Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Untimely deaths and other oxymorons

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This piece was written for a prestigious daily in 2008. They refused to carry it for reasons you will see when you finish reading

People die. That’s the way living beings have been designed. We are born, blunder through life creating some real imperial disasters – at least most of us who have power to influence the world do – grow old and senile, go completely gaga and then push off. George Junior and S. Palin being exceptions for having achieved senility before the age of thirty. Of course there are those rare creations like F. E. Chaudhry who just shy of a hundred years of age can still strike the fear of god in your heart with his clear eye, lucid thought and healthy body. Touch wood and thank heavens for him and his brotherhood.

After the respective passing of every single one of those who could have made the world any better but who unfailingly chose to remain ‘bystanders’, we hear that theirs was an ‘untimely’ death. Nobody ever says a condemnatory word about them getting fat salaries to twiddle their thumbs and stand by watching the country slide down the tube. These were men, mostly men, who, when they were in service, besides their huge salaries, responded to the privilege of office by amply adding to their kitty from illegal means and pretended all along to be well-meaning servants of the State.

If you ask me, this was deadwood who stood by silently enjoying the circus unfold and snickered up their sleeves at the jokers undermining the foundations of the State. They did not so much as move a finger to right the many wrongs they saw being perpetrated because they were mere ‘bystanders.’ They are the archetypal traitors of Pakistan who, if this was a better country, would be tortured on the rack and quartered.

To begin with, if they were indeed even a fraction as sincere as they would have us believe, why is it that after sixty years this sorry country continues to stagger from disaster to cataclysm to calamity, rarely natural mostly man made? The answer is simple: we have all along been ruled by charlatans concerned only with their own power and pelf. Governance was never their concern; personal aggrandisement forever. And yet those of their ilk who fattened off tax-payers’ money, have the gall to tell us that these were untimely deaths.

Well, of course these were untimely deaths: those blackguards died too bloody late. Untimely death is the oxymoron; and the irony of our lives and our bad fortune. Before we go any further, I must confess that for many years not having known that dictionaries existed I thought oxymoron meant ‘strong idiot’: a retarded pehelwan, if you please. So naturally the image that always came to mind upon hearing this word was that of a cricketer, very strong but severely intellectually challenged. Although he was known never to have said anything even remotely intelligent or edifying in his long cricketing career, this deficiency became common knowledge after the man’s retirement from the game to afflict the already seriously afflicted political stage.

If you doubt the contention about his intellect, I have a three-month old cutting from the sports page of an English language paper which amply proves my point. Years ago I had saved dozens of such gems from this person. But they came so thick and fast they had to be discarded for a lack of space. This one being such a howler I save it for occasions when I become overly optimistic about the country getting somewhere. I read it and tell myself this person will one day surely rule over us to rush us headlong in the right direction to further disasters.

Talking to an Australian paper (or was it TV?), the man stated that their cricket team (which had at that time recently refused to play in Pakistan) should have no worries. What he said, in a nutshell, was that the terrorists operating out of FATA knew full well the great love of the Pakistani masses for cricket. They knew too that if they attacked a packed stadium, the masses currently so enamoured of them because of their service to Islam and Pakistan, would go against them. Now since the terrorists crave and need the support of the public in order to farther their good work, they will not do anything to lose this backing. And so there is no peril in the Aussies playing in Pakistan.

For crying out loud, there is not even a semblance of profundity here! While vomiting this shit the man did not even sit back and make a tepee with his fingers, that being the stock-in-trade of every buffoon going on intellectual. Upon reading this statement, I could imagine our hero prattling away with the lisp of a four year-old because only a child this age could say something so incredibly inane. Either a child or an inveterate liar, or someone just incredibly stupid. So that’s the moronic ox for you.

This brings us back to the subject of untimely deaths. All of those deaths, dear reader, were untimely because they occurred too late. Too freaking late. It would have benefited the world infinitely if many of the breed described above had left us in the early years of their lives, long before they had power to mess up the lives of lesser mortals. Others would have done us a great favour by being stillborn. We would have had considerably fewer incubuses to haunt our six decade-long night.

Consider the chief protagonist of the Auspicious Air Crash twenty years ago. Pakistan would have been another country if this creature had been stillborn. Consider the scenario if we had not found ourselves at the famously accursed crossroads in July 1977. Consider Pakistan refusing to be a frontline state in the West’s war against the godless Soviet Russians. Just this refusal would have sired an Afghanistan that would now have had hundred percent literacy, nay, not just literacy, higher education and a civilised culture.

If there were men of vision, they should have done to the Afghan refugees what the Afghans did to the fools heading for Turkey under the banner of the Khilafat Movement half a century earlier: the refugees should have been kicked right back where they came from just like those morons of the Movement were by the Afghans. They, the Movement clowns, were fools because for some utterly bizarre and vested reason these people were dying to save a decadent, corrupt, shamelessly hedonistic ‘caliphate’ headed by a corpulent voluptuary who was not even human from any perspective. Forget about his Islamic credentials. But I digress. Back to untimely deaths.

The term used by environmentalists for wild species on the brink of extinction is ‘five to midnight.’ It seems all those untimely deaths in our chequered history have brought us to that same scary situation. This turn around, we could do with a few timely deaths to avert a terrible catastrophe.

Postscript: Mr Faustin Elmer Chaudhry, that great and wonderful gentleman who fathered a truly great son (Cecil) and led a priceless life as teacher, photographer and Lahore resident, passed away on his 100th birthday in March 2013. He was making ready to go to the Cosmopolitan Club where his friends and admirers were to celebrate his birthday when he simply died on the world. No illness, nothing. Well done, sir. That really was the way to go.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 18 September 2013 at 10:46, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Got the reason why you were damn refused to get published!

تھوڑا تھوڑا جھوٹ ملا لے اپنی سچی باتوں میں
ورنہ جھوٹے لوگوں میں تو کیسے عمر گذارے گا؟
شہر کے چوراہے پر آینہ لے کر مت جانا
اپنی صورت دیکھ کے تجھ کو ہر کوئ پتھر مارے گا

Consider Pakistan refusing to be a frontline state in the West’s war against the godless Soviet Russians. Just this refusal would have sired an Afghanistan that would now have had hundred percent literacy, nay, not just literacy, higher education and a civilised culture......... '
So true....110% agreed Salman.....We have planted illiteracy on our west frontiers just because of our untimely death of intellect and now we have to face the music of horror tones.

intellectually challenged......good coinage :)

At 18 September 2013 at 11:06, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Dear Saima, Thank you very much. But how does one add a little falsehood to the truth one sees? I wish I could and I know I can't.

At 18 September 2013 at 11:16, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

I know you have opened a shop of truth that brings almost no buyer as truth is niche of the niche; buyer are only a few.
I know you can't, no writer can, no seer can do it.... We are not breathing under the tyranny of killer kings....We can see and say the truth but fir v thora jea hath hola rakho....Life is only once:)

At 18 September 2013 at 11:51, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

OK, sir ji. But we have to sit down one day and talk about all this.

At 19 September 2013 at 08:55, Anonymous Memoona Saqlain Rizvi said...

Superb. Since rereading A Case of Exploding Mangoes therefore enjoyed it thoroughly... Loved the brilliant coinage... """moronic ox""":))

At 19 September 2013 at 10:16, Anonymous Tariq Malik said...

I'm tempted to quote the great Anwar Masood from his epic "Pappoo Yar Tang Na Kar":

سودا کوئی پُجھدا ناہیں
کوئی رستہ سُجھدا ناہیں
رستے وچ آ بیٹھے آں
سوچی پئے آں ہُن کی کرئیے

But you, sir, you're an exception.  So keep teasing us! 

At 19 September 2013 at 10:59, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Memoona and Tariq. Thank you. You make my DAY today. Thank you!

At 20 September 2013 at 14:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another very very angry voice?

At 20 September 2013 at 15:13, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Oh? Is anger illegal, unlawful? I hope they don't put me away for life. Worse, stone me to death for blasphemy. Come on, sir/madam, let's rejoice even in anger.


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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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