“Yours is one helluva bloody country,” exclaimed my English friend as he walked out of the airport.
“On the contrary,” I protested, “we are a very peace loving, non violent people.”
“Then why all the bloodshed,” said the Englishman.
“Bloodshed?” I protested again.
“Yeah there’s blood all over your land. Looks like a revolution took place. Was there a massacre at the airport also before my plane landed.”
“Massacre?” I asked.
“Looks like thousands were slaughtered.”
“Did they announce that on the plane?” I asked.
“Didn’t need to, it’s obvious. There’s signs of a fighting all over.”
“Listen,” I said, “we are a peace loving people.”
“I guess you chaps are so used to fighting that its quite normal for you all,” said the Englishman. I remember visiting Ireland and finding them also accepting violence as a part and parcel of normal life.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Blood, blood, blood,” said my friend, shuddering to himself. “I hope we can reach my hotel before the fighting starts again.”
“Did you fly by a Pakistani airline?” I asked.
“No,” said my friend. “Why?”
“It is only an enemy country who would have planted such thoughts in your mind.”
“Nobody’s planted any such thoughts,” said my English friend. “I have eyes that can see that violence has taken place.”
I watched as my friend looked out of the cab and shuddered. His eyes travelled everywhere onto the roads, the walls, the buildings. His eyes scanned terraces, looking I was sure for soldiers with machine guns, who he felt were waiting to gun everybody down. “Did you eat something on the plane that has made you ill?” I asked.
“Thank God I didn’t eat much,” he said, “my stomach would not have been able to take all this blood. I would have messed up the poor driver’s cab by now.”
We both looked at the cabby who was busy chewing away and my friend screamed as if he had been shot. “He’s been hit,” shouted my friend pointing to the driver, “he’s been hit. They’ve shot him in the mouth.”
The taxi driver and I took the poor man straight to the hotel and gently carried him upstairs. I asked the cabby to wash his mouth off all the paan stains. I didn’t want my friend to have another bloodshed nightmare.
I looked out of the hotel window at all the stains of red betel nut juice that stared back at me from every wall, pavement and road and realized we had grown so used to seeing the filthy red stains we had stopped noticing them.
“It would need a civil war,” I thought, “to get rid of our red-blooded national habit!”
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