Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The Witch's Fire

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Decades ago I heard from soldiers of Jhelum district, especially those who lived around the hill of Tilla Jogian, that at night djinns walked around in the wilderness with lanterns. So many of the soldiers from my unit claimed to have seen those lights. No amount of lectures on science and ball lightening could make them believe anything else.

Once a thick curtain, as the Vemonia creeper as it looks in June 2017

I learned of ball lightening from the Penguin science magazine that my father regularly got back in the 1960s. Exceptionally dry weather and wind scudding along rocks and trees can create an electrical charge that grows and glows. It moves about with the breeze, erratically because it is repelled by any object of similar charge (remember your physics?). I would ask my men if the lights sort of danced about as if carried by drunken beings and they agreed, but none of them save my MT NCO, the very smart Ashraf Mirza of village Vahali near Choa Saidan Shah, ever believed me.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 3:58 PM, , links to this post

Munawar Mirza

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Munawar Mirza runs a bicycle repair shop in Township about three kilometres from my home. I was introduced to him when I asked a friend about such a shop nearby. Earlier I used to go to Store Market, A Block, Model Town. There my man was Qureshi who had served me in good stead since 1995 when I started cycling in earnest.

My friend who told me of Mirza had lived in Township since before the start of time on this side of Lahore. That is, since 1974 when it first came into being over wheat fields and forest and when the Hadiara Nadi was still a clear, freshwater rivulet where one could fish for rahu. Mirza Sahib (as I address this fifty plus man with dyed hair and moustaches), is talkative as talkative can ever be. And when he talks, his hands stop working. Consequently, a job that would take thirty minutes lasts well over an hour.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 11:35 AM, , links to this post

Buddhism is 5000 years old!

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On or about 5 June 2017, a tweet appeared with an image of Pattan Minara near Rahim Yar Khan. The tweeter, one fool named Shiraz Hassan, wrote that it was a Buddhist temple and that it was believed to be five thousand years old! And this man claims to be a BBC correspondent! So, if this is BBC, I refuse to ever watch their television, listen to their radio or read their web pages.

Below is the lowdown on Pattan Minara. But first of all on Buddhism.

The great Buddha lived in the 6th century BCE, that is, just two thousand five hundred years ago. Buddhism dates from that time. One would have to be an utter idiot completely ignorant of an historical timeline to believe that Buddhism dates back to the 6th millennium.

This brings to mind one item from about twenty-five years ago. At the end of a season of work at Harappa, archaeologist Mark Kenoyer did a lecture at the Lahore Museum. Among other things, he pointed out the halo-like disc behind the head of a presumably holy figure and likened it to the ones we see on stone depictions of Buddha. The report in The News the following morning detailed the discussion and ended it by telling its readers that the people of Harappa were Buddhists!

In a word, the average journalist is a freaking Moron in the upper case. Even if that journalist works for BBC.

Now, Pattan Minara. The ruinous brick building with a doorway facing west stands about twenty-five metres tall and has some beautiful ornamental features that we find in stupas from Taxila and from the Hindu Shahya temples of the Salt Range. Of very fine workmanship and ornamentation, the ground floor is clearly a Hindu temple built sometime in the 11th century.

I have elsewhere discussed the architectural embellishments one finds on the temple and will therefore not go into them here. Suffice it to say that in its complete form, this temple would have been a beauty to behold.

The poorly constructed upper floor was added at a later date. On three sides it has two lookout windows each. On the fourth, the west side, it has a larger opening which was once fronted by a cantilevered balcony. It appears that the upper floor was a sort of lookout accessible by a wooden ladder placed along the exterior.

The name Pattan Minara tells a tale. Pattan in Punjabi is a ford on a waterway. It therefore seems that this temple stood by the Indus when it flowed here about a millennium ago. Indeed, until a decade ago you could clearly discern the old abandoned bed of the mighty river. That is, Pattan Minara is simply Tower on the Ford.

Anyone should know that such a construction, especially the shoddy upper floor, cannot last five thousand years. In fact, it cannot last more than a few centuries. Anyone with any sense at all also knows that a twenty-five metre tall building, no matter how well constructed, cannot exist as a standalone structure after five thousand years. If such a miracle were possible, we would have countless buildings from Harappa and Moen jo Daro as our finest markers to that remarkable age of Indus Valley glory.

Anyone who claims to be a journalist, and from BBC at that, should at least be better read. Alas, our standards have fallen. They have fallen way beyond the greatest depths. We now have fools everywhere. From politicians to the establishment to the babucrats to jornos, we have a plethora of fools.

These are the fools who also host so-called travel shows on all Pakistani television channels these days. They take you to, say, Taxila and mouth inanities like, ‘We’ve reached Taxila, let’s ask the chowkidar about the history of this place.’

For crying out loud! These idiots should know that if the chowkidar could impart Taxilian history he would not be a chowkidar. He would be the curator of Taxila Museum. But when you have never read anything in your life and being on third rate television makes your head so full of yourself, there is no room to get any sense in it.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 9:58 AM, , links to this post

Plaat he Plaat

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Many years ago, driving along Waris Road, I noticed they were tearing down the nearly one hundred year-old Birdwood Barracks. BTW, does anyone remember who Colonel Birdwood was? Anyways I stopped to ask the uniformed subedar what was happening and he said aador (order) hai.

I hurried home to grab my camera and take pictures of the building that would soon vanish from human memory. Back at the demolition site the subedar refused to let me. He told me it was ‘army area’ and taap seecrot. (You guessed it, the man was from Hazara.) I said what was secret about a few buildings that would soon bite the dust, but the moron refused to see the sense in my words.
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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

ترکی ریڈیو اور ٹیلی ویژن کارپوریشن کے سلسلہ وار پروگرام پاکستان ڈائری میں سلمان رشید سے ملاقات

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Click to listen the podcast [vLog] at Turkish Radio and Television. 

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

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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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

Necropolis with a View

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The direct road from Mardan to Swabi in the Northwest Frontier Province [Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa] passes through the heart of Yusufzai country: great stretches of well-worked farmland cut across by the occasional canal or punctuated by a few low hills and populace villages. As one drives eastward to Swabi the craggy ridge of Kharamar (Rearing Snake) hill blocks the view to the north. Twenty-seven kilometres from Mardan, under the highest point of the ridge, lies the village of Adina.

Once it was just a quiet Pakhtun village; then in early 1993 it hit the news. The discovery was a group of ancient graves high above the village under the hooded peak of Kharamar. The man behind this discovery was the tall, hawk-faced Professor Farid Khan, fiftyish yet bursting with youthful energy. The professor has devoted his entire life to archeology and knows everything there is to know about NWFP prehistory. It was therefore entirely my good fortune to be driving to Adina with him.
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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