Well it happened, I had the quid-essential scary experience of living in a turbulent, and at times violent, developing country.
My car was attacked by an angry mob.
I have the scratches, dents and dusty foot stomp prints to prove it!
Never mind that it was a mob of mostly male children, it rattled me because I saw and felt the switch from celebratory exhilaration to aggression with intent to harm. Mob mentality to be exact. Which is (to loosely quote www.howstuffworks.com) when a group of emotionally charged people (whether this emotion be positive or negative) are sucked into sudden hostility after the violent behaviour of one or more individuals.
The first time we drove through the mob (I know what you’re thinking…you drove through the same mob more than once? Isn’t that just asking for it?) It was nothing more than an excited celebration, about what I don’t know. Children danced in the streets, slapped their palms on the sides of our car and demanded acknowledgement in the form of waves, thumbs up and some commemorative fist pumps. Don’t get me wrong; it still set me on edge, but minorly. Their celebration felt positive.
After dropping off our friend, we turned to head the same way home, back through the crowd of children, mostly because we didn’t know another way. This turned out to be a mistake. In the 10 minutes since we’d first passed, the group of young boys had set fire to tires and were, essentially, no longer happy to see us. We were instantly swarmed by ten-year olds with hard sticks. Others sat or lay down in front of our car (in what appeared to be peaceful protest for…what I don’t know) as our car was rocked from side to side under the push and pull of hands and feet. We tried to appear outwardly calm – smiles, shoulder shrugs, waves – but these were met with shouts, cheers, narrowed eyes and more hand to car combat.
Thank God for thick windowpanes, automatic locks and children with under developed arm muscles! Eventually we drove forward, slowly nudging our human roadblock out of the way with the nose of our car. This worked and within a couple of minutes we were free of the angry child mob, free to join the traffic of cars making U-turns to avoid doing what we had just done, twice.
I hesitate to write this post partly because I don’t want to cause worry (Hi Mom! I’m fine!) and partly because I dislike portraying Pakistan the way everyone expects it to be. But I would be doing a dis-service to Pakistan to hush up any and all negative experiences. This country has problems. Many of them. That being said, after living in Lahore for almost 2 years, this was the first time I felt threatened. Half the population here are guards, police officers or military officials and loaded weapons are a fixated part of their attire… yet it was the young boys with sticks who scared me! Go figure.
My car was attacked by a mob of (fortunately) young children. And while this is a sad and scary occurrence, it could happen anywhere emotions run high. Though I have no idea what generated this response from this group of people, I’ve made the conscious decision to let it go, to forgive the angry children for the damage to my car and rattling of my sense of security…. and to, in the future, always make U-turns when seeing large groups of people on the streets.