Salman Rashid: a Pakistani Travelogue, with Tears

Salman Rashid, adventurer and prolific author, had offered to guide our discovery tour of Pakistan — in the spirit of Kipling’s Kim and his lama, or earlier of the Victorian genius and spy Richard Burton. Our terrain would run from Karachi — from the mouth of the Indus River, that is — through deserts and lush fruitlands to Kashmir and then to K2, the second highest mountain peak on Earth.

But then, unexpectedly, blessedly, our trip with this soulful Punjabi gentleman broke down in tears in the village near Jalandhar (now India) where Salman Rashid’s father’s Muslim family was massacred at the moment of Pakistan’s birth, by Partition, in August, 1947.

Salman Rashid’s grandfather was the prized doctor in that village, and he had doubtless treated the frenzied man who killed him with a shotgun blast through the eye and then lashed up the mob that dispatched the great aunts and cousins, as he says, “with swords.”

This was the story that Salman Rashid heard first-hand for the first time three years ago, from the son of the man who led the riot of killing. The story does more than overtake the travelogue. It fortifies the impression that “Af-Pak” is the wrong name for what afflicts this part of the world, and the rest of us. The real name of the root cause of so much injury and anger out of South Asia is more nearly “Indo-Pak.” As Salman Rashid recounts, it is a traceable and perhaps even a treatable source of misery when people are given the chance to absorb the whole awful history.

“I think the time to forgive has come,” Salman Rashid is saying. “The people are ready. The people are for reconciliation.”

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  • Robert Brain

    I’ve been longing for some talk of the beauty and inspiration of Pakistan in this great series. Salman Rashid provided that wonderfully, and made me want to board the next plane to Karachi to take up his itinerary. His personal story of the partition and its aftermath moved me to tears. Thank you Mr. Rashid for your great humanity. Thanks Chris, as always, for being the great antenna for such humanity.

  • chris

    Siddhartha Banerjee writes to me on my Facebook page:

    “Thank you, Chris. Partition was indeed made to happen and people are ready for reconciliation, as Mr. Rashid says. The hatred was induced. It didn’t grow out of the soil of India. 1947 was an aberration. I have visited Jullundur, Ludhiana, Amritsar many times over and I did not hear a bad word about Muslims or about Pakistan in our Punjab. In West Bengal, what’s left on the Indian side of partitioned Bengal, the story is the same. The past is over.”

  • Siddhartha Banerjee

    I have had access to many insights about Pakistan through this exceptional series, many more, in fact, than I had during many decades in India.

    I cannot immediately recall an instance where a media story/series rendered the “enemy” human as well as this series does. For once, programming that stands outside the intersection of culture, media and propaganda!

    Siddhartha Banerjee
    Oxford, Pennsylvania

  • Shaman

    Thank you Chris! You are the Duke Ellington of Conversation!

    This entire series of conversations with Pakistanis is a great thing – a wonderful achievement – and I am spreading the word far and wide. I cannot say enough about it. Your guests reveal so much, most astonishingly (and unexpectedly) their own sense of love and loss of a the multi-dimensional world where America once played a constuctive role (as in supporting the Pakistani library system) in the educational and cultural lives of Pakistanis.

    Your guests say it so well… what we learn from listening to this series is not only the hope and ambition of what Pakistan wishes for itself but how derailed and insular American foreign policy has sadly become over the recent years.

    These are indispensable and extraordinary insights for all of us. As one pines for a more sane policy toward Pakistan one also pines for a saner mainstream media that would elevate your RADIO OPEN SOURCE to the loudest spot on the internet dial!

    Thanks again!

    • Christopher in Tokyo

      Thoughtful comments, Shaman, and you’ve expressed my own feelings better than I have been able to. I completely agree with you – this series has been fantastic and I’m trying to spread the word as much as possible!

  • Christopher in Tokyo

    What was the music that was played during this episode? I liked it a lot!

  • Potter

    This interview is a gem. Truly. Beautifully produced.. thank you.

    The music, oddly, makes me think of Spike Jones ( or Mickie Katz)- I mean it’s humorous music, traveling music to be sure (as in life moves on). The journey, the descriptions are awesome, beautiful, inviting! But is Salman Rashid’s personal story that is both touching and inspiring.

    I believe it is well known now that trauma victims need to revisit the scene of their tragedy and make peace with it. I truly believe this will heal on a communal level as well with the proper leadership. Alas, at the expense of their people (including us) militaries push for conflict. Peace puts them out of power, out of business.

    So you started at ground zero in the Punjab.

    I can’t easily find the Nevada study about Islam that Salman Rashid mentioned and blamed for the spread of anti-Islamism here. Hateful minds sought it out, to be sure, and the media fed it to the gullible. Our leaders had not done enough to dispel this. Those who hate Obama,make sure to mention his middle name, Hussein, loudly.

    To start to undo that hatred (and fear), we need to look at ourselves as well as get to know more about Islam. We ( the US, the West) have been guilty of many things which we accuse others. On the top of the list we make is violence, war. If we say religion is at fault then so must ours must be.

    The Metropolitan Museum in New York just opened a fabulous new wing devoted to Islamic art. I hope it helps. :

    Placing Islamic Art on a New Pedestal

  • Potter

    I forgot to mention the Gandhara art exhibit until the end of the month at Asia Society- which I will miss. Pakistan in another time:

    But also I was so inspired by Rashid that I tried to get a copy of his new book only to find that Amazon wants $195 for it– and to order it direct from Pakistan would be lest costly but about $76 from the publisher. I am thinking about it. Any other ideas? Too bad this author is not so available.

  • Oh, this is beautiful, so beautiful! I don’t know how many Punjabi hearts in India still beat for Pakistan, mine being one of them.

  • Daud Sharif

    Chris, thank you, for bringing forth the Pakistan of my fond memories.

    Salman is my cousin and his story about the massacre of our grand parents is really a story of of our entire family and how it has affected us even now many decades later; how can I forget the tears in my mother’s eyes as she told us about the needless killing of my grandparents and aunties – in fact 17 people in toto.

    And this story is not just an incident; the Hindoo officers, my father’s colleagues, from Survey of India, then came to kill my father, my mother and my two month old sister, but they escaped by hiding in the stable doors instead of staying in the main house and then off to a refugee camp with the aid of a British officer from Survey of India.

    Pakistan and India do need SA style Truth and Reconciliation Commissions; there is no way I am going to forget or forgive anybody easily for their war crimes.

  • Salman Rashid

    I am very grateful to all the people who listened in and who appreciate the wonderful effort of Chris and my little part in it. I wish things could be as they were before the 1980s. I wish all of you wonderful people could travel through this beautiful land freely and without fear. It was once a great place. I wish there was a switch somewhere to be thrown to revert to those great times.