Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The Intent of the Invaders

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The blurb on the title page of The Arabs in Sind — 712-1026 AD tells us that the work is the dissertation of John Jehangir Bede as submitted to the Department of History, University of Utah in the United States. As for Bede, the Publishers [sic] Note on Page VI begins, “All efforts to trace Mr Bede lead to a blind alley.” However, the last line of this note tells us that he was born in January 1940 to Mary and Zwingle Bede and died in 1989. Attempts to trace him through institutions he was connected with led to similar dead ends. Regardless, the work itself is rather useful and one wonders why this piece of research languished so long before being brought to light. However, thanks to the Endowment Fund Trust, Karachi, better late than never.

Bede weaves a readable and concise account of the Arab invasion of Sindh in 711 CE. His sources are many and varied and the point of interest here is that he delves deeply into the archive of Arab history dating from the eighth to the 10th centuries. In fact, the treasure trove in the book is Chapter II, titled ‘The Sources’. It forms a compendium of all source material dealing with the Arabs in Sindh.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

Killer Trains, Petrol Looters and Darwin Awards

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‘Train Kills Three at Level Crossing.’ This was a newspaper item some days ago. Semi-literate journalists who have never read a book in their lives and will never amount to anything in life write such headlines. Having got an MA (Journalism) by cramming three worthless pamphlets – and they are indeed worthless and nothing more than rags – their heads are so full of themselves that there is no room for anything else to get into those emptinesses. Least of all any real knowledge.

These pea-brained specimens belong to a race that should by the theory of Natural Selection have gone extinct centuries ago, but Pakistan being a country where only such pieces survive and indeed get to the top of the heap, they have thrived. These morons do not understand that a train travelling at, say, 60 km/h has such huge momentum that if the driver slams on the brakes upon seeing a moron on a motorcycle rickshaw trying to dash across the line, it is impossible to stop the train. It’s the train’s momentum that cannot, simply not, make it stop.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:48 PM, , links to this post

Out of One's Depth

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For close to seventeen years, a Peanuts comic strip has been taped to the wood panelling in my study. I just love it. It shows Frieda, the curly-haired girl, come running to Snoopy’s doghouse shouting ‘Awake, awake!’ In the second panel she says to Snoopy lying on his back on top of his doghouse, ‘There’s a herd of rabbits heading this way!’

And then, with Snoopy now on his stomach looking at her, Frieda with her hands folded in front begs, ‘You’re the only one in the world who can save us!’ And Snoopy, the one person in the world who knows what he is and what he can do or not do, turns around on his back and, the very picture of nonchalance, says, ‘We’re in trouble.’

That’s it.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 1:02 PM, , links to this post

The Cobbler From Ghulamullah

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Narain hard at work in his shop
Here I am polishing people’s shoes and there she goes gadding about with her friends!” Narain laughed and looked up from the shoe he was repairing in the main bazaar of Ghu­lamullah town in Thatta district. He said he also told his wife that her pilgrimage to Sri Mata Hinglaj was nothing but a gallavanting tour because she had gone with her friends, leaving her elderly parents at home.

Two years ago, having met young Kamini, Narain had successfully wooed and wedded her: she a native of Lea Market in Karachi; he of a village just outside Ghulamullah. The two had a great few weeks together in the ‘outback’ of the Thatta district. But then Kamini began to pester him to move to Karachi with her. Narain was adamant on staying for how could he leave his widowed mother and his elder brother in the village all by themselves?

Anyway, said the man, since he had got the 30,000 rupee loan from the NGO, he was prospering as a shoe shop owner. When I met him this past April, Narain had already repaid his debt and was thinking of getting a bigger loan to enlarge his business further.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:20 PM, , links to this post


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One thing I fail to understand is how so many educated, smart, well-read persons having seen the world and having lived all their lives in Pakistan can yet be fooled by the staged tragi-comic farces thrown at us from time to time. And these shows are gratis, I may add, for if they who toss them in our direction were to demand money and extract it from us by the powers invested in them by the State, there would be little we could do.

The latest such drama, ongoing and promising to be entertaining us to tears even in the year 2022, is the Joint Investigation Team investigating the Sharif family. Although from the statements of the brats of the family it seems they are investigating the JIT and not vice versa. Without delving in the statements of the previous two brats, the outpourings of the female over the last two days are telling.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:05 AM, , links to this post

The Witch's Fire

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Decades ago I heard from soldiers of Jhelum district, especially those who lived around the hill of Tilla Jogian, that at night djinns walked around in the wilderness with lanterns. So many of the soldiers from my unit claimed to have seen those lights. No amount of lectures on science and ball lightning could make them believe anything else.

 Once a thick curtain, as the Vemonia creeper as it looks in June 2017

I learned of ball lightning from the Penguin science magazine that my father regularly got back in the 1960s. Exceptionally dry weather and wind scudding along rocks and trees can create an electrical charge that grows and glows. It moves about with the breeze, erratically because it is repelled by any object of similar charge (remember your physics?). I would ask my men if the lights sort of danced about as if carried by drunken beings and they agreed, but none of them save my MT NCO, the very smart Ashraf Mirza of village Vahali near Choa Saidan Shah, ever believed me.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 3:58 PM, , links to this post

Munawar Mirza

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Munawar Mirza runs a bicycle repair shop in Township about three kilometres from my home. I was introduced to him when I asked a friend about such a shop nearby. Earlier I used to go to Store Market, A Block, Model Town. There my man was Qureshi who had served me in good stead since 1995 when I started cycling in earnest.

My friend who told me of Mirza had lived in Township since before the start of time on this side of Lahore. That is, since 1974 when it first came into being over wheat fields and forest and when the Hadiara Nadi was still a clear, freshwater rivulet where one could fish for rahu. Mirza Sahib (as I address this fifty plus man with dyed hair and moustaches), is talkative as talkative can ever be. And when he talks, his hands stop working. Consequently, a job that would take thirty minutes lasts well over an hour.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:35 AM, , links to this post

Buddhism is 5000 years old!

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On or about 5 June 2017, a tweet appeared with an image of Pattan Minara near Rahim Yar Khan. The tweeter, one fool named Shiraz Hassan, wrote that it was a Buddhist temple and that it was believed to be five thousand years old! And this man claims to be a BBC correspondent! So, if this is BBC, I refuse to ever watch their television, listen to their radio or read their web pages.

Below is the lowdown on Pattan Minara. But first of all on Buddhism.

The great Buddha lived in the 6th century BCE, that is, just two thousand five hundred years ago. Buddhism dates from that time. One would have to be an utter idiot completely ignorant of an historical timeline to believe that Buddhism dates back to the 6th millennium.

This brings to mind one item from about twenty-five years ago. At the end of a season of work at Harappa, archaeologist Mark Kenoyer did a lecture at the Lahore Museum. Among other things, he pointed out the halo-like disc behind the head of a presumably holy figure and likened it to the ones we see on stone depictions of Buddha. The report in The News the following morning detailed the discussion and ended it by telling its readers that the people of Harappa were Buddhists!
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 9:58 AM, , links to this post

My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days