Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Deosai - where earth meets the sky

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Deosai - where earth meets the sky [Image from Deosai: Land of the Giant] - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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Built Heritage

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Euthanasia

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Euthanasia comes from the Greek eu meaning good and thanatos for death. My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has three definitions for it. Firstly, ‘a gentle and easy death; secondly, ‘a means of bringing about such a death. Lastly it says, ‘action of bringing about such a death, esp. of a person who requests it as a release from incurable disease’. In plain speak folks call it mercy killing.

The last one clinches it. Plagued as this unfortunate country of Pakistan is at best by deadwood and at worst outright ill-wishers and perpetrators of evil against its very corpus, we could do with mass euthanasia. Going by the third definition of euthanasia, the people of Pakistan should request mercy killing of several hundreds of thousands of miscreants in order to save Pakistan from the sickness that those people are.

Thankfully the bastards who plagued this land in its early and formative years have rotted in their graves. Years ago, beginning in July 1977, every evening as I lay in bed under the high roof of the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters behind Log Area Mess, 45 The Mall, Peshawar, I used to pray for someone to inflict euthanasia on the Incubus of our Eleven Year-Long Night, the Grinning Demon of Islamisation. It is another thing that then I did not know how long the diseased vermin was going to be around.
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jhelum: City of the Vitasta

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On the bank of River Jhelum, looking west to the road bridge

Image from jhelum: City of the Vitasta - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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The funny side of… monkey business

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Old Mr Darwin said something about all life evolving to higher forms, which we take to mean that we were monkeys at one time. On the other hand, the Quran has a line about some Jewish miscreants being turned into monkeys. (Aside: With only a few date trees in Arabia, I wonder where the poor newly-evolved simians would have lived in that desert land.)

Here in merry old Lahore, we have our own bunch of folks struggling to return to the primate shape of their forefathers. And it all started about four years ago. An errant Qingqi (oh, who wretch invented this monster?) driver was booked by a traffic warden. Leaving his machine in the middle of the road, the driver quickly clambered up a power pylon that happened to be at hand. There, from ten metres high, he threatened to jump if the warden did not cancel his ticket.
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A nation of tree haters

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Some years ago, having seen a lovely pipal fronting an empty plot near a friend’s home, I would carry on about the beauty of the tree. The tree stood their magnificent, gorging itself on atmospheric carbon dioxide; holding the carbon in its body to reduce global warming, it spewed out pure, unadulterated oxygen so that no life on earth may die of asphyxiation. The plot being unoccupied, the tree had been there undisturbed for decades.

The tree on the highroad south from Jalandhar to Ughi
But then my friend told me the plot had been purchased by some yahoo who was going to build a home on it. I said I would bet my last rupee that the first thing that foolish buyer would do is to chop down the tree.
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We are being bitten back

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Many years ago Edward Tenner wrote a thought-provoking book titled Why things bite back. It was all about Nature reacting to what we know as technological advancement. That is, the unintended consequences of what we do to the planet Earth.

We of Pakistan are unfortunately blissfully and utterly ignorant of such ‘inconsequential’ matters. On page 18 of Metro, Dawn newspaper (5 Nov 2016) carries an item about a mayor from some Japanese town visiting Sialkot and planting a sapling in some school or the other.

The accompanying image shows an araucaria being planted!

I do not expect a Japanese mayor either to know about our indigenous flora or to really care about our ecology and what we plant on this blessed land to blight it ever further. Nor too do I expect any such consciousness from the cock-eyed school teachers, bureaucrats and politicians who attended the planting ceremony. Even if there was an official of the Forest Department in attendance, it would be way too much to think he would know any better than planting the araucaria.
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Glint Gone Dim

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‘Only they who understand the intricacies of misgari will appreciate the hard work that goes into producing a copperware item and will be willing to pay its price commensurate with the work that went into its making.’ Khwaja Safar Ali says referring to a copper plate he has in his home.

The master copper craftsman of Peshawar, Khwaja Safar Ali at work in his cubicle provided by the Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Constructed from twenty different sheets of copper heated to glowing redness to be stitched together, weighing some ten kilograms and engraved and chased with intricate patterns, the plate took four months of painstaking work. But today the buyer who would be aware of the value of the work is hard to come by. And so Safar Ali has not been offered the asking price of Rs 200,000. He produced it knowing well enough that it may be months before he might find a buyer for it. This piece was a labour of love for Ali. It epitomises his pride in the craft kept by his family through several generations.
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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