The road to Pakpattan is long and as renting a car is quite cheap I have decided to do so and to travel with comfort.
In Pakistan, the cars are hired together with their driver so that I wonât even have to drive.
My driverâs name is Riaz, he is from Punjab, he has a kind face and is molto discreet. He is always ready to help. He does not speak English and I have started to learn Urdu, which is the language of Pakistan.
I ask him the name of things we see and I have learned to say âhave you eaten already?â and âplease stop hereâ.
The car is fast and has the air-conditioned, which is fine because it starts to be hot in Punjab.
The highway to Lahore is really good, but in order to arrive in Pakpattan, we had to go also on small roads where we saw some very strange things.
Pakpattan is a small city but it is famous in all Pakistan for the Mazar (mausoleum) of a Sufi saint named Baba Farid. The mausoleum of Baba Farid and itâs mosque have been for hundreds of years a place of pilgrimage for those who admire or follow the Way of the Sufis, the Way of the heart and of Love of God.
I arrived for the first time in Pakpattan 27 years ago and in the years that followed I often returned there and I lived with the Sufis in this small town for about a year.
This travel is for me like a pilgrimage to my roots, to the spring of inspiration of my life, after so many years living in Italy away from Muslim countries.
Pakpattan is made of narrow and steep streets, I have never seen a city resembling so much to Jerusalem.
My old friend Hassan Chishti has built his house near the Mazar of Baba Farid in a rather unusual way; instead of raising walls he dug the place for two months with a team of workers, in order to find the freshness. The donkeys of Pakpattan carried away the earth and the rubbles.
He told me âMy intention was that when it is hot in summer I stay down at the fresh and when it is cold I come up to take a sunbathâ. Nevertheless, he is a very jolly person and with him, we laugh continuously.
Hassan is from the family of Baba Farid and is very respected in Pakpattan. In his village at Kotha, he is the King and the people who have disputes come to him for judgment. His wisdom is renowned.
He has my age but he seems much younger because he dyes his beard red with henna.
Hassan has left the village life and has come to live in Pakpattan. He has sent his elder son to take his stead in Kotha and has decided to dedicate himself to the religious life.
When he dug his house I imagine that his intention was to bury himself in order to leave the worries of the world, and in fact, he has also dug a kind of small cave in the house, where he spends much time in prayers, and he has ordered his 5 sons to bury him right there when the time will come.
âDear Brother, I told him, you have made ready your grave in your own house, it is not normal. I think that you have a problem. Make a journey and come with me to Italy, maybe you will find a solution to it.â
He answered to me: âBrother Abdussalam, stay with me in Pakpattan, where there is peace and the Way of the Sufis, what is better than that for the soul?â
So I promised him that I would come to die here when I am old because anyway I cannot afford to die in Italy, it is too expensive, I would be ruined.
We spent a day enjoying the happiness of having met again and the next day we took my car and Riaz to see his house in Bahawalnagar where all his family stay, his wife, his five sons and his daughter.
Hassan has never used a computer because he thinks that he will not like it. In order to show him how much fun it is, I made him play with my laptop. His sons instead are already used to that.
On reaching Bahawalnagar I checked the map and told him: âlet us proceed our travel until Bahawalpur and Liakatpur to visit the grave of our old friend Sheikh Wahid Baksh Sial and offer a prayer for him.