Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

A Memoir of Partition

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On the twentieth day of March 2008, I headed home for the first time in my life. I was fifty-six years and a month old. Walking east across the border gates at Wagah I was on my way to the fulfilment of a family pietas of very long standing. I was going to a home I had never known; a home in a foreign land, a land that state propaganda wanted me to believe was enemy territory. But I knew it as a country where my ancestors had lived and died over countless generations. That was the home where the hearth kept the warmth of a fire first kindled by a matriarch many hundred years, nay, a few thousand years, ago and which all of a sudden had been extinguished in a cataclysm in 1947.

In that great upheaval, in a singular moment in time, that home ceased to be home. One part of the family made it across the border to become a tiny part of a huge data: they were among the nearly two million people uprooted from their homes. Another part of the family also became a statistic—a grim and ghastly one: they were part of the more than one million unfortunate souls who paid with their blood for the division of India and foundation of the new country of Pakistan for Muslims. They who died were not just Muslims who lived east of the new line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe. They were Sikhs, Hindus and even Jains who had homes thousands of years old, west of this line in the land that became Pakistan.
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Where’ll the new year take you?

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To the sand buried ruins of Dandan Uliq and Niya

A hundred and seventeen years ago, Aurel Stein, the Hungarian-British archaeologist then working in India, led an expedition to the Takla Makan Desert of Xinjiang in China. He sought to unravel the mystery of the ‘Sand-Buried Ruins of Khotan’, as his book is titled. This is the much-abridged non-technical version for general public. For the specialist, he wrote a huge, three-volume set complete with a large number of black and white images. This technical version is titled Ser India (or Upper India).

I first became acquainted with this treasure house of history in 1991 while researching at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Among others, two of the ‘sand-buried’ ruins are the ancient cities of Dandan Uliq and Niya, in the vicinity of the city of Khotan, that were, even at the time of his visit in 1901, completely ruined and abandoned. However, the ultra-dry desert air of high Asia had preserved much of the organic material used by the natives in that bygone age.
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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