Last week, I finally got myself some travelogues – not that I hadn’t had any, but it’d been a while since I last visited Afghanistan by the eyes of Rory Stewart. I decided to continue that journey but move inside towards Pakistan. Dervla Murphy is my new body (however that sounds) travelling through Islamabad, Pindi, Swat, Gilgit, and now Skardu Baltistan.
Murphy is travelling with her daughter – 6 years old, can you believe that? – during the extreme cold months of December-January (it’s still going on, i think it’ll continue till March). This journey is based in the year 1975 with apparent differences one would notice especially after 9/11. She talks about rather naive people of Gilgit and Skardu – she actually names some as idiot and oaf which is very uncalled for coming from a writer.
However, the book is full of stories, landscape explanations (rather visual), apricots-eating weeks, games of getting kerosene oil to keep warm, filthy state of being unwashed for weeks, thrills and anxiety of travelling with a tiny little child, Fillipo De Fillipi quotes, and well a few buckets of adjectives.
Murphy is travelling the northern plate of Pakistan which boosts a plenty of highest mountains of the world. Those sheer peaks properly presented by Nature with beautiful, transparent lakes, unharmed by little hamlets, and very simple life of locals make for a pretty riveting read.
It’s actually quite exciting and relevant to read this book during the final days of Muharram where Murphy is talking about bloody flagellations witnessed in Skardu. She has painfully described the mourning day when a few thousands of people beat their own chests, cut their scalps and backs with knives and keep on thumping their chests for hours in a below freezing temperature. During those few pages, I felt rather upset due to the fact Murphy was witnessing this with her 6yr old. Travellers have their own ways, perhaps?
I am planning to read Stewart again after I finish Dervla Murphy’s Where the Indus is Young to compare if that one was indeed a better read. It should be noted that Stewart’s journey started post 9/11 which could be a reason it felt more relevant to me. Throughout last 4 days I have been in a nostalgic memory of travelling with Stewart but let’s focus on Murphy, Baltistan and adjectives for now!
More updates once I finish the journey!
*Muharram is a holy month in Islam when the Shiah sect of Muslims mourn the barbaric deaths of Prophet’s grandson Hussain and his followers. This mourning is in the form of rallying but sometimes it gets violent when mourners start injuring themselves. This month is revered and respected by almost all sects of Islam. Read more on Wikipedia.
P.S. Must thank Kitabain.com for delivering some beautiful titles for half the prices!