Raza Ali Abidi is a Pakistani journalist and broadcaster who is best known for his radio This book is about his bus travel on 'The Grand Trunk Road'. A newspaper columnist describes it this way, "The first was bus travel on the Grand Trunk Road. Raza Ali Abidi (Urdu: رضا علی عابدی ) is a Pakistani journalist and broadcaster who is best known for his radio documentaries on the Raza Ali Abidi's books. Curated collections; Personalised recommendations; 50, E-books collection; Audio and Videos; Single click word meanings; Rekhta Multi-Script dictionary.
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A few more devotees bow before the Quran while swaying back and forth. Women gathered behind the curtain recite holy verses. This mausoleum once lay outside the city of Gujrat. Now, it is right in the middle of the city. As tumult and commotion migrated here from every corner, the city spread far, leaping over farms, fields, pas- tures, dunes, and waterways.
This land is home to many fascinating stories. And some books say that the bones of larger than normal humans were found in the Pabbi Hills. And about those hills, they say they are not really hills, but the ruins of the historical city of Pati Koti, whose tall and beautiful palace Alexander the Great had spotted across the Jhelum River.
And now, lying between the Chenab and Jhelum Rivers, on the edge of the G. Road, that city goes by the name of Gujrat. The bazaar is packed with people, merchants, downloaders, vegetable sellers, pushcarts, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, mosques, mausoleums, and the clinics of old hakeems.
Today, Zamindar College is very quiet. It is summer vacation and students are at home. College professor Ahmed Hussain Quiladari told me an interesting story about the origins of this new Gujrat. But its present population dates back to the time of the Mughal emperor Akbar. I heard that out there, where you can now see the ruins of a fort, there used to be a hill where two communities lived: the Gurjars and the Jaats.
And these two groups used to fight a great deal. Akbar wit- nessed one of their fights while traveling to Kashmir and ordered that a fort be built there. And the fort was built. That was the Hijri year of On this day the Sikh rulers lost the Punjab to the British army in the his- toric battle of Gujrat, and the land from Hugli to Khyber eventually fell under British rule. Professor Ahmed Hussain told me about a re- markable incident when I asked if any of his relatives had fought in the battle of Gujrat.
And I remember listening to him describe those times. That night a strong storm hit Gujrat. It rained yellow water, and, early the next morning, the entire city was covered in yellow.
He made a canal of fresh water that traveled alongside the high bridge. In this region, the British period began in Before the Gujrat battle, the British army bitterly defeated the Sikh Khalsa in Chillian- wala, near the Jhelum River and near the field where they say Alex- ander the Great and King Porus once fought.
Sikhs were so brutally slain that people began calling this region the slaughterhouse. Munshi Amin Chand from Ambala traveled to Chillianwala nearly two years after the battle and found the remains of Sikh soldiers scattered throughout the field. The Sikhs were not able to burn their dead; the British built beautiful graves for their fallen soldiers. I came here because I wanted to find out what happens to monuments after their patrons abandon them.
On my way there, I met Mohammad Abdul Rahim, an old hakeem from Gujrat, and I asked him if he knew who was buried in this tomb. People also believed that if a mother did not fulfill her promise of giving away her first born to the shrine, then all her succeeding children would suffer similar malfor- mations.
A mosque and tomb were built here. Hundreds of kilos of flour were baked every day. More than a hundred fakirs and poor people were fed during the day and also at night. But now the trust does not provide for anybody. Now fakirs have to beg in bazaars. Outside the mausoleum, I found eight or ten graves made of pink plaster. At some point, they must have had crosses and angels, but now these graves are completely run down.
The names of English colonels and generals had almost entirely faded off.
Out of the blue, I met a man who had answers to all my questions. Fazal Hussain has been the caretaker of this mausoleum for nearly forty years. I suppose we can say Fazal Hussain is just a simple villager, but what he told me was certainly worth hearing. The Eng- lish and the Sikhs fought a battle in Chillianwala. My relatives told me that after this battle the Sikhs fled here and hid in the homes of carpenters.
The British followed them and threatened to kill anybody with a hair bun. So, Sikhs started cutting off their hair. Some Sikhs hid in the mausoleum. But when the English saw them, they started fir- ing.
They fired for one or two hours. All the officers that fired died. Speaking on how the idea of the book came about, Mr Abidi said in , while working for the BBC, he presented a proposal to his bosses that the relatively less known books written by 19th century Indian authors which could be found in the India Office Library should be discussed in a programme.
They gave him the green signal for 14 weeks. Once the show, Kutub Khana, went on air, it received a wonderful response in terms of fan-mail and the programme was given an extension — it ran for weeks. A few years ago, he Mr Abidi decided to collect the scripts of the show, which he had gathered in four files, and began compiling them.
As a result, Kitabein Apne Aaba Ki saw the light of day. Mr Abidi said when he first joined the BBC he was taught to love his voice. Thirty years on he realised it was his listeners that he should love. He is also a music enthusiast and collector of rare gramophone records and has written a book about Indian film song lyricists.
Saad Publications, In Peshawar, for example, he speaks with celebrated truck artists who display their artistic skills on the trucks and public buses that parade the streets of Paki- stan. In a village in Punjab, he speaks to an aged cemetery caretaker about British graves and about the Anglo-Sikh wars. As he travels on this old road, Abdi recounts the histo- ry of the region and its people, shifting effortlessly between Fig.
The program maintains a positive tone, but Abdi by no means ide- alizes the places he visits or the people he meets. He addresses the difficult problems that plague the region, not with exasperation or indignation, as some English-language travel writers have done, but with genuine concern, compassion, and sincerity. For example, he talks about the influx of Russian arms in Peshawar and the ways it has marred the region, and he interviews a young boy who works in a mechanic shop in Kanpur and cannot afford to attend school.
The opening chapter serves as an introduction to the program, and is a bit more scholarly than the remaining episodes. The episode opens and closes with the melodious singing of an old man sitting outside a shrine who longs to visit the city of Medina. We can place Jernali Sarak in the genre of safarnama or travel writing as Abdi undeniably contributes to the rich tradition of writ- ing about travel in Urdu.
This tradition dates back to the nineteenth century, but the twentieth century marked the beginning of the boom, with outstanding writers such as Ibn-i Insha and Mustansar Hussain Tarar. A skilled broad- caster and music enthusiast, he has a special sensibility to sound, and as he makes his way across the subcontinent, he introduces the lis- tener to the sounds of the places he visits and to the voices of their inhabitants.
Sang-e-Mil Publications, I would like to thank Raza Ali Abdi and Timsal Masud for their many insightful comments on this translation and Daniel Maj- chrowicz for sharing his knowledge about safarnama with me.
There they were — the towering minarets of the Mughal and Durrani mosques shimmering like gold under the fresh, early morning sunlight. I was looking for the place where the Grand Trunk Road began.
And in front of that building, by the edge of the street, I spotted a milestone lying face down, as if somebody had pushed it down to make a bridge over an open drain line. I quickly moved close to the milestone and bent down to take a good look.
The engraving of this centuries-old stone had faded completely, but I could make out a big circle, and it seemed as if the stone was staring at me with an astonished, wide-open mouth. An auto-rickshaw driver saw me bending down and stopped by my side. I readjusted my bag over my shoulder, and asked him: It passes through Peshawar, rides alongside the Kabul River, and crosses the Sindh River to reach Hassanabdal, which they say used to be the most beautiful rest-stop between Kabul and Delhi.
The road then takes a hard, reproving glance at the desolate ruins of the once magnificent city of Taxila and heads towards the Margala mountain pass, through which countless caravans and armies have made their way into India across the Hindu Kush mountain range, and have once again returned — through this very path — bearing stolen treasures. It cud- dles up to Lahore, the city of the brave, says farewell to Pakistan, and makes its way into Amritsar.
The Grand Trunk Road journeys through Jalandhar and Ludhiana, crosses boundless green fields and crystal blue rivers, and, before reaching Ambala, bows down in respect before the atrium of North India and journeys toward Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, and then Delhi. From here, the British-built road travels to Aligharh and Etah, and then, keen to meet the Ganga River, it heads to Kannauj. It arrives in Benares and, after drinking water from every ghat,4 this now well-traveled and wise road enters Bihar and reaches Sahas- ram.
The road leaves behind factories and mines as it exits Dhanbad and Asansol. Before I began my journey on this age-old road, I met Dr. Ahmed Hassan Daani, an expert on this topic, in the very modern city of Is- lamabad. I asked him why the Grand Trunk Road was constructed, whether it was built to fight invaders and protect Hindustan. Sher Shah was a Pathan, and he recruited soldiers from his own region. So, he needed a road to travel there. Ashok built a road system.
And so did the Kushan dynasty; and most Indian goods journeyed west through this land route. Daani concluded. Daani also explained to me that during those times sea jour- neys were not common.
People traveled to India from Central Asia and Iran and vice versa by land. Some journeyed on elephants and horses. Many walked. Travelers needed food, water, and lodging.
So, wells, bawliyan,5 guesthouses, and mosques were built along the G. Guesthouses not only provided lodging for travelers, but also served as trading centers, where travelers settled big business deals and made important transactions. Sher Shah constructed the G. Raadhey Shyam, a history professor from Allahabad Univer- sity, shed light on several important issues. He explained why rulers constructed roads and talked about what happened in the guesthous- es, pilgrimage sites, and mosques along these roads.
I first asked Dr. Shyam if Sher Shah built the G. Road so as to cross locations that had already been developed or if those locations developed because of the G. Since ancient times, rulers have tried to cover the entire country with roads. In my understanding, during the Sultanate period roads began to penetrate the interior, connecting towns and villages.
In this manner, imperial control could reach villages and rulers could extract revenue. Building roads be- came a priority whenever an administration wanted to tighten control. Shyam also explained to me that during this time, guest- houses were extremely important.
Travelers stayed there and talked about where they were coming from, where they were going, and for what purpose they were traveling. That information would eventually reach the king. There also were shrines and pilgrimage sites on the side of the road frequented by travelers, who shared all types of infor- mation. In this way, not only news about the country, but also news from distant lands reached rulers.
And sometimes this information helped rulers crush rebellions and stop invasions.