Rawalpindi, by contrast, is a haphazard, chaotic jumble of bazaars, jostling with horse tongas, buses and donkey carts. It is not a place in which to shop. Better to go in the cool of the evening to the small shops in the Islamabad area, known as the Supermarket’. Here you will find lovely Sind embroidery, both old and new, and beautiful Rajasthan quilts. Rawalpindi’s cantonment area houses Flashman’s colonial-style hotel and the Pearl Continental with the bonus of a swimming-pool. There are an army museum with raj relics, cricket and polo grounds, and a crumbling British cemetery and mid-nineteenth-century church, where services were formerly held three times a day, from Monday to Saturday, and eight times on Sundays.
Hardly relaxing is the drive to Taxila along the Grand Trunk route, built by the Moguls from Kabul to Calcutta. Today, it resembles a dodgem track with huge lorries, brightly painted like mobile Hindu temples. Each is an art exhibit in itself, with every panel painted with birds, flowers and animals. Tigers, eagles and stags at bay are especially popular, but liners and jets are also depicted with vitality and fantasy. Working electric clocks or models of PI A jets are mounted above the cab, and the whole is skirted with a jangling necklace of decorative chains. The progress of these pictorial juggernauts, piled high with sacks and people, is heralded with horns the strength of the Queen Mary’s fog-horn. The private buses are equally colourful, with swathes of flashy tinsel providing additional decoration. Just before Taxila, the Grand Trunk route runs through the Magalla pass, the point said to mark Interior room designs the entrance into Central Asia, guarded by a monument built in 1868 to General Henry Nicholson.