Elephants and Cockroaches: Travels in Pakistan

In this period of fickle weather, Portsmouth resident Joan Farnell reflects on the heat, rain and creepy crawlies of Pakistan, where she used to live.

The figurine of a little painted elephant took my thoughts back to my time in Pakistan. Not that you see any elephants there but they do seem to be symbolic of that part of the world. If you’ve never been in those climes you can’t imagine how hot it gets before the monsoons break. When I returned to Europe people asked me why I wasn’t nicely sun-tanned. The answer is that, apart from a few weeks in winter, you do your best to keep out of the sun. Being a mad dog of an Englishwoman I once ventured out around midday. The heat was like an iron waiting any minute to press down on me. Needless to say I confined all outings thereafter to early morning or late afternoon.

In England you feel like cursing the rain because there’s too much of it too often. In places like Pakistan you’re happy when it comes. Often, I’d gaze longingly at a blue glass paperweight sitting on my desk and dream of diving down into cool depths of mystery. As it was I couldn’t even get a lukewarm shower because the water tank was on the roof and so was the sun. My solution was to run some water into a tub and leave it for hours so that it could cool down from scalding to just about okay, then I’d use a scoop to douse myself. It refreshed me for a few minutes.

Despite the hot weather, there weren’t many nasty creepy-crawlies in the flat and for that I was grateful. We had house lizards crawling up the walls but they were clean and harmless. I quite liked them. Then I made the acquaintance of the cockroach. One night I had cause to wander into the bathroom – barefoot. It was dark and I wasn’t looking where I was treading. The feel of its carapace under my foot nearly made me scream. I was fearing something more sinister than a giant insect. When I switched on the light I felt so relieved that I told the cockroach I wouldn’t kill it so long as it stayed in the bathroom and didn’t invite any of its pals around for a cockroach orgy. It seemed to have understood the agreement. I wondered where it hid itself during the day because it was never visible during the hours of daylight until whilst cleaning the bathroom floor, I lifted the cover to the drain hole and saw the cockroach spread-eagled beneath it. Fascinating! 

Not long afterwards, though, I saw it crossing the threshold into my bedroom. I took one of my Dr Scholls shoes off and killed it. It nearly broke my heart; I’d got quite fond of it.

Don’t miss Joan Farnell’s travel memoir, Eastward Ho! From Zurich to Pakistan.


Image by dilshad3 from Pixabay.


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