Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

To Ketas by motorbike

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About three weeks ago, I received an email from a certain Omar Jahangir who had read my piece 'Shiva weeps no more'. This was my lament about the drying up of the sacred pond of Ketas by the cement factories installed barely a stone's throw from this historical site. Mind, cement manufacture is a water INTENSIVE industry. Young Omar, the Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) at Chakwal wrote to tell me that they had some work on the pond and revived it. He invited me to come see it for myself. Now, we are always ready to revile everyone for everything they do wrong, seldom to do we acknowledge the good work of others. So there I was on my motorcycle putt-putting off to Choa Saidan Shah.

It was a leisurely drive through Gujrat and Lala Musa to the Chillianwala monument which I wanted to photograph. Despite having left home at 6.00 AM, I was not able to get there until 10.00. Though the monument looked priceless in the sunshine dappled by the tall old trees, I had wanted a lower sun. I paused, but did not take any pictures. It will have to be done another time. Then across Rasul Barrage south to Dhariala Jaleb from where I turned to the hills. Passing the sign for Gharaibwal, I made a mental note of stopping here on the return journey to photograph the old and disused railway station of which I have a great memory from an unforgettable train trip in 1994. That was time when this line was worked by those magnificent steam behemoths that we have sadly lost. This story is preserved in my book, Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan.

Arrived in Choa Saidan Shah at just after noon. They have indeed worked a miracle on the Ketas pond. From a little puddle in March last year, they have enlarged it to a size greater than the original I had known since my first visit in 1967. I had told Omar that since I would be there, I wanted to be taken to the man-made lake on the Dharab River that you see on the right side as you motor up from Lahore to Islamabad by Motorway-2 between Kallar Kahar and Balkassar interchanges. So there I was in later afternoon. The light was perfect. But I missed some clouds that would have made a great image. Since it had rained for two straight days a day before my visit, I had expected piled up cumulous in the afternoon. But there was nothing and I took some pictures only for the record. Someone with big money started to build a ideally located mansion on the south shore of the lake just five mintues drive from Balkassar interchange.

The porch has room for four cars and what will be the sitting room will look out onto the lake. One of the bedrooms on the ground floor will be a great place to wake up in the morning and see the shimmering water in front. If ever finished, the mansion will be double storeyed because extended iron bars on the roof evince the addition of a top floor. However, work seems to have been stopped a long time ago.

I overnighted in the always beautiful rest house in the orchard outside Choa. Well until midnight the peacocks kept calling! On the way back I missed the turning to Gharibwal. This was because, the sign is inscribed only on one side that I had seen on the way up. I was already 12 km away when I realised my omission and it was too late to turn back. So Gharibwal Railway Station is also on hold for more favourable times.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 08:00,


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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