Pyry Kääriä and Juho Sarno, both 31-year-old circus artists from Finland, are on the journey of a lifetime as they drive from Bangkok to Helsinki in a Tuk-Tuk – the Thai version of the three-wheeler not much different from the rickshaws frequently seen in Pakistan.
Kääriä and Sarno reached Pakistan a week ago, and are excited to continue their journey. “Pakistan is an amazing country,” Sarno said, adding, “In other countries, we have seen people try to build an illusion about their homeland, but that is not the case here. Pakistanis are far more vocal about the problems they face.”
“In Finland, we see Pakistan through the very limited and mostly negative lens of the media. But being here, we have found it to be completely different,” Kääriä said. “Our experience has been totally different from what we see in the media – Pakistanis are adorable people,” he added.
Kääriä and Sarno have named their Tuk-Tuk the “Vehicle of Peace”, because they say, everyone rides it and it is open from all sides.
“It’s a rollercoaster ride. We got stickers printed in Rawalpindi that say Awam ki Sawari in Urdu, to use during the rest of our journey,” the pair said.
The pair recounted some of their more memorable experiences in Pakistan.
“We needed a mobile SIM card but didn’t have a local registration number (CNIC). I asked the mobile phone vendor to let us use his mobile to call my contact in Lahore, but he was out of town,” Sarno recalled. “And then the shopkeeper called a friend, who called another friend, and we ended up following a motorbike through the traffic, to a place called Gulberg II, where mechanics fixed our Tuk-Tuk while we rested amongst plants in a nursery,” he said.
Neither of them could speak Urdu, and none of the mechanics knew English, and yet Sarno says they communicated easily with facial expressions and hand gestures. The pair say this has happened often in Pakistan, and that language is not a major barrier here.
“Since we entered Pakistan I haven’t felt threatened even for a second,” Kääriä said, adding, “Pakistan is indeed a peaceful nation.”
Sarno and Kääriä spent some time in Bangkok as teenagers and were so inspired by their brief trip that they began their journey in Thailand. They entered Pakistan through the Wagah border crossing from India. They travelled to Murree and then arrived in Rawalpindi.
“I have never seen a planned city like Islamabad in my life,” Sarno said. “I regret that I could not drive the Tuk-Tuk in Islamabad,” he added.
“Compared to what we experienced in India, Pakistanis are totally different. From officials to the common people, they are generous, and everybody tries to make things comfortable for us,” Sarno said.
Kääriä and Sarno explored different parts of Rawalpindi during their time in the city. “Seeing so many people waiting for food at Murree Road, just before sunset, we joined them and they shared their food with us,” Sarno said. “Everyone was waiting for the sun to set to break their fast, but several people asked us to eat before the Azaan,” he added.