The State Fails
Thursday, December 12, 2013
A state fails when its institutions stop functioning. If we go by the non-functioning of most state organs, it seems that Pakistan has indeed failed. Consider the following.
About three years ago, a traffic warden gave a ticket for a traffic violation to a Qingqi rickshaw driver near the Babu Sabu interchange. But before we go on to what transpired, be it known to all that these accursed machines that operate without silencers are manned by drivers who have never taken a driving class, who have absolutely no clue about traffic regulations and, as illiterate yahoos (some as young as eight or nine) have no courtesy either. Worse, none of them, not a single one, has a driver’s license!
After the ticket was awarded, the offending lout climbed up a few metres on a power pylon and threatened to jump off to his death. It is another matter, that the man would not have jumped and even if he did, he would at most have suffered a fracture or two. And that would only have served to teach him a lesson.Read more »
Romance of the Railway
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The greatest adventure ever devised by mankind is, without any doubt, the railway. Aircraft might get us from one place to another in much less time but that’s no way to travel. With the landscape spread out like a map below the traveller never gets to know the lands being traversed. The landscape, the people, the colours of life, all remains unknowable and unseen from that high vantage. But trains are another story.
Trains have come a long way from the time they chugged along at a sedate fifty kilometres or so to where some of the newest lines in Europe and America can shoot you along at a dizzying two hundred and fifty kilometres an hour (even faster in Japan), but if you ask me, I would prefer the former. And the journey of my dreams is a slow train around the world. In a way, Pakistan Railways remain rooted in the past when it comes to speed and so, until about eight years ago, I did most of my long distance travelling within the country by rail. But then with endless delays and trains running up to five or six hours behind schedule between, say, Karachi and Lahore, I gave up. Gross mismanagement and what seems to have been an evilly advertent plot to destroy a fine establishment, put paid to a great system that the country had inherited from the British.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Most of what we Pakistanis do screams to the world that we are upstarts. Consider: several years ago a friend while picking his son from school was introduced to the father of the boy’s classmate. On discovering that the two families lived very near each other, my friend suggested to the father that they form a car pool for the boys’ trip to school and back. The man said, ‘Why do you imagine that I cannot afford for my son to be sent to school in his own car?’
The Punjabi words: ‘Meray puttar nu gadiyan da ghata a?’ This showed not just the upstart mentality but an utterly uncultured ignorance of the need to conserve fuel not just for one’s own economy but for the environment. No surprise then that in any given school, every child, other than siblings, arrives in his/her own car clogging streets for upward of an hour morning and afternoon. Fuel burns, horns honk and tempers fray. But not one parent will consider suggesting the establishment of a car pool or school bus for fear of being taken to be unprosperous.Read more »
Monday, December 9, 2013
Try finding Deosai on an early map of the Himalayan region. It should lie somewhere above Kashmir and east of Astor. The one I consulted was dated 30 March 1846. It had been published by the East India Company, based on information provided by G. T. Vigne, Captain C.Wade, Lieut. J. Anderson, H.M. Durand, and W. Moorcroft . The map shows a largely blank space, and above it the inscription: ‘Elevated plains of Deosih, Deotsuh, or Gherrutsuh, about 12,000 feet, with peaks of Granite & Gnessis. Barren and mountaineous.’ Barely discernible, south of the confluence of River Indus and a river flowing from Shigur, is marked a village identified as ‘Gamba Iskardo’ (the forerunner to today’s Skardu.)
Such was the desolation at Deosai that travelers using the map were warned that the road westwards to Burzil would take ‘6 days on foot’ because there was ‘no horse road’.Read more »
Sri Mata Hinglaj
Sunday, December 8, 2013
The setting is idyllic. A narrow gorge with walls of contorted rock rising up to heights of several hundred feet. The streambed, all of fifty metres wide, with a trickle of water richly endowed with trees of all sorts where white-cheeked bulbuls sing with abandon. Overheard, the tawny eagle quarters the peaks on broad wings with splayed primaries and, if you are lucky, you may espy a wolf warily eyeing you from a thicket of reeds before melting away as if it was never there in the first place.
Here and there, the dun-coloured walls of the gorge have been eaten away by eons of flowing water to create dramatic overhangs. And occasionally the streambed, gouged out by the infrequent flash floods sweeping down it, forms a deep pond of liquid emerald. One of these overhangs is the shrine of Durga and right below it is the sacred pond. Considered unfathomable, it is the recipient of coconuts thrown in with full force by pilgrims. The quantum of bubbles that escape tells the thrower of impending happiness or misery: the greater the fizz, the happier the person. Fast bowlers, take note.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
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Friday, December 6, 2013
Peeking shyly from the doorway of her home, this little girl minds her kid brother while the mother takes care of housework. She wears the traditional hat which follows a basic template design but varies in decoration which is added to progressively whenever the owner has the time or inclination [Image from Deosai: Land of the Giant]