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March 2, 2019

Riding a bicycle in Rawalpindi

Islamabad

March 2, 2019

Kaleidoscope

ISLAMABAD: There is a debate in Germany about multiculturalism and the government takes extensive care of the fact that immigrants are integrated into the host society. German Ambassador Martin Kobler, who tweets @KoblerinPAK, is a living manifestation of his government’s policy.

He moves in streets of Islamabad, sits with the homeless at government shelters, and is not hesitant to go to downtown Rawalpindi in search of a bicycle that is made in Pakistan. He expresses his thoughts in Urdu and his Urdu is impressive.

In his recent tweets, he narrates his endeavour to find a Pakistani bicycle. He could not in Islamabad. But he did not give up and landed in Raja Bazaar where he found out one. He then got more Pakistani bicycles, got them painted in truck art and presented them to his audience.

Prof Dr Sebastian Kurtenbach of Applied University, Muenster, a German scholar of urban sociology who came to Islamabad to attend a conference, said that it is good that Kobler has learnt local culture and language so well. He said Germans keep focused on the area of their expertise.

Two simple messages could be perceived of this episode. First, people should ride bicycles for intra-city movements, which is good for human health and environment. Second, Pakistani bicycles are compatible and should be promoted.

I still remember that I tried to get my kids a Pakistani bicycle but markets were brimming with low quality imported stuff. A few shops had good quality imported bicycles but their prices were very high. I wanted my kids to ride the bicycle I rode in my childhood. But for all my longings, I did not have it in me to get boxed up in downtown Rawalpindi. But after Kobler, I will go to the twisted Raja Bazaar for it.

Pakistani bicycles were, and are not only of good quality but also cheap. Be it Rawalpindi or Lahore, shops offering Pakistani bicycles are selected.

Time was when we could see bicycle riders on our roads. They kind of vanished, gradually. And if a bicycle rider shows up, it becomes an outrage for motorists because our roads are overflowing with cars and are not meant for bicycles.

In all capitals of developed world, it is made sure that bicycle riders are encouraged to come on the road and they are safe. Denmark’s capital Copenhagen prides itself for dedicating its roads to bicycles and people there are healthier than those in many other countries.

Kobler’s tweets in Urdu give us a message of cultural integration which should be acknowledged. But the Anglophile folks were eager to bring out their English language skills in replies to his tweets. We need to train our reflexes in such a way that we are expressive before being impressive.

Almost all MNAs of Rawalpindi are government ministers. They all know where they can find made-in-Pakistan goods. Don’t they? Then why they are not in our markets.

The writer tweets @furraat

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