Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Inventing history

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We Pakistanis love history. We love it because we invent it; it is our creation. And in the process we utterly disregard the real thing. Our process of inventing history is ingeniously; fantastically creative and I feel that if our creators of history would spend even one-tenth the time on reading they would be better off at least in terms of knowledge.

But who on earth wants to read when, among a multitude of ignoramuses, your story-making, taken for real history, earns you respect and awe? So, you just sit there vacantly staring out of the window and come up with preposterous visions of what might have been. Having been around the country, I have heard tales and tales of which I have a few favourites.

The most recent, gleaned in Ormara on the seaboard, is also the most preposterous simply because naval officers are passing it off as gospel. Since everyone has heard Alexander of Macedonia passed through Makran (and no one has read any history), they have forced that poor man to posthumously march along the beach. Ormara naturally fell on his route.

Now Ormara is a strange name that they could not attribute to anyone else, so a local historian has created a general in Alexander’s army who answered to the name of Ormur. Funnily, the letter r in both syllables of this famous general’s name are palatal – a sound that does not exist in Greek! But who cares as long as the place name can be explained.

I have heard that dignitaries visiting the naval base are ‘briefed’ by an officer about the exploits of General Ormur. On the last trip there, I was told that the navy plans on erecting a statue of an equestrian General Ormur, raised sword in hand, at a crossing inside the naval base!

Then there is the story at Agor, east of Ormara. On a small hillock, smack by the Makran Coastal Highway, there is a group of ruinous Chaukundi style burials that date to about three hundred years ago. Some idiot has put up a large sign by the highway for all to notice. The sign informs passing ignorant masses that these are ‘Tombs of Soldiers of Mohammad bin Qasim’. Where on earth did some moron get this information is what I would like to know.

And damn the historical evidence that neither Alexander nor MbQ travelled this way. It is of no consequence that they both used the route between Turbat (Kech), Awaran and Lasbela.

Then there is my old pet about tunnels under every freaking fort in Pakistan. In Lahore ‘tourist guides’ have tunnels going to Delhi and Srinagar; in Derawar tunnels to Bikaner and in Rohtas and Attock to everywhere else in the world. I tried to reason with every teller of tunnel tales that we never read in any history of kings travelling by tunnel, but no one believed me.

So, I decided to have some fun with the self-proclaimed and acclaimed ‘guides’ of Lahore Fort. In true cloak-and-dagger manner, I took one aside and, offering him a few thousand rupees, told him to show me the tunnels. The money he was to get after we had been inside.

Why, he asked. Well, said I, we all know the tunnels went in every direction. Right? The man nodded excitedly. Putting my arm around his shoulders I drew him closer still and told him I had found the opening of one tunnel at its other terminus in London.

The man was incredulous. I said I was as serious as death and being a manpower exporter, I hoped to set up business sending illegal immigrants to old Blighty by the tunnels. The man became more sceptical. If he showed me the tunnel under Lahore Fort, I said, he could be a 50-50 partner with me.

Why, imagine he and I stuffing future Britons into the tunnel at Lahore Fort and they popping out in Marble Arch and Hackney and Slough from the sewers like a whole bunch of cockroaches.

I think I did not use the right word for future British nationals because now he was totally untrusting. But then his colleagues who I until then had kept at bay mobbed us to know what we were about and the whole spiel fell to pieces.

As I was leaving I told them the Mughals were technically simply incapble of digging tunnels of any length. If digging tunnels hundreds of kilometres long was such easy work, why on earth was it taking us forever to build a few kilometres under the Lowari Pass to Chitral?

But we don’t think. We only manufacture history.

This also appeared in Herald May 2014

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 13 May 2014 at 05:15, Blogger Unknown said...

And guides at Agra Fort tell about a tunnel that runs from Agra to Red Fort in Delhi!

At 13 May 2014 at 15:19, Anonymous muhammad athar said...

We do not take any lesson from history, we just invent new history for others to take lesson

At 13 May 2014 at 16:54, Blogger Kaleem said...

You spoil sport !

At 13 May 2014 at 18:33, Blogger Arslankataya said...

Good One

At 14 May 2014 at 06:12, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Yessir, Kaleem. That's me!

At 15 May 2014 at 17:13, Anonymous Ali Kazmi said...

You've given me a great business idea, I'll start human trafficking. If you find me some tunnels, we can share the profits...

At 15 May 2014 at 21:23, Anonymous Huda A. Bukhari said...

Hahaha Hilarious! :)

At 16 May 2014 at 10:40, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

:) Huda!

At 16 May 2014 at 10:41, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

You're on, Ali Kazmi. 50-50!


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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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