Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

By donkey cart to high school

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Back in the mid-1990s, village Sultan Chang near Tando Adam in Sanghar district had only a middle school for boys. Girls too could attend this school, but only until grade five when, by the standards of the Chang Baloch, they were old enough to be married to raise their own families.


Reshma Chang who attended school with her younger brother was made of different mettle, however. Raised by an illiterate mother and a livestock farmer of meagre means, she wanted to be a judge when she grew up. When she was in grade five, her brother, her schoolmate and escort, died after a brief illness. With no other ‘man’ available to accompany her to school, parental pressure bore down on Reshma to give off education.
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گھاس کی شرح نمو

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میری یہ بات لوگوں کے لیے بے حد نفرت انگیز ہوتی ہے اس لیے میں دوبارہ کہوں گا کہ مجھے کرکٹ سے نفرت ہے۔ یاد رہے کہ میں برسات کی نم آلود اور شبنمی راتوں میں 'کرررررر' کی آواز نکالنے والے کرکٹ (جھینگر) کی بات نہیں کر رہا۔

میں اس کھیل کی بات کر رہا ہوں جسے میں کھیل ہی نہیں سمجھتا۔ اس میں چند پاگل لوگ سفید لباس پہن کر تپتے سورج تلے کئی گھنٹے بلکہ کئی دن (شاید ہفتوں؟) بے حس و حرکت کھڑے رہتے ہیں۔ ان میں سے دو نے 'تھاپا' اٹھا رکھا ہوتا ہے۔ یہ اس ڈنڈے جیسی چیز ہے جس سے خواتین واشنگ مشین کی ایجاد سے پہلے کپڑے دھونے کا کام لیتی تھیں۔ جب واشنگ مشین ایجاد ہوئی تو یہ تھاپا بیکار ہو گیا۔ اسی دوران یہ سست اور نکمے لوگوں کے ہاتھ لگ گیا جو اس سے گیندیں پیٹنے کا کام لینے لگے۔


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Dharti Mata

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The most satisfactory and accomplished journey was a short trek to the summit of Takht e Suleman in November 1994. The trip took all of three days, but being on the summit opened a great window of light. My guide, two local militiamen showed me the 'grave' of Qais Abdur Rashid that all Pathans believe is a common ancestor to them. The grave was actually a stone pedestal measuring twenty-one feet square. It was an ancient pagan sacrificial pedestal.

Two years earlier, at the shrine of Channan Pir in Cholistan, I watched the rituals of salaam and giving thanks for the son and realised that this was a throwback to Dharti Mata of our pagan past. And shortly before the dawning at Channan Pir, I had been on the peak of Musa ka Musalla where some Gujjar herders were taking a couple of buffalos to say salaam too the shrine on the summit. They told me that this ritual made the animals more fertile. That is what Dharti Mata does: she bestows fertility upon her worshippers.
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Serai Chhimba: lost from view

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From very ancient times, this land was traversed by roads, roads and roads. There were arterial highways like the Rajapatha that connected Bengal with the Afghan highlands. We hear of it from the chronicles of the 4th century BCE and know that this was the very road that we eventually came to know as the Grand Trunk Road. There were others that stretched between important cities.


One such was the highway connecting Lahore and Multan that we today call National Highway 5 (N-5). Though this highroad had existed ever since time began, in the Middle Ages its importance grew when the peaceful years of the Mughal Empire spurred all-round growth. While Lahore in the north became a much favoured city as an alternate Mughal capital, Multan once again thrived as a rich centre of trade and commerce. It was one of the richer subas (provinces) of the empire during the reign of the third Mughal king, Akbar the Great.
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Secret Cricket Deals

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Mohammad Yusuf is a nice, fortyish man who drives a taxi. I’ve known him for twenty years, he is accessible by cell phone and he always drives me to the airport. He is generally punctual except when he has fare just before he is supposed to pick me up. Then if I phone to ask where he is, he’ll say he’s only five minutes away. In reality he’ll be, say, thirty minutes off.

But that was just to introduce the good man. When he drives he sometimes begins a little conversation and because he loves cricket (that non-game they play with oars and six sticks in which you can gamble and win if you lose), he is chattier when the game is on. Which, incidentally, is always; the whole year round. As my sister asked me on the phone from Canada, ‘Is this silly cricket thing on again?’ She believed that as it used to be in the old days, they played only when the weather was good. And I had to tell her it is now never off. There’s too much money to be made by venal fixers (read players).
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Grit of Stone

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Archaeological research shows that soapstone cookware was in use around 3000 BCE. In fact, it may well be traced back much farther, leading us to contend that the first meal ever cooked by our primitive ancestors came off a soapstone crock. Easy to work, the soft stone comprising nearly 80 percent magnesium takes a long time to heat. Once done, it conserves the heat keeping its contents warm for a considerable duration. Those who use it believe it lends a subtle but distinct flavour to the food.

Detail of ornamentation created using a rasp on the exterior of a kwat
Discoveries in Indus Valley cities of Pakistan show baked soapstone beads in use 5,000 years ago. Though we find no crockery from the same material at the time, there is every likelihood it was in use. What we do know for certain is that from Chitral in the west to Baltistan in the east, communities in the mountain country were using soapstone pottery when the first European explorers ventured into our northern mountains. As little as 40 years ago, soapstone cooking utensils were still to be found in many homes. Today, these pieces, long disused, sit dust-laden in museums.
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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