Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Travel writing at its best

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Travel writers are essentially journalists. If we go back in time to the middle of the 5th century BCE and consider the immortal work of Herodotus, we find an historian who travelled to verify the history he had already read about. Of course, he also wrote on events without visiting the sites. This is understandable keeping in view the difficulties of long distance travel in those far off times.
Herodotus was a journalist if you consider his work on events that were very near his time. His report on the battle between the Spartans under Leonidas and the Persians under Xerxes was like a war correspondents report even though he was writing on an event that took place about the time he was born. At the same time, Herodotus was also a travel writer. It is on a whirlwind journey across a great swathe of land that he takes his readers making them almost breathless.

Incidentally, the film 300 about the Persian-Greek war seen again and again on Star Movies and HBO these days has dialogue that comes straight out of The Histories of Herodotus.

It has been said that a travel writer is an historian, geographer, archeologist, sociologist and in part also autobiographer. Take out the last, and that is what journalism is all about – first-class journalism, that is. It is another thing that in Pakistan, readers of Urdu papers and watchers of local TV channels think that journalism is only about getting two morons to snap at each other’s throats in full public view. Sadly, this is what they also think amounts to entertainment.

A travel writer brings news from far off places to the reader. He reports on everything he sees and hears truthfully. He does not create fiction to add spice to the story as it is done in Urdu travel writing. He is in reality a reporter with more dimensions than the average person in the newsroom.

Recall that News from Tartary, that great 1930s classic of Peter Fleming’s, is actually news from a country that so few people were acquainted with at that time. Fleming was a reporter for one of the major British papers and this book (together with Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana) which actually set the pace for 20th century travel writing was reportage par excellence.

To my mind, a travel writer is a reporter who is well-read. In this aspect alone, there is hardly a Pakistani journalist who can make a travel writer. These people, some of whom are now stars of TV news programmes, do not even know the difference between north and northwest. Remember, they have always been harping about terrorism emanating in the north of Pakistan. They do not know where FATA is. If shown a map of the country, they cannot even put their finger on FATA. They will never make travel writers.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 09:33,


At 17 June 2013 at 11:44, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

I wish you come on TV again but not on PTV. We need to see you on private TV channels that are viewed more.

At 17 June 2013 at 12:08, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Yes here the people have very local definition of journalism....It's much more than making two parties sit in front of each other generally with cross modes. But a hournalist is an autobiographer, historian, geographer, archeologist, and sociologist.....Well said Salman. I agree.

At 19 June 2013 at 09:29, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your work is a proof that human are still capable of working magic. Jamshed

At 20 June 2013 at 03:11, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

No private TV channel wants any serious work of the kind I did for PTV. They are interested in glamour (a girl) and the compere playing the fool as they travel around places. Pakistan is a strange country. Normally when competition builds, standards improve. here they plummeted with all these channels. They all follow the Zee TV mode.

At 21 June 2013 at 18:37, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Saima and Jamshed, Thank you both very much.


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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