My friend Talha and I had been driving for five straight hours when our car broke down on a dirty road, in the middle of nowhere. We had been on our way up north to visit a friend who lived in a farmhouse on Ranjha Hill. After meddling under the hood for twenty minutes without any success, we pondered over what we should do next. The road lay empty ahead of us with no car in sight. According to the map we had, we were approximately thirty kilometres from the nearest town.
A few minutes later, a station wagon appeared in the distance that pulled over as it reached us. The tinted window rolled down to reveal a scruffy, middle aged man with a salt and pepper beard. Since he was heading to the nearest town, he offered both of us a ride. In the end it was decided that Talha should go ahead and bring help while I stayed with our car. I watched them drive off till the station wagon became a mere speck in the distance, expecting Talha to return within half an hour with help.
After twenty minutes of sitting idle in the car, I took out my mobile phone to call Talha only to discover the battery had died. The sun had begun to set and my unease grew with the spreading dark. The lush trees on both sides of the road seemed to have developed a sinister quality in the fading light. Thoughts of lurking danger hidden in shadows kept entering my mind. With dread lining my heart, I checked that all the doors were locked and all the windows rolled up.
Another twenty minutes passed by without any sign of Talha. My worries began to focus on him instead of me. In retrospect, the station wagon driver’s face had looked oddly familiar. Was it because he was a fugitive who I had seen on the news channel? Images of Talha being robbed or worse, stabbed and left to die clouded my mind. I cursed myself for not charging my mobile phone before we left. I was stranded, with no means of communication and a friend who could possibly be in grave danger right now.
While I was debating if I should set off afoot to get help, strong headlights appeared in the distance. To my immense relief, Talha appeared from the passenger door of the car that had just stopped. Fortunately, Talha had found a car mechanic who had agreed to drive to our car and fix it. While our car was being brought to working order, I told Talha of my musings while he had been gone. It turned out that not only had the station wagon driver given Talha a ride but he had also been generous enough to buy us a meal for our journey ahead. For once I were glad that I had been entirely wrong in my assumptions.