Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Mithi - Whispers in the Sand

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In 2017, the district administration of Tharparkar at Mithi invited me to this work. Through that year, I made five trips to Mithi at different times of year. Though I was under the mistaken notion that my research was complete, when I got down to writing, I found so much was missing. Spent the whole of 2018 reading and writing. Last year, 2019, was spent in editing. Very slow process that was. Over the past two months young Aamir Ali designed this work with great love and attention.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 21:00, ,

Major Sharif, Punjab Regiment

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The story of my six and half year-long career in the army can be described in one word: Quixotic.

I never did anything right. I was always getting into mischief. And, worst of all, I had the tactless habit of talking back to my seniors. In this case this was mostly the adjutant who hated me with a vengeance.

Unsurprisingly, I was promoted captain a year later than my course-mates. That meant officers a course junior to me were also promoted, and I was steadfastly stuck in the lieutenant rut. I have no recollection now why or how I became a captain, but I did in April 1975 when I had completed three years of service.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 14:24, ,

Happy Birthday to Me

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I am 2300 years old!

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00, ,

IMPERIAL GRIT, SPIES AND LOCOMOTIVES

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In March 1887, Quetta, a compact little frontier town with a British garrison served by businesses owned almost entirely by Parsis and Hindus, saw the first-ever railway train pull into its spanking new station building. This was, however, not in the service of the people of the land. The line, much faster than the earlier camel trains, was to put British troops in quick access of the unruly frontier with Afghanistan, where an ever-expanding influence of Czarist Russia was threatening British interests.


Whatever the case, looking back today, one can but only marvel at the heroic effort of putting this line through. The remarkable thing about the main line up from Sindh into Balochistan is that it was, in the words of railway historian P.S.A. Berridge, “a tale of appalling muddle in the beginning, of extreme privations in the face of terrible heat and freezing cold, and of success achieved through sheer grit and determination to win a route through forbidding and inhospitable desert and mountainous country.”
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 17:51, ,

Entirely untapped

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Balochistan has more to offer to the adventure seeker, the traveller and the mere tourist than the rest of the country put together. And that is a fact. Point.


In Balochistan, one can travel from natural beauty to historical sites to the finest pieces of subcontinental railway heritage. Here one discovers a land that has actually been undiscovered since time began.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:05, ,

Ranikot: the Wall of Sindh

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Badar Abro, author of Ranikot: The Wall of Sindh, is without a doubt the one individual who has seen every inch of the Rannikot Fort. And he has seen, nay, observed it with a critical and learned eye. From his first trip out to this great monument in 1985, he has never been there as a tourist; he has always been a researcher. With remarkable and dogged commitment, he has returned repeatedly to that harsh environment. That alone is an achievement and some. He is therefore well equipped to write on Rannikot.

The book, so grossly mistitled Ranikot, is a beautiful presentation with scores of first-class ground level and drone images and maps. The latter are a great help to elucidate the layout of this spectacular fort. I have long held that Sindhis are a people who have a strong umbilical cord harnessing them to their dharti [land], so the corruption of a place name by a true Sindhi is therefore not just jarring, but heartbreaking for me.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:43, ,

The railway lines in Pakistan and the stories they tell

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A wintery morning. A small, all but abandoned, railway station. A few scrawny plants growing between its building and a double rail track glued on a cheerless slope with sombre, brooding hills closing in from all sides as if to prevent the station from escaping. That was Hirok station in the heart of Balochistan’s Bolan Pass — or at least that is my most abiding memory of it.


On a bench in front of the building lay what looked like a body shrouded in a grey shawl. To the grinding sound of our trolley’s brakes, it raised a bit of the shawl from its head to cast a bleary eye in our direction. Recognising the trolley men, it waved a languid hand and went back under the shawl. We passed on down the slope, once again gathering speed.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 14:38, ,

The railroad to Quetta

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As modern trains labour up the gradients of the Bolan Pass en route to Quetta, few travellers on-board would know that the first train to reach that city had not come up this way. In March 1887, the first ever train to reach Quetta had turned north at Sibi, passed through the Nari river gorge to reach the cool heights of Harnai, traversed that dramatic crack of Chappar Rift, veered west to Khanai and thence turned south to Bostan in order to make it to Quetta.


Chappar hill is shaped like a Swiss roll – a convex semicircular structure – at its western end. To the east, it turns into a fat mass of rock, deeply furrowed by rainwater that has washed down its contours for eons. Near the western end, the hill is cut asunder by a gaping chasm — a rift wrought by an earthquake that hit very long ago. At the bottom of the gash flows a stream which, depending on the weather, can either be a foaming torrent or a mere puddle.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 13:28, ,

ON THE RIGHT TRACKS

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Paul Theroux, the American travel writer, began the madness. In 1979 he wrote that masterpiece, The Old Patagonian Express, that took readers from North America across the equator into the deep south of the continent. He bested himself a few years later with The Great Railway Bazaar and, finally, in the 1980s coaxed communist China to improve her railway system with Riding the Iron Rooster.

Any railway buff reading those three delightful works would have thought the last word on great railway journeys around the world had been delivered. But more was to come.

Reading Monisha Rajesh’s recent Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000 Mile Adventure, I discovered a kindred soul. She loathes air travel and laments that so many believe the age of railway journeys is a thing of the past. It is not. She notes — and so rightly — the disdain loaded in phrases such as ‘the middle of nowhere’ and ‘lost tribes’. Even ‘nowhere’ has hamlets sprinkled across it and lost tribes are well established in their respective niches, only outsiders are unaware of them.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 13:38, ,




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