Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Happy Birthday to Me

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Today, Sunday 21 February 2016 is my 64th birthday. Since I poke fun at all those morons who claim to be 144 years old because they ‘remember’ the time of, say, the 1857 struggle against the Raj, I assert I am 2364. That is because I ‘remember’ Alexander the Macedonian so well.

I have been asked how it feels to be 64. Well, for starters it feels like 64. Which is that I am more susceptible to cold. Time was when I could shock people with my immunity to it. In July 1997 I was working with Himalayan Wildlife Foundation on Deosai Plateau (4300 metres, 14,000 feet) where the camp cook told me they had a bathroom with hot water.

The hot water in the tiny tent turned out to be a teeny bucket with just enough water for me to wash my... Errrm, sorry cannot write here what I told the cook the water was sufficient for. I got a tin jug from the man and told him to watch how men wash themselves.

At the bank of Bara Pani, I stripped, turned around to check that the man was watching and poured the first jugful over myself. A blood-curdling scream escaped my lips and that was all. Then I was speedily pouring jug after jugful. I came back smelling good and Eesa spent the next few years telling all visitors of this man from Lahore who was impervious to cold.

I have bathed at Shuwert (4660 metres, 15,300 feet) and countless other high altitude lakes and streams. In 2006 (I was only 54) I bathed in K-2 North River under the north face of this great mountain. My guide and interpreter Wahap was horrified. As I was making ready to go to the river while he was preparing dinner, he said I would either die or be very, very ill. I reminded him that we were at only 3800 metres and that I had bathed at much higher altitudes, but he asserted that the water was colder here than other places. You can see we are not alone to claim stupidity as our national virtue.

I told him I have washed off my sweat and sent it down to the Indian Ocean by way of the mighty Sindhu River. It was now my turn to put some of my dust in this stream so that it gets to the Yarkand River and eventually to the sandy wilderness of the Takla Makan Desert.

When I came back to the mess tent after my wash, Wahap kept looking at me strangely for a very long time. But I didn’t die. Nor too did I fall sick. I only felt super good.

Now I feel the cold. I sleep in a thick flannel track suit with an old lamb’s wool pullover on top. I do not go cycling during this short cold spell. Other than that, I feel fine.

But the best thing is that the police no longer pull me over at the ‘security’ check points as they do younger people. I can get away with much that would have landed me in trouble 30 years ago. People call me uncle and some loonies even scream ‘Oye, babya, paghal ho gaya aen?’ when they pass me on their motorcycles as I cycle in the morning.

Since even at this ‘advanced’ age I have steadfastly refused to take myself seriously and can still laugh at myself, I am not offended.

That, I know, is the ticket to retaining the spirit of youthfulness.

Join the party here and here

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 21 February 2016 at 00:06, Blogger Muhammad Abdullah said...

wow....wonderful piece !

At 21 February 2016 at 00:55, Blogger AHMED BAJWA said...

Happy Birthday Salman Sb, Be Blessed Always

At 21 February 2016 at 12:41, Blogger Brahmanyan said...

Many Happy Returns of the day.
Wishing you Happy Birthday.May you be blessed to lead many more years of happy life with good health.

At 23 February 2016 at 07:28, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you very much, good people.


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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

Books of Days