Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

'Horse Trading'

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Bashir arrived with Riaz who, he said, was a "brother". This could have meant that he was anything from a cousin thrice removed, to someone who simply lived in the same village. The loads were arranged, some last minute shopping done and we set off just before eleven with Bashir making dark observations about this being no way of running an expedition. From years of being a guide for Westerners, Bashir was almost de-culturised: he did not look upon his work as something to be done with quickly and his clients as useless baggage to be escorted from one point to another. He enjoyed being in the mountains, had a healthy respect for them and felt there was a bond between man and mountain. Riaz, on the other hand, had never been a porter and was a morbid fatalist who began every sentence with, "If tomorrow we live, if death does not overtake us...." considered it madness to be walking to Chilas when we could easily have taken the bus from Mansehra.

Past the clump of red roofed buildings that are the Tourism Corporation's resort we tramped into a broadening valley with fields lush with the vibrant green of young wheat, where women gave up whatever they were doing to shout greetings to Bashir and Riaz. Sometimes there were protracted discussions about how far they were going and when they would return. It defied explanation how both parties could make themselves heard above the roar of the river. Thus it was for the next three and a half hours until we got to Battakundi.

With winter retaining its frosty grip on the village, it seemed deserted, for its inhabitants were still in villages lower down the valley. The smoky shack that served as the only inn was open and as soon as we had settled down we made known our interest in the purchase of a horse or a mule. Soon we had a seller, but the animal was in the man's village -- an hour's walk away, so Bashir and Riaz went off with him to see the animal. Two hours later they returned with an emaciated grey mare. Her ribs stuck out sharply against her skin, her left eye watered profusely and her head hung languorously, giving her an air of abject sadness.

While the Naran duo inspected the mare the owner carefully studied me, and sensing what was going on in my mind said, "The winter has just ended, that is why she is so thin. You feed her on some grain and plenty of grass and she will take you to the ends of the world." A proposition that the mare, no doubt, would have disagreed with and something that surely even the owner did not believe to be true. But I desperately needed a horse so after a great deal of haggling the transaction was closed at six thousand five hundred rupees with the man offering to throw in the panniers for the price.

What happened next was almost farcical.

The owner of the mare had barely left us to collect the panniers when a ruddy faced man with a jet black beard appeared from nowhere and was introduced to me by Riaz as an uncle. After the customary round of pleasantries Uncle learnt that we had recently made a purchase and exploded venomously at Bashir and Riaz.
"What? You have purchased a horse? What do you two know about horses? You should at least have consulted with me."

Riaz tried to put in something about not being aware of his availability for consultation but Uncle paid no heed to him and carried on about the foolish haste in which we had acted. He bustled outside with us in his wake to inspect the horse.
"Oh my God!" he slapped his forehead in dismay, "This nag! You're paying six thousand five hundred rupees for this corpse and expect it to go over Babusar."

He walked around the animal, looked at its teeth, poked it in the ribs and accusingly asked Riaz what percentage he was getting from the seller.
"Never! Never will it get you across the Pass." Uncle declared at length. "One look at the snowdrifts on the top and it will keel over, thrash about a bit and be done with."

Shaking his head despairingly he withdrew into the sooty shack to continue his diatribe against Riaz while the three of us looked at each other feeling rather foolish and inadequate. Perhaps the man knew as much about horses as he claimed and perhaps it would be unwise to doubt his judgement, but he had also said something about snow on the Pass. It was the second day of June and Babusar Pass being only 4140 metres high, surely that could not be true. Diffidently I followed him into the inn.
"You say there is snow on the Pass?" I asked.
"Snow! You ask of snow! Be it known to you that there is more than ten metres of snow on the Pass."
"Surely you must be talking of a couple of weeks ago. Surely...." he did not allow me to finish.
"I have just returned from the Pass. I tried to get across but it was impossible."

It was true that the preceding winter had brought unprecedented snowfalls, the likes of which had not been witnessed in the past sixty years. But I had heard on the radio that spring thaws had been early and swift this year. This I told him.
"I tell you there is still more than ten metres of snow on the top. If you are strong and determined you might get across. But it is impossible to take a horse over without killing it. And this horse...." He finished with a barking laugh.

We had still not paid the owner of the horse so we held a council of war to decide how we were going to back out of the purchase. There was just one way: to say it plainly and without mincing words. Shortly I saw the man returning with the panniers, a spring in his walk, no doubt at the prospect of an auspicious transaction. He was flabbergasted when Bashir presented him with twenty rupees for his troubles and asked him to kindly take his horse away as we were not interested any longer. He pleaded, he threatened and then he raved about us having wasted his whole day while we, on our part, simply tried to wish him away.
"What do you mean `whole day'?" Bashir finally snapped at him, "We saw you at 3 pm, it is now 5.30 and you are free to go with twenty rupees. What more do you want?"

Sixty rupees more was what he precisely wanted -- a whole day's wages. Bashir stuffed the twenty rupees in his shirt pocket and told him to get lost. He threw the money in our faces and went outside to sit in the sun and revile us. An hour later, having expended sufficient hot air, he came back and asked if he could please have his twenty rupees. At this juncture we suddenly realised that Uncle had disappeared at some point during the proceedings. He was nowhere to be found. To my despondency at being unable to buy the horse he had added the nagging worry of the immense quantities of snow on the Pass.

The next stage to Burawai was short, through a valley becoming increasingly swampy and patches of cultivation giving way to meadows where mountain asters and tiny primulas grew flush against the ground to keep out of the chill wind. Burawai consisted of a bazaar which was no more than a dozen stone hovels, all with padlocked doors, bordering the road, and, at the far end, the ramshackle government Rest House.

The old chowkidar who looked after the building apparently knew Bashir well and gushed over us, saying how delighted he was to allow us the use of the facilities. But of course we would understand that room rent that was fifty rupees per night until recently had been increased to one hundred and fifty in view of the ever increasing prices. How did he know room rent had gone up? Why, headquarters had sent a message only the other day.

With the road through the valley still not open we knew this could not be true, so we offered him seventy rupees -- which he refused. We removed our gear from the room and started to put up the tent on the lawns. The chowkidar watched, carrying on about the ferocity of the blizzards of Burawai. Then just as we were stuffing our gear into the tent he said, "Please, please. It is an affront to have my guests sleeping in a tent. I will have none of this. You can take the rest house."

"You mean we can have it free?" This of course was a foolish notion. As his guests we were required to pay seventy rupees. Since he had already removed us from the building and had caused us the trouble of putting up the tent, the price, I told him to his utter dismay, had been arbitrarily reduced to fifty rupees. He made invidious comparisons between the generosity of the white sahibs and my own miserliness but I remained unmoved. In the end we had the rest house for fifty rupees.

Presently the red haired horseman whom we had met earlier on the way in came around to talk business. It was agreed that he would bring his horse to Utla Babusar, the village on the other side of the Pass, where the horse would be mine and he would receive, besides the price of the animal, a small honorarium. If, however, the Pass defied the animal, he was to return with horse and wages for the time spent with us. This sounded like a dream.

As it turned out, it was indeed nothing more than that.

Riaz, who had gone with the man to bring back the animal, returned alone with the news that Redbeard had been dissuaded by his family from attempting this insane caper. Why, any fool knew that the Pass was clogged with snow and it was impossible to cross alone, much less with a laden animal.

I told the duo how Francis Younghusband, one of the major players of the Great Game, and his band of brave men on their way from Beijing to Delhi in 1887 had almost succeeded in taking horses right up the 5800 metre high Muztagh Pass and how it had been an obsession with me to make a similar attempt elsewhere on the great Asiatic Watershed. Bashir was horrified. It was madness even to believe such a thing was possible. But, I countered, it was well known that until the early years of the 19th century Hunza raiders came over the Hispar-Biafo glacial system to Askole and drove back herds of cattle along with other loot and slaves. All this was recorded in old books.
"You know something," Bashir looked earnestly at me with his soft, brown eyes, "you have read too many old books. I suggest you read some new books now. They will tell you how dangerous are the things that you want to do."

It was in driving snow that we sought shelter in the solitary hovel that served as mosque at Jalkhad. Here we had hoped to meet up with Gujjar nomads and see if we could purchase an animal. There was a Gujjar camp all right, but there were no horses, and as soon as it stopped snowing we hurried on to the sprawling jumble of roofless stone buildings that is Besal. Occupied only between mid-June and the end of October when the jeep road over the Babusar Pass opens, Besal is roofless by necessity: the flat roofs cannot withstand the immense weight of the winter snows. Every summer when they occupy it they stretch their tattered tarpaulins across the stone walls to complete the shelters only for as long as they remain. We dawdled over lunch in that aggressive dereliction of roofless hulks so long that it was impossible to reach Gittidas before nightfall, so we stayed. When we turned in that night Riaz gravelly assured us that if death did not overtake us we would be in Utla Babusar, on the other side, the following day.

It was a ghastly night. The Naran duo had thin blankets and did not sleep much. I was guiltily conscious of their half waking twilight state as they periodically mumbled or rubbed themselves to keep warm, while I was snuggled comfortably in my down sleeping bag. I also sensed their relief when they got out to start breakfast long before the sun came up. Outside, the tent was festooned with icicles.

Past lovely Lulusar Lake, placid and deep blue, reflecting snowy peaks and billowing clouds, past wide swampy meadows where the colours of summer seemed to be encroaching on the lifeless white of winter, we reached Gittidas. Sprawling over grey slopes it was a veritable city compared to Besal. But equally lifeless. Bashir said he had been certain no one would be around. Beyond the clump of houses the trail climbed steadily up the grey wall of rock and disappeared over the crest that was the Pass. There was not a shred of snow to be seen on our side, but bearing in mind the reported ten metres of snow on the top, it was not without a shade of trepidation that we attacked the Pass so late in the morning.

As we made the crest, a small window opened in the clouds to wash the clump of cairns in brilliant sunshine. All around was a swirling grey mist that parted only briefly to allow a fleeting glimpse of the massive snowy flanks of Nanga Parbat -- the Naked Mountain. The last great bastion of the Himalayas, Nanga Parbat rises in one staggering sweep of almost seven thousand metres above the surrounding valleys as though egotistically reasserting the greatness of the range. Patches of snow lay around us and as Bashir and Riaz melted some to brew tea, I walked over to look at the other side. Insignificant little drifts were draped on the grassy slopes along which the trail snaked down and out of view. Far away, in the crotch formed by converging slopes, I could see a handsome stand of conifers. Nowhere could I see any sign of "ten metre deep snow". I let out a joyous whoop, sending the marmots screaming into their burrows. The expedition was getting on; but not before it had lingered over tea and biscuits.

The tall cairn that rose almost five metres above its complement of lesser ones must have been built sometime after the British improved this road in 1893. But they were not the first to use Babusar Pass. For almost two millenniums it had been crossed back and forth by successive caravans of traders and adventurers. The first of whom to leave a record of their presence were the Scythian tribes who left their grazing grounds north of the Pamirs in the first century BC to pass this way and settle in the valley of Peshawar and elsewhere on the plains of Punjab. The only reminder of this far off event is a series of rock carvings and inscriptions on the banks of the Indus near Chilas that graphically document the surrender of Gopadasa, the local chieftain, along with his two sons, to the Scythian king Moga (Maues). That the latter then established himself in the area is evident from carvings that show booted and helmeted Scythian soldiers doing their obsequies at Buddhist stupas. When within the next one hundred years, they began to move southward they must, naturally, have gone by the Babusar that afforded the shortest possible route into the plains.

That also was the reason for its improvement by the British: it was the shortest connection between the rail head at Rawalpindi and the hotspot of Gilgit. This was the time when England was in the thick of her great tussle -- that was romantically and euphemistically called "The Great Game" -- with Russia for ascendancy in Central Asia. Hunza, that had for many years professed allegiance to China, had recently been taken and Algernon Durand, the Political Agent at Gilgit, isolated from the rest of India, was sick with the terror of a revolt among his turbulent subjects or the Cossacks galloping out of the windswept passes of the north and catching him with his pants down. The Babusar route not only reduced the distance between his Agency and the rail head by more than half, it also evaded the asinine bureaucracy of seeking permission from the Maharaja of Kashmir for passage through his territories.

We glissaded down a couple of snow slopes and a brisk walk brought us to the tree line beyond which a flooded path led us to the village of Utla Babusar. Its government buildings, with their shiny tin roofs, and the terraced fields marching up the hillsides looked as neat as ninepence. The rest of the village was untidily sprinkled over the valley amid fruit trees and corn fields. The chowkidar at the Rest House was distantly related to Riaz and said that for dinner he could procure all the chickens in the world. Bashir assured him that we would be perfectly content with just one and off went the man to return two hours later without the chicken. All he was able to muster was seven eggs. Bashir wryly observed that we would have to stay some little while before we could feast on the chicken curry that Riaz had so enthused about throughout the day, but the point was lost on the chowkidar.

I had secretly harboured some hope of finding a horse here but this was soon dashed. As Bashir was due to be in Rawalpindi within thirty six hours he was not interested in walking to Chilas and I was left with the prospect of riding a jeep into town -- something that was very much at variance with the spirit of the expedition. I tried to cajole Riaz into an agreement but he made it very clear what he thought of my whole enterprise -- and it was not very flattering. He had heard of the blazing heat of the Indus Gorge at Chilas in June and nothing was going to induce him to slog through it.

We were told that the jeep would leave at six in the morning, but at five thirty the only jeep in the village was a rusting wheelless hulk that was not going anywhere. After waiting for thirty minutes we started down the track towards the village of Thak and soon came upon a jeep that was already overflowing with humanity. Designed to carry no more than four persons it was loaded with sixteen strapping men and as we went lurching down the rough trail the rear end scraped noisily against the ground drawing delighted yells from the riders on the tailboard.

Beyond the village the landscape took on an utterly lunar appearance: the valley, without a tree in sight, was gashed by the chasm of the river and liberally sprinkled with dark boulders. The surrounding hillsides were devoid of any vegetation whatever and were almost black as though burnt by the heat of the sun; even at eight in the morning the heat rose in shimmering waves making my eyes water. The dreary panorama broadened when the valley of the Thak Nala, through which we were driving, joined the Indus Gorge. Here for the first time since setting out in the morning did we see any vegetation.

Chilas is situated along the left bank of the Indus on a series of shelves that fall to another shelf, broad and sandy. Slicing through this is the ribbon of the Karakorum Highway connecting Kashgar in China with Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Beyond the shifting sand, at the foot of the sombre grey hills, in a rocky chasm, is the roiling Indus cutting eastward across a drab and arid country which is sporadically punctuated by the verdure of oases that mark the villages. The heat was exactly as I had expected -- and something more. It poured out of a clear sky and seemed to magnify grossly as it flared off the bare walls of the gorge. Men lay slumped by their businesses in the bazaar or sat in the tea houses as though drugged into indolence, dogs lolled in the drains, donkeys, impervious to the hordes of flies that bedeviled them, swayed drunkenly in the sparse shade of the few trees and even the flies that buzzed around in the blazing sunshine seemed to lack vigour. Only the jeeps and pickup trucks that tore up and down the street possessed any verve at all.

The hotel was filthy in the extreme and had no water in the taps but the fat, mustachioed man who sat pompously behind the sign that announced "Manager" said it was due any moment. This, he still maintained when I upped and decided to get out of Chilas four hours later, and churlishly refused to refund room rent paid in advance because I was leaving of my own accord. Chilasis, it appears, have not changed much in the last century and a half.

They were once ill famed for their rapacity and truculence and neighbouring settlements lived in perpetual dread of their depredatory excursions. Being fanatical and bigoted Sunni Muslims their favourite sport, next to looting, was the brutal killing of Shias and Ismailis who, the Chilasis maintained, were kafirs -- infidels. Earlier, as we were driving into town, the driver had given me a hair raising first person account of how, some months ago, having nothing better to do, a group of Chilasis had stopped a bus on the Karakorum Highway, offloaded all Shias and Ismailis and calmly proceeded to shoot them one by one as though they were dispatching balloons at a fair.

In 1987, led by their rabid mullahs to believe that their brand of Islam was in mortal danger from the Shias of Gilgit, an army of Chilasis had marched out for holy war against their Muslim brethren and every single human life in the first village on the outskirts of Gilgit was ruthlessly snuffed out. The toll would have been far greater had the administration not moved in, albeit reluctantly, or so the people of Gilgit maintain, for a strife torn and divided country perfectly suited the military dictator of the time. Finishing his story the driver had asked -- I thought I had spied the expectant glint in his eye -- what sect I belonged to, and even before I could answer Bashir preemptively declared that I was as good a Sunni as any.

Chilas certainly was not the place where one could spend a few days waiting to hear if the Deosai Plateau had thawed sufficiently to afford crossing.

The brand new Toyota van went bowling through the narrow valley where the green of the villages at the foot of the rock wall was off set by the gold of ripening wheat. On his stereo the driver played a nondescript sort of music that sounded like empty tin cans being dragged behind us, and it was after three hours of this rattle-bang that I got off outside the high stone walls of Mount Balore Motel at Gilgit. I had first seen the town the year before and had liked it greatly. Its long bazaars, where one could buy anything Chinese, from plastic crockery to magical hair restorers, reeked of diesel fumes from the countless vehicles of varied descriptions, and on its pavements could be procured miraculous aphrodisiacs from aggressive Pathan salesmen who held your hand as they rattled off a most unnerving list of maladies afflicting you. Also on one of its pavements was a sign that said:


For centuries Gilgit had been where many a Chinese pilgrim on his way to the Buddhist sites of India rested his travel weary bones after the harrowing journey through the gorge of the Hunza river in the north or the treacherous Darkot glacier in the northwest. Those who reached this far propitiated their lord Buddha by commissioning statues and rock cuts that still exist today, not only a manifestation of their piety, but proof also of the frequency with which the highroad passing through Gilgit was used. It was here, too, that trading caravans from India rested before their plunge into the wild mountains beyond. When the British Empire played the Great Game with Russia, Gilgit became a flashpoint where adventurers endeavouring to unravel the secrets of its unexplored valleys and passes found fame and glory -- and sometimes death. The country was barely known and the nature of these mountains but little understood where, according to one historian, visitors of the 1890s "filled with the railway mania of the day .... would predict for Gilgit one of the greatest junctions. Here the line from India to Samarkand and Moscow would link up with the branch to Sinkiang, Mongolia and Peking." This thought had always boggled my mind for its absurd romanticism.

It was also in Gilgit that Fakhar Abbas, the skinny philosopher from Jhang in the Punjab, worked for Radio Gilgit. Deeply impressed by his idealism I had befriended him the year before and had now informed him of my arrival in town. In a corner of the hotel lawns he was deep in conversation with a tall, raw boned man with a thick red beard.
"Meet Mr Albert." he said introducing us.
"Albrecht!" the sound exploded from a small opening in the red bush. "Roy Albrecht from Canada." and he very nearly mangled my hand in what felt like a steel vice.
"Now then, Mr Albrecht," Fakhar said rubbing his hands, "what do you have?"
"I have everything; Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whisky and Brandy. What would you like?" Albrecht gestured with his head towards a carton lying behind him.

He was a gymnastics coach travelling overland to China to train youngsters for the forthcoming Asian Games but was held up at Gilgit because the border was closed while the Muslims of Kashgar fought a bloody feud amongst themselves. He whiled away the tedious days of inactivity by peddling booze that he purchased in Islamabad on a permit issued to non Muslims and foreigners, flew it in and made a hefty three hundred percent profit on it. In a society where alcohol is prohibited by religion and where the government takes the punitive measures of flogging those indiscreet enough to be caught violating the divine injunction, he had no dearth of takers. In fact, in view of the difficulties faced by his clientele in the procurement of liquor from the officially approved Murree Brewery near Islamabad which was far superior to the locally produced moonshine, he was seriously considering marking up his price.

That night we "killed" a bottle of brandy in company with a bald headed and red faced doctor and a crinkly haired engineer. As the level of the drink fell in the bottle the spirits of my companions rose and while Fakhar lamented the hypocrisy of our decadent society that gave him "too much to cry over, too little to be happy about", the doctor chirruped on about the five times he had made love to a bureaucrat and the one time to a well known Lady of Pakistan. This latter, he claimed, had been on a toilet seat, the mode of which he gleefully demonstrated with a very expressive revue enacted single handedly after the persistently silent engineer had refused to act the woman's part.

Had things proceeded the way I had planned I would still have been in the vicinity of Muzaffarabad, for the Gujjars with whom I had planned to travel never cover more than ten kilometres a day, grazing their herds as they go. In their company I would have reached the edge of the Deosai Plateau not earlier than the end of June, just when it would begin to thaw. But now I was in Gilgit with the Plateau still under a thick sheet of snow and I was stuck. My disconsolation was hint enough for Fakhar to organise an endless supply of liquor to keep my "spirits bouyed". This way, he argued, I would not only be prevented from cracking up under the strain of the long wait but would also meet with all his boozing buddies some of whom could be useful in my search for the horse.

Nooruddin, the hawknosed photographer, and another friend came armed with a plastic bottle of Arak, the local moonshine, and immediately I became the butt of their collective jokes. Here was a mad Punjabi who had probably no idea of the mountains and who had set out to cross them with a horse. Would a retired polo pony do?

What language should it be able to converse in?

Would I prefer a stud or gelding?

The hooch tasted like paraffin and was an instantaneous knock out, but given the urgent compulsiveness of Pakistani drinking sessions the meeting did not break up until the last drop had been squeezed out of the bottle. Barely coherent, Nooruddin left assuring me that he would let my requirement be known in town and would return the following morning, which was the weekly holiday of Friday, with some news and another supply of Arak.

We had barely finished breakfast when he arrived armed with a four litre plastic can.
"God Lord! Are we to drink all that today?" I asked with genuine horror and Nooruddin held up the container for me to see that it was only three quarters full. I asked him if he had any news of the horse.
"What horse?" he looked at me with unfeigned surprise. I knew then that this business would not get anywhere.

I extricated myself from the drinking session by lying about being on antibiotics for a throat infection and watched them become progressively disjointed and incoherent. When they were well on their way to a collective hangover we were joined by Mashood, a Punjabi working for a bank at Gilgit. He declined a drink because he was full of lunch. "Upto neck" he said, for, like Fakhar, he also insisted on speaking in English. It had only to be declared that alcohol was good for the digestion and Mashood was soon working his way through his second drink waxing eloquent on how he always threw up whenever he drank on a full stomach.

They drank and talked of other binges and their prowess to throw it back like men. They discussed the making of wine and the setting up of a still in the house of a common friend, and in theory, before the day was out, they had one hundred and fifty litres of cherry wine ready to be consumed. Mashood liked to hear himself talk about himself and the louder, the better. As the alcohol befuddled his mind he became more assertive about his capacity to hold inebriety at bay and said he had once become rather tiddly with three glasses of Hunza wine but that was because of the great age of the drink.
"Which means old wine is stronger than new?" I asked
"Don't ask stupid questions. Anyone knows that the older the wine the stronger it is. That is why old wine is more expensive." Mashood revelled in his role of the learned one.
"Take whisky, for example." he continued, "One that is twelve years old is much better than one that is new."
"What do you mean `better'?" I was beginning to have fun.
"Seems like you are no drinker at all." he observed rather condescendingly, "Everyone knows that old whisky knocks you out quicker."
"Which means that if you put a bottle of whisky away for a few years its alcohol content will multiply on its own?" I asked like the true neophyte but he sensed the shade of ridicule in my voice.
"So why do they have labels screaming about ten or twelve year old whiskies?" he asked defensively.

Three litres of hooch is an awful lot even if there are three men bent upon drinking themselves silly, and well into the evening they drank with Mashood carrying the day on account of his discordant oratory. Finally, he collapsed on the bed in a state of paralysis but not before having favoured us with a disclosure about his infinite sensitivity and his need to immigrate abroad and his one and only love affair that remained unrequited because he did not have the courage to tell the girl that he loved her. When the party finally broke up Nooruddin departed with the promise of taking up my quest for the horse.

Such then was the situation concerning the famous Western Himalaya-Karakorum-Hindu Kush Expedition.

Three days later when I saw Nooruddin he had no news of the horse but he said there was a friend of his who had heard of me and was simply dying to meet me. He told me the friend's name.
"You mean the Superintendent of Police?" I asked horrified.
"Yes. He knows all about your expedition and is eagerly looking forward to meeting you."

Indeed he was looking forward to meeting me, but for an entirely different reason.

The year before Fakhar had taken me to see what he called the Imprisoned Buddha. As we walked to the house where the statue lay I had pictured a Buddha with manacled hands owned by an erudite antique collector who would discourse endlessly on the life and times of the great prophet. Instead when he rang the bell Fakhar did not wait for the gate to be opened. He led me into a garden and pointing to a schist statue of a seated Buddha in a flower bed told me to quickly take a few pictures. I was half way through the third shot when he dragged me out of the house and onto the street again. "For your information," he said very dramatically, "we had trespassed into the house of the Superintendent of Police, Gilgit."

As the statue lay in a police officer's residence: therefore, Imprisoned Buddha. The gentleman had found the Buddha somewhere in the country around Gilgit and had appropriated it for himself, and I had returned to Lahore to include this little episode in my piece for the newspaper. The good Superintendent had read it and having well and properly terrorised Fakhar had instructed him to present this foolish and pernicious friend to the police whenever he ventured back to Gilgit. I knew his desire to meet me was not because of any enthusiasm for my expedition.
"Nooruddin," I clasped his hand earnestly, "please tell your friend I left yesterday."

Within thirty minutes I was on the southbound bus on my way to Jaglot to see the young, round faced Captain Mukhtar who had promised me a lift to, and accommodation at Astore.

Previous: Between Two Burrs on the Map, Epilogue

Another Adventure: The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 26 November 2014 at 05:11, Anonymous Amardeep Singh said...

Riveting till the last word.

At 27 November 2014 at 13:59, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Amardeep.


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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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