What Are You Doing Here In Our Hotel?
When I went to the Marriott recently with my family, I felt like we were making a trip to a foreign country. I am alluding not to the stark and opulent contrast of the hotel to the rest of the country, but to the gauntlet of security checks we had to permeate in order to get inside and finally reach the Nadia – where we only really intended to have an innocent little high tea. Now, while I am getting used to seeing all the metal detectors and airport-style x-ray things at hotels and shopping areas alike, the obstacle course at the Marriott was still rather overwhelming. I realized just how overwhelming when I entered the lobby and the very first thing I thought to myself was upon seeing the aquarium: “These fish probably have more peace of mind than anyone else in the city, living in a fortress like this.”
I shook the thought away and resumed making my way to my tension-free high tea.
The whole thing reminded me of another similar experience a couple of months ago at the Serena. My friend and I had taken the wrong bus from Quaid-e-Azam University, and after being taken through all sorts of irrelevant sectors, were alarmed to see that we were heading back to university. Wanting nothing more than to avoid completing a full circle and ending up back where we had started, we told the bus driver to let us off there and then. There and then, incidentally, happened to be right in front of the Serena in the early afternoon.
“Want to go inside and explore?” suggested my friend.
“Sure!” I said, always game. So we walked up to the main gate.
Now, my friend wears a nikaab. Not only that: in her arms she was carrying one of our textbooks. And of all the textbooks in the world, it just happened to be the one with the words “International Politics of TERRORISM” written in big letters on the front.
So there we were, two strange pedestrians walking up to the main gate of Serena, one of us carrying a huge suspicious-looking backpack, and the other dressed in a black nikaab and abaaya, brandishing a book about terrorism.
Naturally, we were stopped in our tracks by a couple of guards and an alarmed-looking man with a walkie-talkie.
“Asalamoalaikum,” we said, good-naturedly.
“Walaikumasalam,” replied the walkie-talkie man, warily. “Aap kahaan say aa rahi hain?”
He scrutinized us more closely, still uncertain.
We grinned back, at our most charming. My friend is used to being regarded suspiciously because of her appearance.
“Aap nay kidher jaana hai?” he asked.
“Er. Lunch karnay?”
He gave us another appraising look and I could almost see the wheels turning frantically in his head. Then he just stood aside and directed us in.
When we were inside, we laughed so much our stomachs ached. We hadn’t brought enough money to be able to afford even a breadstick at Serena, so we just explored the hotel, admiring the architecture and decor and taking joy-rides on the elevator. We even did the old knocking on someone’s door and running away bit on the third floor. Then we got bored and decided to leave. On the way out, my friend whipped out her phone and started making a video of the hotel – with no other intention, I assure you, than of immortalizing a memorable afternoon.
From their posts at the gate, the security people stared uneasily. But what could the poor dears do, after all? My friend and I laughed all the way home.
Disclaimer: Some readers have made the error of not reading attentively and assuming that the author merely played a cruel prank on the good security people at Serena. She would like to reassure all such readers that the situation at the Serena was by no means intentional or staged, but purely coincidental. The author has intended no disrespect to any security guards, terrorists, or fish, and is very grateful for all the measures being taken to keep the citizens of Islamabad safe. She does, however, believe in finding humour in (almost) all things.