of the villagers in South America didn’t have the answer. Sometimes they would say Pakistan was located in the US, or even in Afghanistan, or Israel?
One thing is for sure that they all had heard about Pakistan in the news, albeit for wrong reasons.
“Pakistan is located in Asia, near China and India,” I told her.
“How is Pakistan?” She asked.
“It is beautiful. It has everything from the sea to the deserts, and high mountains.”
She asked a few more questions.
“What currency does Pakistan have? Is it dollars or like in Peru?”
“No, it is different. In Peru, you have Soles. In Pakistan, we have Rupees.”
I searched through my bags and showed her a 100 Pakistani Rupee note.
“How beautiful! Why is it red? Is it a special note?”
“No, it is just the colour.”
“Who is this person on the note?”
“He is the father of the Nation!”
“He must be a great man! What language is printed on the note?”
“It is Urdu, written from right to left.”
She studied the note with great interest and compared it with a Peruvian note. After a while, she gave it back to me.
“No, it is for you; as a souvenir!”
“Really? Thank you so much. I cannot visit Pakistan, but it will surely remind me of you and Pakistan!”
We greeted each other, and I resumed my uphill ride on the winding road. At the bend, I paused for a few seconds and looked back. She was still looking at the 100 Rupee note!