30 November 2016
Railways is among the more enduring legacies of the British Raj in the subcontinent. There is virtually an inexhaustible body of extremely interesting lore and history of the building of this great system of transportation discussed in a few excellent books and in the esoteric journals in the Punjab Archives. It is another story that the ignorant and asinine bureaucrats do not permit access to that great treasure trove.
Even if one has not read about the intricacies and heroism of the laying of the line from, say, Ruk (near Shikarpur) to Sibi, one can still stand on the platform of Ruk and wonder what the letters KSR and IVSR that adorn the façade in blue on white ceramic tiles mean. The lettering signifies that this little-known station was the junction of the Indus Valley State Railway coming up from Kotri and the new line to Quetta and Chaman called the Kandahar State Railway.Read more »
Deosai - where earth meets the sky
29 November 2016
Deosai - where earth meets the sky [Image from Deosai: Land of the Giant] - Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore
28 November 2016
This piece appears in the January 2015 issue of Herald
Going by his name, this Glyme cannot possibly be a Pakistani. I therefore suspect this piece of very useful wisdom so much in use in Pakistani politics, as well as in daily life, was actually thought up by a local sage who put it into practice without taking out a patent on it. Unprotected by law, the formula was filched by smart aleck Glyme whose name then stuck to it. I suspect it was fear of legal action from Pakistan that kept old Glyme from passing on his full name to Bloch.Read more »
26 November 2016
When there is nothing to write about
25 November 2016
In Chunian I met a pigeon man - the typical kabootar baz. And did he have interesting stories to tell and hundreds of pigeons to show! And I by mistake deleted his interview from the recording machine. That was pure bad luck. Though Chunian is just an hour away, I have not returned in three years. Perhaps next winter. The pigeon man's story needs be told. What I need when I go someplace is an interesting historical tale to hang my piece on. Travel writing is something more than just a piece about beautiful bazaars and good food. For me it has to be history; stories that are untold; facets undiscovered. Besides Chunian there have perhaps been four or five other occasions when I failed to turn up something.
[Click the image to enlarge]
23 November 2016
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.Read more »
jhelum: City of the Vitasta
22 November 2016
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
21 November 2016
In nearly seven decades of the country’s existence, the painter of the ‘Photography Prohibited’ sign has never known poor business. Though the powers-that-be keep the identity of this person a tantalisingly guarded secret, his artwork adorns every bridge, culvert, railway station, airport, dam, power grid and rubbish dump around the land. For his meritorious and assiduous service to the country he must have received the highest awards from the government.Read more »
On the edge
19 November 2016
Rabat is an ancient caravanserai situated at the edge of Pakistan. Read in Urdu about history of the place. This article appeared in newspaper Roznama Pakistan [double click the image below to enlarge].
The Talpurs’ last stand
17 November 2016
Hard by a farm-to-market road outside the village of Sahib Khan Chandio, ten kilometres north of Hyderabad and just off National Highway 5, there stands amid the fields a yellow sandstone obelisk. The white marble plaque on one of its faces tells us that the monument was ‘Erected by Major General Sir Charles Napier GCB and the officers, non-commissioned officer and soldiers of the British army under his command in memory of their comrades who fell in the battles of 17th February and 24th March 1843 fought with the Ameers of Sind.’
The plaque then lists the names of those three hundred or so British and Indian men who gave up their lives fighting for control over Sindh. Understandably, the monument commemorates the men who were in the service of the British crown, not those who fought for the independence of the country of Sindh.Read more »
posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, ,
‘Dust unto Dust’
16 November 2016
In the year 1902 parts of the Shikarpur and Karachi districts of the province of Sindh were carved away to establish the new district of Larkana. Long before that this area was known as Chandka after the well-established Chandio tribe that still lives in great numbers in the western hills of the district. Now the newly established district was to get its new name from the Rajput clan of Larik.
In a paper submitted to the Government of India on 31 December 1847 Hugh James, the Deputy Collector (equivalent to the modern Assistant Commissioner) of Shikarpur, did not hesitate to call Chandka the ‘Garden of Upper Sindh.’ His reason for this appellation was the number of waterways, both natural and man-made, that meandered across the district bringing it great fertility.
15 November 2016
Image from DEOSAI: THE LAND OF THE GIANT - available at Sang-e-Meel Publications (042-3722-0100), Lahore
Related: Deosai Truths - Book Review by F. S. Aijazuddin, Deosai - Book Review by S A J Shirazi, Special talk on BBC Radio
12 November 2016
Read in Urdu about history of Baghsar Fort situated right on the Indian frontier, near Bhimber. This article appeared in newspaper Roznama Pakistan [double click the image below to enlarge].
Read more »
11 November 2016
One of the cities he visited was Kandabil and Abu Ishaq Istakhri wrote: 'Kandabil is a great city. The palm tree does not grow there. It is in the desert and within the confines of [the province of] Budha. The cultivated fields are mostly irrigated. Vines grow there and cattle are pastured. The vicinity is fruitful.'
A hundred years before Istakhri, we have Ahmad al Bilazuri telling us that Kandabil sat atop a hill. Now mounds signify age because as habitation decays and crumbles new buildings rise on old ruins and over time a mound is created. And so, a town on a mound back in the year 850 would mean a town that was ancient even a thousand years ago.Read more »
The funny side of… monkey business
10 November 2016
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.Read more »
A nation of tree haters
08 November 2016
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.Read more »
We are being bitten back
07 November 2016
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.Read more »
Glint Gone Dim
01 November 2016
‘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.Read more »