Chaudhry Map


The journey embraces you with lovely colours, atmosphere, people and bits and pieces of history. And, there is no hassle anywhere in the way.
As harvest approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, rides through endless expanses of waving crops of different shades of colour, out of which the villages seem to rise like islets in an ocean of green. After the harvest all is changed: the dull brown of the fields is relieved by the trees, solitary or in groves and avenues, and by the hamlets and village ponds.
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TRAVELLING ALONG THE LBDC COUNTRY SIDE

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by S A J Shirazi

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While travelling, off the National Highway, not only you travel in soot free and serene environment but you see more too. Riding my trusted old motorbike on Band Patri (not a thoroughfare) of Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC) from Sahiwal to Balloki Headworks, many new and interesting things come in the way, which normally remain hidden from commuters on the National Highway or travellers in the area.

The journey embraces you with lovely colours, atmosphere, people and bits and pieces of history. And, there is no hassle anywhere in the way.

Rich, ripe wheat harvest

As harvest approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, rides through endless expanses of waving crops of different shades of colour, out of which the villages seem to rise like islets in an ocean of green. After the harvest all is changed: the dull brown of the fields is relieved by the trees, solitary or in groves and avenues, and by the hamlets and village ponds.

I took the side route and got onto the LBDC from Sahiwal — the city famous for greenery and best breed of mammals. The first thing along the LBDC that attracted my attention was Mandi Maweshian (animal market) near Okara — one of the largest in the country.

It is a complete bazaar where a large number of fine quality animals changes hand every month. You can find makeshift hotels (with arrangements for night stay), veterinary doctors, milk and fodder shops and even provision stores. “It is a complete market that keeps moving from one place to another as per its permanent schedule,” told me an astute manager, who establishes a hotel wherever the market goes.

Ripe sugarcane field en route my journey along the LBDC.

“We have beoparis (businessmen) from Karachi to Peshawar, local farmers as well as people working in the market as our customers,” he added. Another shopkeeper informed, “Farmers sell their live stock here and buy provisions for their homes.” The market has its own unique culture.

Near Renala, you see one of the first Hydroelectric Power Stations constructed in the Subcontinent. Sir Ganga Ram, an Engineer and famous Philanthropist had built this Power Station in 1925 in order to irrigate about 70,000 acres of agricultural land that is higher than the normal level in the area and could not be irrigated through the LBDC.

Ganga Ram forked the canal, built the Power Station and installed five motors to generate electricity. The then Governor Punjab, Sir William Malcolm Hailey laid down its foundation stone of the station on March 22, 1925.

Engineer in charge of the station Mr. Iqbal explained the working of the station and briefed about its excellent performance despite the old vintage. The Power Station is not linked with National Electric Grid and only provides electricity for the five pumping stations for lifting the water from the LBDC. The Power Station remained with Power and Works Department till 1958 when it was taken over by WAPDA. Why not more similar hydroelectric stations in the country? The question keeps coming back to my mind.

First sight of the Power Station reminded me of Venice City. The power house building seems to be floating on water. The canal is covered with trees up and down stream. There is a small white mosque inside the canal in front of the station building. Green areas adjoining the station are very restful.

Just about three Kilometres from Renala, you see a huge colonial era mansion standing tall in the fields. This used to be headquarters of the Renala Estate — the land leased by Major D. H. Venrenen in 1913 on the condition of horse breeding (ghori paal). The company had been producing very fine breed of horses in the past. Villa — a symbol of the past era — is still owned by the family of landlady T. F. L. Taylor.

That is the place from where my real ‘hardship by choice’ started. I was travelling on a rural route, seeing the path but not knowing what was coming next. Not knowing what one is going to see ahead is sometime inspiring. But, about 11 Kilometres from Power Station, rear tyre of my bike went flat.

There was no place in sight from where I could get it fixed. Advised by Chiragh Din, a local, I waited for the ‘help’ to come and we talked.

Chiragh Din, relaxed and amiable old man who was fishing asked about my destination, purpose of journey and why I was travelling on a bike. He did not seem convinced with my answers once I told him that I am travelling just to see the area. He was surprised instead. I enjoyed talking to him though. He was so candid and frank about every thing he said.

It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. They are eager to help — on their own expense — when you ask any body. I found volunteer ‘guides’ who were forth coming with wealth of information from history to myths prevalent in the area. But ‘chaudhry map’ is as vague in Punjab about the distances as is anywhere else in Pakistan. I learnt not to rely on chaudhry map during my days in the army but still cannot resist asking.

Where is village Thatta Ghulam? Ask any body when you are riding a motorbike with haversack and water bottle on your sides. The replies will always be same: nearby. Apart from seeing pure rural built heritage, I was surprised to find a Solar Energy Station working in village Thatta Ghulam that is without electric connection.

The ionic counter point is the lack of attention in maintaining the bits and pieces of unique heritage – the resource base of tourism industry. The neglect may be attributed to lack of awareness, education, coordination between authorities, economic constrains and or simply the natural hazards. The magnificent vistas of a land of plans, fields and orchards have to be opened to the rest of the world.

There is a need for information in the form of travel guide writing, pure travel journalism, travel book writing and geographical description in form of maps. No ordinary coldness of phrasing can express the surprise and delight, with which one makes acquaintance with the rural sites. Their perspective gives you a wonderful sense of being there. In fact, that is my recommendation: be there.

Mechanical and animal transport, plying on Pakistani highways and roads has almost equal right of the way. But, I was greatly pleased once a Tonga appeared on a track coming out of sugarcane and blooming mustard fields. A bit of usual haggling about the charges, and I loaded my bike on the back and rode a sturdy Tonga to reach Akhtarabad — the nearest place on National Highway with vulcanization facilities. It took me three hours to get on to my way to Balloki headworks.

Near Balloki Headworks on River Ravi, one passes through a wide water reservoir that looks like a lake. In winters, this lake is full of native waterfowls. Flocks of Wild Ducks, Cranes, Strokes and black winged Stilts are the commonest sights in the area. The fish kababs at Balloki Headworks are a speciality and culinary delight.

I had a dinner break at Balloki, treated myself with fish kababs — fresh from the river — and proceeded to National Highway for onwards journey to Lahore via more familiar route.

S A J Shirazi is a Lahore based writer, blogger and speaker. Shirazi has authored two books (Izhar, Ret Pe Tehreer) and translated Din Mein Charagh by Abbas Khan into Light Within.

More from S. A. J. Shirazi on Wonders of Pakistan

1. Who Owns Harand Fort? – Pakistan 2. King’s Treatment  3. Hiran Minar 4. Around Abbotabad 5. The Wonders of Deosai Plains

You might also like:  

1. Rural Pakistan: More Colors, More Scenes [in four parts] 2. Colors of Punjab, Rural Pakistan [in four parts] 3. Life in a Pakistani Village
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Mountain of Forty Souls


Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.
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HAZARGANJI

THE POSSESSOR OF THOUSAND TREASURES

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by Salman Rashid

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Some 20 kilometres south of Quetta, past Dasht-e-Bedaulat (‘Wretched Plain” — a misnomer now because electricity and tube wells have turned this once barren land fertile) there rises an imposing purple loom west of the road. Rising to 3,308 metres (10,850 feet) above the sea, this, in common parlance, is Chiltan. Ask any Brahui who lives in its shadow and he will call it Chehel Tan — Forty Souls. He will also tell you that the valleys below are called Hazarganji — Possessor of a Thousand Treasures.

Aside: Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.

But the Brahui will tell you another story. Long years ago, there lived a poor Brahui shepherd and his good wife who remained childless despite years of wedlock. Then, Providence gave them not one nor two, but fully forty children. Worried how they would feed this brood, the couple resolved to keep one and abandon the others in the forests of Hazarganji. Days went by and reports filtered in of the mysterious ravines being inhabited by a bunch of elfin children who enticed travellers away. No one could catch them and anyone who pursued them was forever lost in the unknown folds of Hazarganji. (more…)

What have they done to my hajj?


When I look around I see the concrete jungle dominating the skyline and imposing itself over the house of God – the Ka’bah – and I feel betrayed by the custodians of the holy sites.
If I want to see skyscrapers I can take a quick trip to the Docklands in London. I did not come here to be shown another city of tall buildings, just like Las Vegas or New York.
In these places I find no spirituality. I am pretty certain God does not want his holy site to be desecrated in this fashion either….
Image above: The four-faced Mecca clock tower: a concrete jungle now dominates the skyline of the holy sites. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/REUTERS
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THE  SPIRITUALITY OF THE MUSLIM PILGRIMAGE IS BEING RUINED BY SKYSCRAPERS AND TRAFFIC JAMS AROUND THE HOLY SITE, WHILE RISING COSTS MEAN IT IS A RITUAL THAT ONLY THE RICH CAN AFFORD

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by Ajmal Masroor

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Today I have completed my hajj – the annual pilgrimage that brings together millions of people in the holy city of Mecca. I am extremely worried that hajj may have lost its true spiritual meaning. I may have attained a personal triumph for completing the rituals but the economic, environmental and human cost is staggering. I lament the speed of change that is sweeping this city, obliterating history and heritage in its path.

Hajj is a spiritual journey of each and every pilgrim that merges into the journey of the masses. It is the coming together of every nation that makes hajj so special. It is personal yet collective. I came here with a clear focus: to centre God in my life. I would make a pledge to live a more conscientious life. I would care for my fellow human beings as I care for myself. Hajj is about an individual and collective renewal of the faith.

But when I look around I see the concrete jungle dominating the skyline and imposing itself over the house of God – the Ka’bah – and I feel betrayed by the custodians of the holy sites. If I want to see skyscrapers I can take a quick trip to the Docklands in London. I did not come here to be shown another city of tall buildings, just like Las Vegas or New York. In these places I find no spirituality. I am pretty certain God does not want his holy site to be desecrated in this fashion either.

The cost of hajj has trebled over the last five years, making the pilgrimage unaffordable for ordinary people. The new high-rise five-star hotels surrounding the Ka’bah are available to those who can afford them. I noticed this year that hajj has already become a ritual for the super rich. The poorer people are being priced out by the unfair and disproportionate price hike. The essence of hajj lies in creating equality between all people by putting on two unstitched white pieces of cloth. This instantly eliminates social and economic inequality. The current trend is making equality a distant dream. I came to hajj to give up material pursuits but materialism is here in full force. There is no spirituality in this.

Hajj for me is an invitation from God to visit his house. The infrastructure around the house of God is being built without any serious environmental consideration. Cars, gas-guzzling jeeps and diesel-operated buses are crowding the surrounding area. Making Mecca car-free should be at the forefront of public transport infrastructure strategy. People spend a lot of time stuck in the traffic jams; I spent half of my time waiting for my bus to take me to the holy site. I would have rather spent that time in the house of God in meditation, reflection and prayers. I found no spirituality in traffic jams.

In Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, the three most important places that form the pilgrim path, there are more plastic bottles, wraps and bags strewn around than many cities produce in a year. The curse of plastic has serious ecological consequences that will outlive all the pilgrims here in Mecca. The environmental damage caused by people littering these sites is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Islam. There are billboard messages reminding pilgrims that “Cleanliness is part of faith”, yet most simply ignore these words of wisdom. The hajj authority must takes serious steps to curb littering by introducing hefty fines for pilgrims and tour operators. They should ban plastic. Pilgrimage is about reconnecting with our humble origins and our ultimate destination. Being careless about the environment is the antithesis of spirituality.

At this rate, hajj soon will become a materialistic ritual, a showground for the super rich to display their wealth and nobility. I badly miss the hajj that reconnects me with the prophet Abraham and helps me to centre God in my life.

Writer Ajmal Masroor provides consultancy and support to media and various government agencies on Muslim issues. He is a broadcaster and regular contributor on national radio and TV programmes, and presents his own programme on the Islam Channel and Channel S.
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Try this incredible interactive four BILLION pixel image of Everest


Mount Everest is the Earth’s highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres above sea level.
In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. Waugh named the mountain after his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest.
It has become a mecca for climbers, and has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the north ridge from Tibet.
The southeast ridge is technically easier and was the route used by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 when they reached the summit for the first time.
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THIS INCREDIBLE INTERACTIVE FOUR BILLION PIXEL IMAGE OF EVEREST LETS YOU ZOOM IN AS IF YOU WERE ACTUALLY THERE ON THE MOUNTAIN 

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  • Astonishing image was created from 477 photographs stitched together

  • Created by filmmaker David Breashears and nonprofit organisation GlacierWorks to highlight the effect of climate change on the area

  • Team also produced stunning ‘then and now’ pictures to show the effect climate change on the area since 1921

  • Working with Microsoft on even more detailed version

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by Mark Prigg

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It is an astonishing image that shows the beauty and majesty of the Himalaya region.

A climber and filmmaker has created the stunning mosaic of images to show the effect of climate change on the the area surrounding Mount Everest.

The 477 individual images that make up the gigapixel image of the Khumbu glacier were captured by David Breashears during the spring of 2012, from the Pumori viewpoint near Mount Everest. 

To view the interactive gigapixel photo, click through to the Glacier Works website.

(more…)

Palm Culture


What is this loony fixation we display more and more where palm/date trees are concerned? We can’t seem to get our fill of plonking them wherever we can. We are a funny lot indeed. First we pull down whatever we can and then we bulldoze whatever we can’t pull down.
We build then yet another monstrosity of steel and cement and replicate it. Then we uproot everything around the new ugly one and throw in more steel and cement. When we are done, that is if we are ever done, having gotten rid of thousands of trees that stood for years, we next haul in (God knows from where), the flavour of the decade – date palms without dates.
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IMPLANTING DESERT CULTURE IN THE STREETS OF LAHORE

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by Masood Hasan

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What is this loony fixation we display more and more where palm/date trees are concerned? We can’t seem to get our fill of plonking them wherever we can. We are a funny lot indeed. First we pull down whatever we can and then we bulldoze whatever we can’t pull down.

We build then yet another monstrosity of steel and cement and replicate it. Then we uproot everything around the new ugly one and throw in more steel and cement. When we are done, that is if we are ever done, having gotten rid of thousands of trees that stood for years, we next haul in (God knows from where), the flavour of the decade – date palms without dates.
These are then burrowed into the soil where they stand for weeks – dry, dusty, ugly and apologetic. Some don’t make it; some do, after a straggly start to life, but what comes up is a tree that has nothing going for it.

It is not a particularly beautiful tree. In fact it is as good looking as say the actor Ernest Borgnine was if compared to Clark Gable. It is a spindly, spiky tree with all kinds of warts and protuberances sticking out. Not the kind of tree you can lean against and sing a song or two about lost love. Then it also offers no shade whatsoever.

Since it is most often planted near roads, what kind of a tree is it that cannot provide shade to anyone wishing to cool off for a few minutes? Stand under a palm tree and all you will get is what a good working sauna will deliver on any given day. For thousands of years we planted yew trees, built guest rooms and stables for horses complete with ponds where all could rest. What happened to that culture?

What good is the date tree? Even the fruit, the best part of the tree, is simply not present in the variety we have. What it offers as ‘dates’ are anything but. In any event what is the great idea behind planting these trees near roads and intersections, be they in cities or on the highways? These places are not exactly orchards, are they? And even if the variety we are planting like crazy does bear fruit, what are the authorities thinking of?

Will people rushing from one city to another suddenly see a date tree and slam on their brakes, shimmy up the nearest tree like brainless monkeys and stuff the fruit into their mouths? Hardly.

Perhaps the only few things going for this pimply tree are that it does not require much water. Neither, it seems, would most remote parts of Pakistan and the entire province of Balochistan. So what are we going to do about that? Plant the Baloch into the rocky, unfriendly and sandy soil and watch them boil? Who knows what Herr Malik is thinking these days? When he doesn’t utter a goofy one for 24 hours, I start to get edgy. What’s The Brain thinking? Banning buffaloes and ice lollies? The other reason – and this is stretching things as far as they would go – is that it would please their exalted highnesses from the sandy lands of yon, who will see a warped and sullen looking date tree and go cuckoo. But they have these by the zillions in their backyards so why in heaven’s name would they come here and faint with excitement seeing the dumb tree? It is like bringing an Eskimo from Greenland to show him three inches of a snow pile and expect him to collapse with heaving chest and cries of pleasure.

The thing is that, if I am not wrong, these trees started their social life in Lahore when Gulberg’s Main Boulevard got a face lift and up came the dateless trees. In those days, and later when Islamabad got the ‘date-tree infection,’ it was rumoured that these had been imported from Brunei, had cost an arm and a leg – ours that is, not the tree’s – and in the process had made many people very happy and very rich. The ‘leaders’, blind as bats can be, beamed at their latest folly and smacked their lips with delight. If they did a little jig around the ruddy tree, I at least have no way of knowing unless I can get Herr Malik to share a few inside details but then what chance is there to pounce on a man who is so busy saving the world that he hasn’t had a decent shampoo in weeks for his spectacular afro cut. Eat your heart out Lionel Richie. You are a poor second to Herr Malik.

As for the expensive import of these trees, Lord Lashari, is the one who springs to mind. Held in great esteem as some modern day prophet of landscaping, it was widely believed that he was the one who inflicted the uninspiring date trees on us.

The thing is that Arabs may swoon at the sight of these creatures from outer space, but we are not Arabs and in spite of our best effort, still don’t have enough sand. However, if the holding on to the knot of Allah’s rope via the Bedouin Brothers is the going thing, then the date trees are our bestest friends and need to be hugged at all hours of the day.

Seeing that the idea of modern art in public places comprises largely of ‘kulfi’ ice cream cones in various flavours – go to any smog-infested city of the republic and sooner than later, up pops the ‘kulfi’, a sight for sore eyes. If it is not that, we have hopelessly made replicas in fibreglass (I ask you!) of that great explosion in Balochistan where we blew into smithereens a miserable-looking dry-as-dust hill and proclaimed to a waiting world that we had indeed arrived on the nuclear stage. This monument of our five seconds of glory is visible to anyone who is not suffering from advanced cataract. Maybe fibreglass date trees are the next art forms that will shake the globe.


Lashari decorated the La
hore Main Boulevard and, because you can never keep a good man down, he next rose in the once-pristine valley of Islamabad replete with leafy plants and natural springs. And hey presto, we had date trees. As it turned out, Islamabad was never the same again.

The arrival of the date trees was also a kind of opening salvo of unfettered construction.

Tree cutting being a national pastime – the Punjab government has struck down thousands of trees in full bloom – the same philosophy soon found its way into Islamabad. The springs died, green open areas turned to garbage dumps, the burger syndrome stuck the people in the midriff section and Islamabad was raped. Average temperatures between the two cities are now marginally different and smog hangs over the capital like a Supreme Court edict.

The irony is that, while it might rain in Lahore, Islamabad has little luck. How things change!

And while this won’t cut any ice, large-scale deforestation and degradation of natural forests have put our country’s forestation area somewhere at about three percent as opposed to the global standard of 25 percent. Maybe the date palms are the forerunners of the desert culture that will overtake Pakistan sooner than we all think.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com
Related articles:
1. Trees and Us 2. Lahoris don’t care about their trees 3. Trees and Us

 YOUR COMMENT IS IMPORTANT

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR COMMENT

Wonders of Pakistan supports freedom of expression and this commitment extends to our readers as well. Constraints however, apply in case of a violation of WoP Comments Policy. We also moderate hate speech, libel and gratuitous insults.
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.