Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society


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Maryam Mohiyuddin and Rahimeen Ahmad are two very bright young stars who I met sometime in February. They are the kind of people who give you faith and hope in the future just when you begin to lose these two essentials of life. The girls came to my home to invite me to a seminar on Identity at the Social Innovation Lab. Though it has nothing to do with LUMS, the girls said they used the university’s premises for their events and that was where the seminar would be held on 25-27 March 2016.

I was asked to be part of a panel discussion on Sunday (27 March). The other bright lights were the venerable Raza Kazim, lawyer, a great mind, and a man of courage to be emulated; Kamil Khan Mumtaz, the noted architect and architectural historian and Yusuf Bashir Qureshi who teaches at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture (Karachi). The moderator, Nedhra Shahbaz, was so incredibly lucid in whatever she said that she almost brought tears to my eyes.

Speaking only for myself, identity is something very important. My identity is informed by my reading of classical geography and history. I know that this land that we now call Pakistan was anciently India. It was so called because of the Maha Sapta Sindhu, the name given to our greatest river by our ancient fathers who spoke Sanskrit. Now, in the transfer from Sanskrit to classical Persian, the initial s of Sindhu is interpolated with h rendering Sindhu as Hindu. The asthan, land or domicile, of the Hindu was and still is Hindustan.

I explicitly said the term Hindu did not have any religious connotation. It was plainly and simply the name of River Sindhu as pronounced by the speakers of Avestan. Thence the name was taken by the Greeks who habitually drop the initial h. And so they turned it into Indu to which according to their usage they appended the terminal s and it became Indus. The country that the mighty Indus slaked was therefore India.

I said I was a native of the true India. And that as a son of the Sindhu or the Hindu River, I was the one to be called a Hindu. I did not go on to tell the August gathering what other names the land that today call Pakistan was known by. I also said that had our founding fathers read classical geography and history, they would not have gone searching for a new name for a very ancient and cultured land.

My treatise was that our clear lack of a sense of identity arose from the contrived name for the country. As well as that, within years of the foundation of Pakistan, our pygmies began to plaster a palimpsest of pseudo-history on our real and very ancient history to totally confuse a largely illiterate nation. We lost our identity and today the proof is that we blindly embrace the Al-Bakistan syndrome. As the seemingly educated young man, upon being asked why he had Al-Bakistan registration plate on his car, said, ‘It’s become a fashion!’

This response is symbolic of the rot that plagues us.

My view at the seminar, as it has long been and to which I will always adhere, is that only by learning our history and geography will we become aware of who we are. That is the only way we will develop pride in ourselves as Punjabis, Pakhtuns, Baloch, Sindhis and the myriad other ethnic and cultural groups that inhabit this wonderful land and as a nation make ourselves Pakistanis. Only by knowing ourselves can we become true to the country.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 4 April 2016 at 13:00, Blogger Hiba Moeen said...

Your blog posts are always very informative and interesting.
I think what we need the most right now is staying true to our own identity and ideology rather than following a wannabe trend, just like you mentioned, the state of mind known as Al-Bakistan.

At 22 July 2016 at 16:10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have gone say 2500 years back and want us to stick to the name called then. That is a history now. the present names only need to be as old to be adhered to. Do'nt worry time is flowing smoothly with its speed. present trends will also become as old in coming days.


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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