Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Travel writers are geographers too

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Understanding of geography, quite like that of history, gives you a sense of belonging. The more profound the understanding, the more solid one's sense of self and identity. And understanding therefore of geography, one's place in the world, is essential.
 
For me geography is the essence of travel writing. Even before I started writing, my knowledge of the geography of Pakistan especially and of the world generally was very sharp. Except for some Pacific Ocean islands, I never had trouble pointing out any particular place on the map. In fact, I have long said that I have a fetish for maps. Incidentally, maps being an inseparable part of all military work, the seven years of army service gratified this fetish a great deal. When in London at the Royal Geographical Society, I spend hours on end in their famous and most extraordinary Map Room poring over charts of our part of the world. This association with maps naturally led to a desire to see the places I had visited on those sheets. I first started travelling and then the reading and edification followed.

Sometimes when I am talking to groups of people ranging from college and university students to special interest groups and we do not have a map, I draw a rough sketch of what Pakistan looks like (I'm a poor artist). Then I put the place that we are talking about on the map. More often than not, I see that people still do not have a clue about the geography of the whole thing. It seems geographical knowledge, much like historical knowledge, is deficient.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 8:00 AM,

4 Comments:

At April 17, 2013 at 8:16 PM, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

Another interesting and informative post. Actually, unfortunately, we never had a practical knowledge of Geography, and, because of all theory, Geography has been the most hated subject at our schools. It is one of the major reasons that Pakistani don't appreciate travelogues, because they can't develop a picture in their minds through the words they read on the Geography of an area. I believe, it should be taught at school in a way where students can view and apply some of its knowledge and enjoy it. Then, they will be able to appreciate it.

 
At April 26, 2013 at 5:34 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Very astute observation. There is one more angle: in Pakistan we do not have good atlases or road maps. We are a security state and everything is secret. So the good maps that you can buy across the counter in the West are not available to you in the country. But now all the silly security business is shot to pieces by websites such as the one maintained by the University of Texas where you can download all U-502 sheets of Pakistan as well as other charts.

 
At May 27, 2013 at 5:07 PM, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...



Yes, ''geography is the essence of travel writing'' agreed.

 
At May 28, 2013 at 9:47 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Saima

 

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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