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  • Clutching her hand bag tightly under her arm, she hurried across the road trying to find a taxi. The woman, in her late thirties, was one of many stranded on the roads of the twin cities on the first day of the New Year.

    I waited in my taxi, stuck in a traffic jam on the Islamabad expressway, on my way to work. It had been well over an hour as we inched forward and I was beginning to get frustrated.

    I had checked the reports coming in from various sources on Twitter and Facebook as people complained about being stuck in traffic jams and unable to get to work in time due to the transport strike.

    Unwilling to start the New Year with a day off work, I decided to take my chances. Now I regretted it.

    I watched school children with heavy bags with no bus or van in sight. I saw college boys angrily discussing the problems they were facing. School teachers, desperate to avoid the cut in a day’s salary, tried to hail taxis, which were scarce and unwilling to go forward.

    Something had to give, and it did.

    Hundreds of frustrated angry people began to converge on the Expressway. They blocked the road, burning tyres and setting fire to everything within sight. It was impossible to go any further.

    I told the taxi driver to turn back and take me home.

    “We’ll have to wait now,” he said pointing at the blocked road. “The U-turn is just ahead but I can’t go there while these people are throwing stones.”

    So, we waited.

    Almost next to me, a woman, holding a four-year old boy by the hand, stood behind the bus-stop shed. Having nothing better to do, I watched her. The child looked terrified. Dressed in the uniform of a local school, he peeped at the hooligans on the road from behind the woman.

    Then he saw me and instantly became shy. Trying to hide behind the woman, presumably his mother, he looked at me curiously. I had an idea.

    Taking out the notebook I always carry with me, I tore out a few pages and proceeded to draw funny faces on each one. Holding up a paper-smiley face in front of my own, I moved it side to side and then peeped out of a corner at the child. He was smiling.

    I replaced the first one with another face that, I think, looked like a dog. The child laughed out loud this time. I smiled and he smiled back, with an expectant look on his face. I held up my last paper face, that of a clown, at least I thought it looked like a clown.

    The little boy clapped his hands and his mother looked at me. Feeling slightly embarrassed, I sheepishly smiled at her. Her face lighted up and she smiled back.

    The driver had found an opening and I was on my way home.

    I looked back at the child who was now chatting happily with his mother and smiled. Maybe the New Year hadn’t started so badly after all.
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