Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Munawar Mirza

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Munawar Mirza runs a bicycle repair shop in Township about three kilometres from my home. I was introduced to him when I asked a friend about such a shop nearby. Earlier I used to go to Store Market, A Block, Model Town. There my man was Qureshi who had served me in good stead since 1995 when I started cycling in earnest.

My friend who told me of Mirza had lived in Township since before the start of time on this side of Lahore. That is, since 1974 when it first came into being over wheat fields and forest and when the Hadiara Nadi was still a clear, freshwater rivulet where one could fish for rahu. Mirza Sahib (as I address this fifty plus man with dyed hair and moustaches), is talkative as talkative can ever be. And when he talks, his hands stop working. Consequently, a job that would take thirty minutes lasts well over an hour.

About a couple of years ago when we were alone as he worked on my bicycle, he offered me a ‘sex tonic’. I refused saying I had more important things to think of than sex. ‘Aha!’ Mirza’s eyes shone with the light of discovery. ‘Exactly because you think less of sex and more of useless things is why you need the tonic.’

The tonic, it turned out, was a couple of brightly coloured triangular tablets. I was given them wrapped in a bit of old newspaper and free of cost. However, any more that I would need subsequently would be charged for, said Mirza. The instruction was to have one with warm milk thirty minutes before going to bed. He expressly forbade me from taking both lest I blow the roof off my poor home. I came home and promptly flushed them down the sewer lest I be tempted to get my mind to dwell on sex and end up with kidney failure.

Aside: if you didn’t know, nearly all the kushtas the hakims, practitioners of traditional medicine, of the old city (and even of the new) sell to men over sixty-five years of age are deadly poisons. Choc-a-bloc with mercury, lead and arsenic, they are supposed to cure erectile dysfunction. But once inside the body, all these heavy metals head straight for the kidneys and destroy them by the time the ‘sex-starved’ man has had the third helping.

This detail I know because back in 1993, I did a study for an NGO and learned that all old fogeys with kidney failure in the Nephrology Department of Lahore General Hospital were there for having taken Mochi Darwaza kushtas. The good doctor Farrukh Khan, then heading the department, was briefly interviewed and he confirmed. Later, I spoke to several hakims in the walled city and learned that they did indeed use heavy metals in their preparations. One man’s explanation in Punjabi was a masterpiece, ‘Oye, when you eat metal only then your limp part will go hard!’

Imagine that being said in Punjabi and the word loha (iron) used for the poison and for the limp part! By the way, why is it that by age sixty-five most men still hanker after sex? Haven’t they already diligently banged their way through life to be sick of it? But then if George Burns can be trying to have sex at ninety and likening it to playing pool with a rope, why fault septuagenarians.

But back to Mirza. On our next visit my man, having cast suspicious eyes around, sidled up to me and even though we were all alone in his workshop, whispered, ‘So, how did it work out?’

By then I had plumb forgotten the two tablets that were by then miles down the Ravi where all our effluent ends up. Had the river been any cleaner we might have found the rahu population grown several times because of very randy male fish. But now that the Ravi is an utterly oxygen-deprived sewer, there aren’t even worms whose population could have jumped because of the aphrodisiac in the dark water.
‘What? How did what work out?’ I asked foolishly.
‘The tablets. Did you take the tablets? One at a time?’
‘Oh. The coloured tablets. Of course,’ said I.

He insisted on being told how things proceeded after the tablet had been taken and I lied that I kept my wife awake all night. Munawar Mirza beamed like the coach and manager of a prize fighter who had just won a hard fought bout.
Vekhya fer?’ he said proudly.

Recently I went back to him to get the chain and flywheel of my bicycle changed. He gabbed and gabbed and gabbed taking twice as long as always to finish the job. Before we parted he once again looked around and leaning over very conspiratorially told me that he had an unbeatable cure for back ache, arthritis, and gout. I told him I had none of the named diseases. ‘Just telling you, in case you ever have the need,’ said Mirza. He insisted I was never to hesitate should I feel the slightest twinge of pain anywhere in my body. I had his phone number and all I needed was to call him.

Done with my bike, he told me to check it out and it rode fine. Even all the way home, about three kilometres away. However, the next morning having done about twelve kilometres I felt I was dragging a road roller with my bike. I tried the wheels and found the rear one almost jammed. My attempt to un-jam it resulted in the rear wheel coming clean off!

Fortunately a couple of rickshaws were waiting nearby and I got my bike home. In the end I had to send it to Qureshi in Store Market, A Block Model Town. Since I started cycling more than two decades ago, he had been my man. I think I revert to him on a permanent basis.

I think Mirza should give up soiling his hands and open a davakhana where he pretends to be repairing bicycles.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:35,


At 20 June 2017 at 12:12, Blogger S A J Shirazi said...

I am asking for Munawar Mirza address privately.

At 20 June 2017 at 12:30, Blogger Salman Rashid said...

Hahahaha. To get your bicycle fixed? Or for some other reason?

At 20 June 2017 at 14:34, Blogger S A J Shirazi said...

Will get myself 'fixed' on the pretext of my bick.

BTW, Munawar Mirza is a wonderful character of our society. Anyone can relate to him.

At 23 June 2017 at 13:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in today's concrete jungles of apartment blocks & malls, these kind of characters are getting to be a rarity.

At 8 July 2017 at 15:28, Anonymous Asad said...

Alike species are found in every field of life who concentrate on the job which is not their actual job or for the job for which they are not supposed to be responsible


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

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Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

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