OUR hotel in Sydney was located in Martin Place, a short walk from the Circular Quays, with an eclectic collection of restaurants and shops.

The area was within walking distance from of the Harbor Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other side.

Our taxi driver was a native of Peshawar. In Urdu, he told us that the first two years under Imran Khan would be years of sorrow but then they would be followed by years of prosperity.

He said that Pakistan had suffered for 70 years under corrupt leaders and religious bigots but sufferings would end under Imran. I bit my tongue and smiled.

He told us that there were only 19,000 Pakistanis in Australia and that Indians outnumbered them by a factor of ten. He said the Indians had done a tremendous job marketing their culture and Diwali was being observed throughout Sydney.

On our first full day, we took the ferry to Manly beach. We had put our rain gear since it was raining on and off. But the views were superb. Once we got to the beach, we discovered a  group of school children from Japan. They were dressed in smart school uniforms.

What has stayed with me is a picture of the children standing near the beach, each holding an umbrella to ward off the incessant rain. That evening we watch the play, Julius Caesar, back at the Opera House.

The Westfield Shopping Mall was not too far away and we decided to check out the many shops.

I have always been impressed by the high state of fashion in Sydney, and was not disappointed this time. Some of the men's vests, jackets, and suits were very smartly coordinated. Our goal had been to engage in window shopping but some of the items proved irresistible and got bought.

 A local couple bought us to have lunch with them at iconic Bondi Beach. The seafood at North Beach Fish was incredible and also provided great view of the beach.

Later, they took us to Surry Hills which had a few Pakistani-Indian shops and restaurants. We had gulab jaman and jalebi there with chai and samosas.

The woman, whose father was English, asked me for my views on Imran Khan. That question seemed to dog me wherever I went.

The next day we walked through expansive botanical gardens to the opera House and then onto the Harbor Bridge. We had lunch at a great Italian restaurant in the adjacent Rock's Market, which provides a Greek restaurant, 1821,  near the hotel.

On our final day, we walked through Hyde Park, admiring the statutory on display, and then boarded the taxi to the airport. The driver turned out to be of Indian origin whose grandfather had served in North Africa and whose father had been a brigadier during some of the wars with Pakistan.

So I asked him about the Indo-Pak wars and he quizzed me about Imran Khan. The time went fast. Soon we were on the flight home.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Ahmad Faruqui.


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