It is night-time. The moon shines softly, bathing the unmoving countryside below in a silvery glow. Even the crickets are quiet, careful not to disturb the sleeping farmer and his family. Far away, Nawaz Sharif’s miracle motorway runs swiftly across the land. Right on cue, a yellow beam of headlights appears round a bend, accompanied by the instantly recognisable drum of an engine.
Reclining comfortably in your plush, standalone seat, you stretch out and yawn contentedly. Forking out an extra Rs. 300 for Premium Plus meant sacrificing a day’s Green Leaf Thai Chicken, but it was a good investment. You extend an arm lazily and press the Call button. Your cup is supposed to be bottomless, not empty. The hostess at the front sees the indicator light up, so she looks back. When she sees you want another refill, she lets out a resigned sigh.
As dark, shapeless forms move outside your window, you realise that violence and hatred may plague the outside world, but only love exists within this white and blue vehicular wonderland. You take a look around. To your right, a twenty-four year-old is glued to his laptop, held spellbound by Frank Underwood’s Machiavellian scheming. He’s a budding accountant who’s making a trip to meet his girlfriend in Lahore. Daewoo, ‘connecting people’.
You note with interest that for some, the journey doesn’t need to end for the romance to begin. On screen, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are living the teenage dream: two rows ahead, one couple in particular seems to be drawing inspiration. The two look strangely overdressed, and it suddenly strikes you that they might actually be returning from their own wedding. That would certainly explain their suitcases, brand new kitchen appliances, and TV. It would also explain their behaviour; how they hold hands, tickle and poke each other, giggle incessantly, share the same pair of disgusting Daewoo headphones, feed each other pieces of the awful pineapple-flavoured muffin, and take a selfie every five seconds. Meanwhile, the middle-aged, bearded gentleman on their left is feeling distinctly uncomfortable. He stares resolutely ahead, trying to ignore the somewhat inappropriate romance playing itself out only an arm’s length away. You can see his lips pressed together into a thin line, his knuckles white from gripping the armrest. His discomfort is palpable, but for the next four hours he has no choice but to silently endure the amorous antics of Laila and her Majnun.
At the front of the bus, the driver cracks a joke and the hostess laughs. Love is in the air, and the bus personnel breathe as much of it as the passengers. At the Daewoo headquarters in Lahore, the human resource team is facing an ethical dilemma. On long journeys, their drivers and hostesses sometimes become friends. Management comes under pressure – families blame the company when things become complicated. Yet they can’t really do anything about it. Intervening would mean violating human rights as much as it would mean violating the Daewooian philosophy of universal love.
With its magical ambience and slowly meandering turns, the Daewoo experience isn’t just an everyday journey between two cities. It symbolizes something much more profound- ethereal sanctuary from the suffering and pain of the outside world. In a few hours, the passengers will have no choice but to feel the unwelcome embrace of reality. Until then, the world is at peace.