Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society


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This piece appears in the October 2014 issue of Herald

We Punjabis, trend-setters that we are, took the lead in changing the country’s name to Al-Bakistan when we began affixing car registration plates with this name in Arabic script. But one must give credit to the Sindhis, shrewd chaps, who took another step that began a trend leading to a whole new world and to a possible name change for the country.

It all started years ago when paranoia rode high in Karachi (when has it ever ridden low anywhere in Pakistan since its inception?) that a large number of shipping containers had to be moved to posh Clifton to block one track of the double road in front of a Zardar (Gold Owner) home. We were told the stacked containers were to keep at bay houri-seeking young suicide bombers in explosive-laden jalopies. The bound-for-paradise bombers could blow up all they wished, but all they would be able to do was make scrap of some rotting containers while the gold diggers in the mansion remained safe.

When I first saw this arrangement, I jokingly remarked to a friend that this was not Clifton but Containerpur. Little was I to know that a trend had started.

I have lost track of when it happened (sometime July?), but when the Knave of Hats (and hound’s tooth jackets) arrived on the polluted Ravi shores of Lahore, the city of a sudden mushroomed with shipping containers blocking its roads. No ordinary law-abiding or even ordinary law-breaking (as most of us are now in the seventh decade of the country’s existence) citizen could get anywhere in Lahore without lengthy detours.

But the worst was getting into or out of Lahore. For a couple of weeks exit and entry points to the city were blocked by containers. If you wanted out, whether to the south or in the opposite direction, you were not permitted. But if you somehow managed to sneak out, you were locked out and could not get back in. Indeed, even getting from one place to the other within the city was quite impossible.

I know school kids who were terribly unhappy about all this: they rued that this great lock down was taking place during their summer vacations. If only the tamasha could have been held after schools reopened they would have enjoyed a few more holidays.

But when the great revolution and great tsunami resolved on the eve of Independence Day to move north to the capital the containers moved as well. Aside: Independence Day was such a damp squib this year. We had none of the excitement we had so got used to. Neither silencer-less motorcycles roaring across town from dawn until well after midnight, nor dozens of young wheelie-doers dying after spilling their brains on the footpaths. Not even one!

But back to the containers. Some disgruntled manufacturers carried on about how their shipments were being delayed because of the game of containers, but no one really knows what the tin trunks contained. Except for two: and these two contained, other than double beds and thunder boxes (now renamed porta-potties), an infinite load of hot air. Once in Islamabad the hot air was expended freely until climate change set in and we had a deluge that even Islamabad was not accustomed to.

Meanwhile the road-blocking containers lay around uselessly because they failed to stop the revolutionaries and renewers of Pakistan (remember it was Naya Pakistan) from going ahead to attend to the call of nature in the lawns of the Parliament House. Given the amount of excrement piled up where twenty thousand of them had camped, they simply needed a change of air.

The numberless and useless shipping containers in the capital led to the (under) privileged (loose) motion in the parliament that the country be henceforth renamed Containeristan. As you read this, the loose motion is going in for voting. And sooner than you know the country will have new currency notes featuring, no, not Mr Jinnah, but shipping containers and the Urdu phrase ‘Bank daulat Containeristan’.

Errrm, was that what someone meant by Naya Pakistan?

PS: Even as the loose motion was under consideration, one of the two thunder boxes, sorry, users of those thunder boxes, thundered from the roof of the thunder boxed container that a dam ought to be built on the Chenab to prevent floods triggered by large quantities of hot air.

But the topography of the Chenab in Pakistan does not permit it to be dammed. In its infinite wisdom, the government has taken the suggestion seriously. They tell me the containers of Containeristan are being shifted to Sambrial to be piled high enough to create the hills where a dam can be constructed on the Chenab.

Odysseus Lahori one year ago: ‘Guard knows Batter!

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 14 October 2014 at 09:50, Anonymous Muhammad Athar said...

Well conceived term CONTAINERISTAN and the future use of containers for building of Dam

At 15 October 2014 at 12:34, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

They are lifting containers from Isloo today. I suggest Dharna party be boxed in containers and then they be place Sambrial.


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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

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