A dialogue between two friends regarding a visit to a London
Asad: Hello, Qamar! I haven't seen you for ages.
Qamar: Been out of the country for a few months.
Asad: Really? Where, to the gulf?
Qamar: No. My wife and I have to the UK to see our grandson.
Asad: I'm sure you've had a very enjoyable time. How long were you there?
Qamar: Exactly six months.
Asad: Where in the UK were you?
Qamar: We were in London.
Asad: Which part of London?
Qamar: East Ham.
Asad: Oh, East Ham. I've some friends there.
Qamar: Yes, there are a lot of Pakistanis at East Ham.
Asad: You know our Zahid. His sister and family are there.
Qamar: Yes, I once met them on the underground.
Qamar: Yes, you call it London underground or tube. You can travel all over London by the underground trains.
Asad: Oh, I see. I hear transport is expensive there.
Qamar: Yes, it is, especially taxis.
Asad: Was it easy to get a visa to the UK? I hear it isn't so easy.
Qamar: Well, it wasn't very difficult for us.
Asad: Where did you get it from? Lahore?
Qamar: No, form the British High Commission in Islamabad.
Asad: Was it a long process?
Qamar: Yes and no. First you've to get a sponsor's letter from London. Then you should be in possession of a round trip air ticket. Our son sent them to us. He sent a pre-paid ticket advice to the airlines and the ticket was issued to us. Besides the passports, sponsor's letter and the air tickets, we had to produce some documents to show that we have some assets here and also close relatives.
Asad: What's that for?
Qamar: That's to convince the British authorities that we are definitely coming back. They would make sure that we didn't intend to look for a job or settle there once we reached there.
Asad: Em...I'm sure they must have asked you quite a lot of questions at the high Commission's office.
Qamar: Oh, yes, they did. And once you get the visa stamped in your passport, it's valid for six months.
Asad: You mean you have to use it within six months.
Qamar: Exactly. On landing at Heathrow airport you are given a six months' visa from the date of entry.
Asad: You had to pay for the visa.
Qamar: Certainly. You make the payment in rupees before obtaining it. The amount depends on the duration of your stay.
Asad: How much did you pay for six months?
Qamar: We had to pay Rs.70000@Rs.40000 for each of us.
Asad: Did you board from Islamabad?
Qamar: No, we embarked from Lahore.
Asad: Was it a direct flight?
Qamar: No, we flew via Muscat and Bahrain. There are direct flights but they are more expensive.
Asad: Did you have to spend a lot of time in transit in Muscat and Bahrain?
Qamar: Not much. Though we landed in Muscat, we didn't need to change the plane and the same plane took us to Bahrain.
Asad: Did you need to change the plane Bahrain?
Qamar: Yes, we had to. We spend about two hours at the airport.
Asad: Which airways did you fly by?
Qamar: Gulf Airways.
Asad: How was the flight and service?
Qamar: Fantastic! Though it was a long flight, the food and service made every minute of the flight enjoyable. The cuisine was excellent. Soft drinks and food were served free. Most of the time the passengers were eating and drinking and watching video film.
Asad: How long did you take to reach London?
Qamar: We took off from Lahore at 8 a.m. Pakistani time and landed in London at 5.45 p.m. London time on the same day.
Asad: How many hours behind in London time?
Qamar: It is five hours behind Pakistani Standard Time. I think the flying time was around ten hours and the remaining time was spent at Muscat and Bahrain airports.
Asad: Was your son at the airport to receive you?
Qamar: Yes, my son and daughter-in-law were there.
Asad: Have you ever been to London before?
Qamar: No, that was the first time.
Asad: What's your impression about English people?
Qamar: They are very reserved. They mind their own business and are not at all nosey. London is a beautiful place, unique for its architectural beauty. It is not a city of sky-scrapers. There are very tall buildings in the city but mostly it is a city of two, three or four storeyed buildings and all buildings in a street are similar in certain respects. That's its specialty.
Asad: I thought it was a city of tall buildings and a maze of flyovers like some of those in the States.
Qamar: Not at all. Most of the streets in residential areas are lined with houses of same plan on both sides. They are painted alike and look like iced cakes displayed in a bakery. Cars of infinite variety and shades parked in straight lines on either side of the road add luster to the sight.
Asad: How are the roads and pavements?
Qamar: The roads are very wide with dividers, median lines and all sorts of road signs well displayed. Zebra crossings, bus stops and other areas are marked in appropriate colors. Absence of pot-holes is a specialty. Pavements are asphalted or paved with concrete slabs.
Asad: How nice! I wish our roads would be like them one day. What about the cleanliness of the roads?
Qamar: Their civic sense is very high. Everywhere on the road you can find litter bins and all waste materials are thrown into them. But in same areas the roads are not very clean.
Asad: How is the garbage from houses disposed of?
Qamar: Every house is supplied with supplied with a plastic garbage can with casters fixed at the bottom. Once a week the garbage is collected by the Council van. The can is wheeled on to the pavement in front of the gate and left there by the residents. When the can is hooked to the truck by the workers, it is raised and the rubbish is tipped inside. The garbage is collected without fail on a particular day.
Asad: I wish our municipalities would emulate this system.
Qamar: Why blame only the authorities? We are only good at blaming each other.
Asad: We'll take ages to reach that high level of civic sense.
Qamar: One other things is that all pavements slope down to the road at road junctions and strategic points so that the trolleys, prams, push chairs and auto-chairs on the pavement can move across the roads very easily. You can carry your baby all over the city in a pram, pushing it along. Old people drive auto-chairs along the pavement at walking speed. All the shops are at pavement level and you can drive your auto-chair into a shop, do your shopping and come out. Using an auto-chair, very old people and invalids go about without from others. Very old people who can walk make use of trolleys. They put all their purchases in the trolley and pull or push it along. They don't have to carry any weight.
Asad: How wonderful!
Qamar: Another unique thing I've noticed is that people from into a queue at all counters, at the post office, bank, shop and the queue and make hubbub.
Asad: I think it is the attitude of people of others, life and situations that tend to make them behave in a particular way. I wish I could visit London once. Well, I'm afraid it's getting late, and I have a long way to go.Qamar: Yes, I'd better be going, too. Bye,