Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Deosai Life

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Image from DEOSAI: THE LAND OF THE GIANT - available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

Related: Deosai Truths - Book Review by F. S. Aijazuddin, Podcast on BBC Radio

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The typical Pakistani conversation

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Pakistanis are strange people. They ask you a question with no intention of hearing a response. There is a very tiny, very, very tiny, lot of truly educated persons who when they ask mean to be told. The remainder only banter in the course of which when they have to pose a question, they really have no intention of knowing your view on it.

Shortly after I quit the army in 1978, I started out making fun of army officers. When I with my long hair and unkempt beard introduced myself to someone as an ex of their profession the question following my regimental identity usually was where I had served.

‘Five of my six and a half years of commissioned service, I served in Kharian....’ I would begin. That was cue for my interlocutor to cut in: ‘Once I was in Kharian....’ and there would ensue an endless narration of how great Kharian was in antediluvian times. Notice how every fauji will use ‘once’ instead of ‘when’ and notice too how glorious a place as dreary as Kharian seems after one has left it.
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Jadoo Nagri Chuttok

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Urdu article Jadoonagri Chuttok, the lovely tangi in Moola Valley where water flows everywhere appeared in newspaper Roznama Pakistan [double click the image below to enlarge].
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‘Dust unto Dust’

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In the year 1902 parts of the Shikarpur and Karachi districts of the province of Sindh were carved away to establish the new district of Larkana. Long before that this area was known as Chandka after the well-established Chandio tribe that still lives in great numbers in the western hills of the district. Now the newly established district was to get its new name from the Rajput clan of Larik.


In a paper submitted to the Government of India on 31 December 1847 Hugh James, the Deputy Collector (equivalent to the modern Assistant Commissioner) of Shikarpur, did not hesitate to call Chandka the ‘Garden of Upper Sindh.’ His reason for this appellation was the number of waterways, both natural and man-made, that meandered across the district bringing it great fertility.
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The Russians and the Saint

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In the latter years of the 19th century, the British Indian government undertook to delineate the border between their Balochistan possessions and the countries of Afghanistan and Iran. This boundary commission was led by Henry McMahon and with him he had a full complement of ancillary staff like surveyors and draughtsmen etc. The angular lines of the western boundary of Pakistan’s Balochistan that abuts on its Iranian counterpart in the west and on Afghanistan to the north are a result of those four years of hard fieldwork.


One among McMahon’s staff was a surveyor by the name of G. P. Tate, my predecessor as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Tate went on to write two books: Siestan that deals with the archaeology and history of the part of Balochistan that is shared by Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and The Frontiers of Baluchistan (sic) that tells of his years of survey work in that harsh and barren land of sandstorms that blister the skin in summer and chill the bones in winter.
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Trek to the Source of the Khenji River

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Two years ago my article on a journey to the Dog’s Grave, the second highest peak in the Khirthar Mountains, and my use of the words of H. T. Lambrick elicited a response from friend Raheal Siddiqui. He said the words I quoted, were used by Lambrick for another part of the Khirthar: the Khenji River and not the Sita that I had trekked along. Ever since he had wanted me to trek on the Khenji as well, but it was always one thing or the other that kept me until ten days ago.


In Larkana  Raheal packed me off to the dusty little village of Warah where my fat, pot-bellied, bhung-drinking friend Wali Mohammed waited at the otaq of Tharo Khan Chandio, the local chief. A tea ceremony was followed by a visit to the local grocery with Tharo Khan’s driver fidgeting endlessly and reminding us how late it was getting and that we would not arrive at the village of Rahu jo Aitho before nightfall if we did not hurry. Yet we did not hurry. The tired Suzuki jeep rattled along raising a thick cloud of cloying dust on the bank of a saline drain. We passed the reedy shores of Daba Lake and then we were clattering over hard, stony ground. On the outskirts of the rare settlement ugly crop-eared brutes came out to bark our wheels out of their jurisdiction. They raced alongside, snarling menacingly and, seeing that our jeep so much the bigger than themselves, did not have the nerve to stand and fight turned back with some satisfaction.
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The Shaksgam River

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Shaksgam River valley - the view is to the east in the direction of the Shaksgam headwaters

[Image from The Apricot Road to Yarkand - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore]

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No quiet place

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“There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of insects’ wings … The clatter only seems to insult the ears.” Thus wrote Seattle to the president of the United States in 1854. This piece of prose, all 1,900 words of it, should be the environmentalists’ bible.

Now, Seattle was chief of the Suquamish Red People of North America when the president of that new country offered to buy the Red Man’s land and put him on reservations. Now, also, the letter is somewhat of a controversy because there exist two versions of it — quite alike in essence, however. Some attribute the prose to a 1970s screenwriter instead of Chief Seattle (also spelled Seathl); others to an earlier writer in the 1930s.
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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