Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The rise and fall of Isakhel Estate

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If it is anything, Isakhel Estate near Kot Samaba in Rahim Yar Khan district is a museum – a museum of industrial and agricultural machinery. Here are sheds crammed with lathe machines, steel fabrication presses, furnaces, shelf upon shelf of die-cutters and dies for the production mostly of farming implements and allied spare parts.


Outside in the open is scattered such a variety of farming machinery that even experienced farmers would not know existed. Here are curiously shaped ploughing machines to turn the soil up from a depth of a metre below the surface. Here are antiquated sowing machines; and reapers of the kind called cutter-binders that harvested wheat and bound it into sheaves. These are implements scarcely known to most other farmers in Pakistan.
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Channan Pir

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The festival of Channan Pir lasts a full six weeks through February to mid-March. The shrine is set amid rolling sand dunes, a few kilometres from Yazman (in Bahawalpur district) and is visited, among others, by mothers whose sons were born, so it is believed, after praying here. Cattle owners bring their prize animals to do obeisance so that they may be fruitful and the herds grow. The devotees are spread across the religious spectrum: Muslims, Hindus, Christians.

Legend has it that a Muslim saint came to the court of Raja Sandhila, who ruled over this part of Cholistan at some indeterminate time in the past, and asked if there were any Muslims in the country. There were none, he was told. In which case, said this man of god, the king’s pregnant wife was to deliver a son who would be a Muslim and who would eventually convert the whole country to the true faith.
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Time for peace

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This is a very personal piece inspired by the letter of Khalid A from the United Kingdom ("War and peace", Daily Times, November 4). He writes of an Englishman riding a taxi in Dresden and commenting to the cabbie about his father being one of the bomber pilots who levelled that city during World War II. The cabbie tells his fare of the death of his mother during those raids.

It turns out that the night the German mother died, the father from England was on a sortie. The driver stops his taxi, gets out and says to his fare, 'Now we shake hands'. Khalid A aptly ends his letter, 'There is a time for war, but it must be followed by a time for peace.'

The year 1947 was a time for war. Folks who had lived amenably side by side for generations were riven apart and when the land went into labour to deliver a new country, two million people died. My grandparents, two aunts, great-grandfather, the family's servant with his wife and five children became part of this macabre statistic. The place it all happened was Railway Road, Jalandhar.
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Degh River

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Long before he became the emperor of India, Jehangir, Prince Salim for all and sundry and Sheikhu for his father Akbar, used to go hunting in forested country some miles west of Lahore. Later, after a pet deer died, he ordered the building of a memorial tower as well as a water tank and pavilion. He also had a fort built nearby and called it either Jehangirpura or Jehangirabad. Today we know it as Sheikhupura after the emperor’s childhood name.


Aside: both the emperor’s names, that is, Sheikhu and Salim are after the saint Sheikh Salim Chishti for whom Akbar had great regard.
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Apricot Road to Yarkand

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Rainbow above camp near Thungal while on The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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Containeristan

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This piece appears in the October 2014 issue of Herald

We Punjabis, trend-setters that we are, took the lead in changing the country’s name to Al-Bakistan when we began affixing car registration plates with this name in Arabic script. But one must give credit to the Sindhis, shrewd chaps, who took another step that began a trend leading to a whole new world and to a possible name change for the country.


It all started years ago when paranoia rode high in Karachi (when has it ever ridden low anywhere in Pakistan since its inception?) that a large number of shipping containers had to be moved to posh Clifton to block one track of the double road in front of a Zardar (Gold Owner) home. We were told the stacked containers were to keep at bay houri-seeking young suicide bombers in explosive-laden jalopies. The bound-for-paradise bombers could blow up all they wished, but all they would be able to do was make scrap of some rotting containers while the gold diggers in the mansion remained safe.
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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