Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The Alafis’ refuge

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The Kech Bund hills run in a dusty, jagged east-west line just north of the Kech Valley. Here, the Nihing River coming down from the west and the Kech from the east join to flow south as the Dasht River. The town of Turbat sits 30 kilometres east of this junction.

Just north of the junction of the two rivers, the small village of Shekhan is where one leaves the Turbat-Mand high road and goes north along the dry bed of the Shorma stream. The country is wild and desolate and possessed of a savage beauty. Views to the north are limited by the bleak, treeless crags of the Kech Bund that nowhere rise higher than 1,166 metres above the sea; to the east and west, the valley is fairly wide and dotted with trees and bushes that grow only in arid conditions.
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Deosai Life

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

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Pir Disappeared Ali Shah

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Sitting between PTV Lahore Centre and the offices of the DGPR (Director General Public Relations) on Abbott Road, there is a small shanty. Inside is a sarcophagus with all due trappings of the burial of the spiritually gifted: the green sheet of cheap satin inscribed with religious formulae draped over the hump, a few rosaries, burning joss sticks and some flowers. At all times there are one or two dopey hangers on. If you are lucky you will catch a whiff of hashish; luckier still and you might be invited for a puff or two. At night the little cubicle is garishly lit up with fluorescent tube lights.

There are two padlocked money boxes as well. Outside, on the sidewalk, there is a terracotta kunali containing salt. Passers by mouthing the wishes they want fulfilled by whoever is supposed to be buried under the concrete sarcophagus having silently aired their desires take a pinch or two of the salt. The hangers on do not say how the salt helps the wishes on their way or the wisher on his or her, but woe betide the man who suffers from hypertension, believes in this saint and passes by two or three times daily!
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Little paradise on earth

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Little paradise called Churrok in the Moola Valley

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The blessed Punjabi landscape

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Back in the mid-1990s when M-2 was being built by Snowy Mountains Engineering Company, they had Geoff Gowers as the Chief Resident Engineer. He and his wife Andrea became good friends with the two of us, and together we travelled the not-yet-ready motorway several times.


Now as so many people zoom up and down the motorway, few remark on the raised road bed the tarmac rests on. Fewer still perhaps take their eyes off the drudgery unfolding straight ahead on the gray tarmac. But back then Geoff and I used to frequently talk of how the raised road will once again make the magical Punjabi countryside visible to road users.
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Serial Groom

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In view of the truth out there (I will not call it rumour); young Manas Upadhyay from Mumbai says our Perpetual Prime Minister in Waiting (PPMiW) is a Serial Groom. Why, for crying out loud, the man has married for the third time. After two divorces even a retard would realise that he is no marriage material. But not our PPMiW. No, sir. It is foolish to expect any sense from this man: he is serially, pathologically sick in the head.

It is another thing that he himself and his camp have gone into overdrive rebutting what they call a rumour. But I hear from a friend in PPMiW’s camp that the valima feast has been feasted upon somewhere in old Blighty – presumably in London. Remember that even after the last fiasco a la Reham Khan had taken place, the man was denying tooth and nail that a wedding had taken place. It is now known that the knot was tied in October whereas it was announced two or three months after with a sham nikah ceremony performed by a mullah made compliant with monetary inducement.
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Loving our tormentors

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This series of articles is inspired by the usage of the phrase “loving [our] tormentors” in an editorial published in newspaper on June 1. Pakistanis today, it is true, simply fail to see an enemy if he wears a long beard and skullcap (or turban) and speaks Arabic. This is true for us since the beginning of the Afghan war in 1980.


Looking back, however, we find that we have forever been famous for celebrating foreign tormentors. It has gone on so long that this disease is now a part of the collective psyche of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. Now, appreciation for post-Hijra outsiders (read Muslims) was kosher for us, whose ancestors converted (and damn the assertions about everyone having arrived from Arabia duly converted), but there is at least one aberration.
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In Wisps of Smoke

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About a millennium ago, somewhere in the balmy climes of Gujarat a man given to the pleasures of intoxication came upon a brilliant idea. From snorting burning opium or marijuana directly and losing much of it from the burner, he devised a means of drawing the vapour by pipe to filter it through water. That was the essence, but surely it would have taken a period of experimentation before the first hookah was crafted from the empty shell of the coconut.

Terra cotta chillims covered with shiny tin to be fitted on the high hookah
Filled with water, the shell was fitted with two pipes. One topped with a pottery cone to hold the narcotic on embers; the other was the inhaler. The bottom end of the former dipped into the water in the shell in order to filter out harmful elements of the intoxicant – or so it was thought.
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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