Islamabad, Pakistan.
January, 2012.
(Written during a period of frequent nationwide fuel shortages.)

When the alarm clock beeped for the fifth time, to my absolute dismay, I realized that I was running terribly late for a meeting at work! I sprang up, got myself in a more presentable shape and made a dash for the car. It wasn’t long before I remembered that it was Wednesday and the CNG (the popular, less expensive fuel alternative to petrol and diesel) stations would be closing for three days starting Thursday. I went through the day’s schedule in my head to see if I could somehow squeeze in the CNG-filling ritual. The answer was sadly negative, but the prospect of ending up having to use the more expensive petrol or diesel outweighed all counter-arguments, and I headed for the CNG station.

I could see a painfully long queue of cars even from afar. While waiting for my turn, I could hear people discussing the tidal wave of inflation that had rocked the country. I learnt that petrol price was speculated to be raised by 10% the next week, while CNG cost would rise by 8%. Things proceeded at a gingerly pace and by the time I reached my office, I was positively 20 minutes late. Going up the stairs to the office, my mind leaved through a compilation of exquisite, hand-picked excuses that I save for such occasions. After an expected embarassing exchange of excuses and a mild telling-off from my boss, the meeting carried on with its pointless agenda made to seem important.

The meeting was followed by an hour of work, followed by the lunch break. When I handed 85 rupees to the cafeteria boy for my favourite burger, he announced with a wide grin that the burger’s new price was 100 rupees. Surprised, I protested: “But its price already rose by 15 rupees only two weeks ago!”. He replied: “Sorry, but we can’t help it, there is just too much inflation”. I cosidered the situation for a bit, and decided against getting the burger. I ordered the cheaper option of daal with naan, and congratulated myself for saving 50 rupees. Over lunch, I heard my colleagues chat about the expected increase in energy price next month. None of this ‘news’ stirred any strong reaction in me any more, as it followed a predictable pattern. Commodity bills swelled on monthly basis, followed by media outlash, followed by the indifferent inaction, Repeat.

Lunch was followed by more uninspiring work. By the time it was time to leave for home, I was completely drained of my energy. Exhausted, I approached my car in the parking area eager to reach home, force down some food in the name of dinner and get some much needed sleep. On my way out, I saw a new notice announcing that the monthly charges for the parking area would increase by 100 rupees next month. I wanted to engage in a furious argument with the management of the parking area about how unreasonable and unfair it was to do so when the charges had already been raised by 50 rupees just a month ago. However, common sense and a general lack of energy advised against picking up a battle that I had very slim chances of winning.

On my way back home, I had a vision: Invisible dollar signs falling from the sky, followed by a downpour of question mark signs. Just when I took the turn towards my street, I saw a sight so beautiful I had to pull up the car by the roadside to fully appreciate it. The pale, crescent moon was perched quietly on top of tall pine trees. On that late winter evening, there was no sign of life whatsoever on the quiet street. And yet, the surroundings seemed to have come alive to celebrate the splendour of the magnificent moon. I feasted my eyes on this perfect picture of serenity for a while, before I moved on. As I drifted off to sleep that night, I wondered: What would be the price of moon if it were in the discretionary power of us humans to put a price tag on it?