Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

I am 2300 years old!

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You meet fools and you meet fools all the time who tell you their grandfather died at the ripe old age of one hundred and fifty years. And there are moron Urdu journalists who put this crap in their idiotic newspapers past the unseeing eyes of greater idiot editors. Everyone believes this shit because we, by dint of our religious belief, can simply not be guilty of critical thinking and analysis.
 
In Rahim Yar Khan where my friend Raheal Siddiqui was DCO in 2007, I was placed in the charge of a local journalist (name forgotten, but we can call him August because in German jokes every idiot is so named) who, besides other items, insisted on taking me to the home of this one hundred and twenty-five year old man. To ‘prove’ that the oldster was actually that age, he produced a newspaper article written by August himself. The article was dated May that year, that is, six months before my visit in which the man had said he was one hundred and twenty-five.

So we met this old man; dark and decrepit in a charpai. He was, in my estimation about eighty years old. I asked his age. ‘Pentali!’ came the answer. Forty-five? The old fart had taken leave of his senses, I thought and asked again. ‘Pentali,’ he repeated.

Babeo, damagh theek a?’ Have you lost it, oldie? I said. ‘Oye, ik sau pentali,’ One hundred and forty, you idiot, replied the fart. He had presumed seeing his dilapidated condition I would add the hundred myself.

In six months between May when August interviewed the fart and he was one hundred and twenty-five, and November when I was meeting him, the man had aged twenty years! That then is the secret of our longevity: stupidity, ignorance and illiteracy.

I then proceeded to do the sums I do for every old fart who claims to be ancient. His sons, all present there were asked their ages. The eldest, also the first-born among all siblings, was fifty-eight by his national identity card. I then asked the fart when he was married and he said it was at a very young age and the son was born within the year. To be one hundred and forty-five and have a son only fifty-eight would mean that this fart was ‘very young’ at eighty-seven years of age! (Do the sums yourself.)

His sons were very angry when I told him that he was no more than eighty. The usual ploy at this stage is that the fart was brought up on khalis khorakan (pure food), gheo, (ghi) dudh (milk) etc and enjoys exceptional health. This is such a crock of shit.

The father was a sharecropper. I write for organisations that work with landless farmers and I know what food those poor people afford. And then also only one meal a day. There is no clarified butter or milk to augment the bread, cheese, fish, legumes and fruit that make up the fantasy menu.

In this case things got ugly and had the oldie’s sons not known that I was the DCO sahib’s friend, I might have received a right proper thrashing. But this is the simple arithmetic I always do for every old fart who claims to be anywhere older than eighty and it never fails to raise their hackles.

In the good old days (it was 1989) when we only had PTV, there was a show about a man from Misri Shah, Lahore, who said he was, wait for it, one hundred and forty-four years old. When I was making my documentaries in 1998, I met the producer (call him August 2) of that show about the old man and got talking. How, I asked, had August 2 established the great age. Why, came the reply, the old man remembered the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

I did some simple sums for August 2. In 1989 the man was one hundred and forty-four which meant he was born in 1844. That was five years after the great Maharaja had passed away from a glorious life. Five years in which his incompetent sons had made a complete hash of his empire. So obviously the man had never known the Maharaja’s time. Moreover, this ‘memory’ of a past event is what we have heard from others.

In 1997, I was in Baltit (Hunza) with a team of American tourists. On the roof of Baltit castle we met a local tourist guide who regaled the Americans with tales of Hunza longevity. Why, his own grandmother died at the ripe old age of one hundred and fifty, he said.

Having ascertained his father’s age (who was, incidentally, again the first-born) I went through my arithmetic routine and showed that his grandmother had died at age sixty-five or thereabouts. The man said I was a shithead who didn’t know the front side of a yak from its behind. His grandmother remembered the time of the Hunza ruler Mir Safdar Ali very well and therefore she was old.

Now, Safdar Ali was ousted from Hunza by the Brits in December 1891 and though that still could not make the woman as old as claimed, I conceded to her longevity. Now, in those days, I was reading up on Alexander. And I was reading, reading, reading like a man possessed. I wanted to know everything about him and it came to such a pass that I even dreamed of being with him on certain occasions. I ‘remembered’ Alexander’s time as if I had actually lived through it.

‘I remember Alexander and his time very well,’ I said. ‘Therefore, I must be twenty-three hundred years old.’ Since the entire discussion was in English it was understood by the American and European audience and about fifty people burst out laughing much to the discomfiture of the so-called guide.

The people of Hunza got this rubbish about their longevity from some true idiotic Brit moron. Without a clue about anything, he said the L word (now don’t get me wrong, L for longevity) and every Hunza person swallowed it hook, line and stinker (no typo). Incidentally, in the mid-1990s IUCN did a survey and showed that Hunza marriages took place when the couple was in their mid-teens. A fifty year old person would therefore have three generations behind them and begin to believe they were a century and a half old.

Consider: woman and man married in their mid-teens and with their first child before they are eighteen. This child married at a similar young age has his/her own child within a year. That is, at age about thirty-two the first couple is already grandparents. By this progression, when they are in their mid-sixties, the first parents should be great-great-grandparents. And if they have to die at an age of a century and a half they should have a progeny spread across eight or nine generations.

But no fool has ever told me his/her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent died at age century and a half. Why do they still remain only grandparents? Because they remember the time of Mir Safdar Ali of Hunza or Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab.

And since I remember the time of Alexander of Macedonia, I am 2300 years old. QED.

This piece is dedicated to Aamir Mughal who tweets at @mughalbha

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

22 Comments:

At August 31, 2013 at 10:27 PM, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

LOL. Pretty ripe age though you still look young.

 
At September 1, 2013 at 10:25 AM, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

Know what, Salman Sahib; this account just gave me the only "khalis khorak" of my life. Can't hold my laughter still. Kudos!

 
At September 1, 2013 at 1:32 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, sir. Laughter, as you know, is very good for you. Keep laughing and healthy, Tariq.

 
At September 1, 2013 at 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL.

 
At September 1, 2013 at 7:34 PM, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

Not only do we excel at prolonging our ancestors' age by a century or so, we also elongate their sizes by the "guzez." Hence every city or village of note has a "naun-guzee" or "butee-footee" grave somewhere. Oh my...

 
At September 2, 2013 at 12:17 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Excellent observation, Tariq. I think that should be another piece for this blog.

 
At September 3, 2013 at 12:15 AM, Anonymous Arthur Anab Shams said...

I would love to photograph you. I have started to recall Moses time, may I claim 4 millennia for myself :). Lovely reading.

 
At September 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Of course, Arthur. If you remember Moses, you must really be from the 17th century BCE! You're older than me by far!

 
At September 18, 2013 at 12:49 AM, Blogger shahzad said...

i love the way you write!

 
At September 18, 2013 at 10:12 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

thank you, Shahzad.

 
At January 28, 2014 at 12:59 PM, Blogger NA said...

Today,I was quite low in mood. When I read your piece & the wit of your style made me so cheerful that I was in stitches for the rest of the day!!
Remember Alexandar used to have dance parties & I met you there in one of the parties!!! ;-)

 
At February 8, 2014 at 11:30 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Of course! How could I forget you NA. Remember too that you had a nifty step. Those were great parties, weren't they?

 
At February 21, 2014 at 6:09 PM, Anonymous Dr Abdul Shakoor said...

Inspiring article about one of human's false pride... I appreciate strongly the words of wisdom by you, sir, Salman Rahsid.

 
At February 22, 2014 at 6:01 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Dr Shakoor.

 
At March 15, 2014 at 6:34 PM, Blogger Rana Raza said...

all i can say thanks to you. in your writings i always learn that only to bow down to conventional is not wisdom. we have to put some brain . thanks

 
At March 16, 2014 at 11:32 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Raza, you are fortunate if having come through this rotten educational system you can still get yourself to think. We hear something and we believe it without looking at it critically.

 
At August 31, 2014 at 12:25 PM, Blogger Rehan Afzal said...

I am reminded of a Story by Ataul Haq Qasmi, where he narrated that Tahir Ul Qadri was his classmate at the Academy of Imam Abu Hanifa (in Alim-e-Roya), where he used to be a compulsive liar and was punished by the Imam by becoming a "Cock" with Maulana Tahir ul Ashrafi made to sit on him...Anyways, does that qualify him to be 1300 years old ?

 
At August 31, 2014 at 2:21 PM, Anonymous Muhammad Athar said...

All i can say thank you very much for providing relief today since from late night things going at Islamabad were too heavy on mind. After going through the article i got relieved from the burden.

 
At August 31, 2014 at 8:25 PM, Blogger Iftikhar Shah Gilani said...

Its meanthat I am also a same age or little younger becoz we used to work in an German company in early 90's

 
At August 31, 2014 at 8:32 PM, Blogger Iftikhar Shah Gilani said...

It means I m in a same age or little bit younger as we used to worked together in an German Firm in early 90s....

 
At September 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Shah Ji, you are not 2300 years old because you never travelled with Alexander! Or did you?

 
At February 21, 2015 at 10:35 AM, OpenID followyourshadow said...

I grew up on grandmother stories of Krishna which I have never forgotten. Seems I am much older than you!

Sonya Kassam

 

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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

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