The crowded bus sped through the streets of Islamabad, lined on both sides with flowering jasmine bushes. The sweet fragrance outside vied with the stench of body odour inside the bus. I was hanging onto a loose iron bar, pushing away the hand of another passenger who had grabbed my trousers in an area far too close to my private parts, to prevent himself from falling out into the road.
“Are you going to London?” he asked, his bulging eyes reflecting the depth of his shock.
During the long plane journey to London, my attention was grabbed by some fellow passengers dancing, singing, smoking and drinking. Dear God, I thought, London must be better than Heaven. Look at them! They’re so happy to be going home. I kept staring and smiling until one of them shouted, “What the fuck are you looking at?” I jumped up to rummage for my dictionary in the overhead lockers. Opening it, I looked up the connection between what, fuck and looking at. I couldn’t find it but I kept smiling at them.
Finally, the plane touched the ground. Grinning broadly, I approached the immigration officer who happened to be a voluminous lady — not exactly an English rose.
I produced my document, which was a form of ID issued for Afghan refugees by the Pakistani government. It was simply a yellowish piece of A4 paper, like a newspaper left out for years in the rain and sun.
I bent down to find the dictionary in my bag. I wanted to look up the connection between