Stories about heritage

Preserving Takht-i-Bahi: why the old and the new must walk hand in hand

Before arriving at the historic ruins of Takht-i-Bahi (also called Takh’ Bahi), a former Buddhist monastic complex and an Indo-Parthian archaeological site, one passes through its namesake village. A narrow and fractured two-way road snakes through, with shops on either side, offering consumer and plastic goods. Quite unfortunately, there are no hints or traces of the village’s shared history, pride or even association to the neighbouring site’s religious, historic and cultural significance. Instead, open drains, unregulated parking, hanging wires, peeled paint strips and half-torn posters on buildings are a common sight that greet visitors. Photo: Tayeba ...

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Pakistan is not ready for a tourist influx

They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. Pakistan is in an economic crunch at the moment, and with limited options available to bail itself out, the tourism industry could be the much needed light at the end of the tunnel. The recent surge in travel bloggers visiting Pakistan on sponsored trips shows the eagerness of the current government to refurbish Pakistan’s international image. However, this begs the question, does the government have any concrete plans to support the tourism sector beyond just charging a drone and flying it over the mountains? Like any other industry in the world, ...

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Rawalpindi: A chaotic labyrinth, caught between heritage and heresy

In the post-modern world, the topography of the city has undergone a drastic shift. Rapid urbanisation and growing job opportunities have resulted in many cities in the developing world being swamped by an increasing number of people coming in from the villages and suburbs. In order to accommodate this burgeoning populace, the intrinsic structure of the modern metropolis has had to evolve. Countries such as India and Pakistan have had to grapple with the dual ambitions of wanting to urbanise their cities while also wanting to hold onto their rich architectural heritage. The complex history of a multi-ethnic country ...

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“I was going home after 71 years”: The emotional ‘homecoming’ of an Indian in Pakistan

“I am going home… after 71 years.” I mumbled something along those lines to passengers sitting beside me, while taking a flight from Karachi to Islamabad on Christmas morning. Late in October, a friend of mine who is like an elder brother and a bitter critic of Indian state policies, asked me for my passport. I quickly took some pictures and sent it over to him. A week later, he sent me an affidavit with an invitation to his daughter’s wedding in Karachi that was to be held in late December. And that is how my journey of going home began. It is ...

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Urdu Bazaar: “We have lavish shops for shoes but for books, we can’t even find space on a drain”

Mild sunlight warms the streets tightly packed with books, stalls and rows of parked vehicles. Shops aligned adjacent to each other brim with colourful books meant to appeal to book lovers. The market chaotically mixes the queries of customers and shopkeepers alike. The ancient Urdu Bazaar seems entirely unaffected by the government’s recent anti-encroachment order. Urdu Bazaar is one of the oldest book markets in the subcontinent and almost every Karachi dweller has some sort of memory associated with it. For many, the book market played a pivotal role in their childhood. For some, the market itself was their favourite play area ...

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From Delhi, with regret: How a postcard from India revived painful, unhealed memories of the Partition

From history textbooks and family accounts, we often hear about the intense emotions and trauma felt by those who were forced to leave their homes behind for a new country during the Partition of British India in 1947. These days, it is hard to truly understand those feelings when we are so far removed from the experience itself. But tangible, everyday artefacts from that era – like a simple letter exchanged between separated friends – can suddenly resurrect those devastating and unhealed memories. That’s precisely what happened when my mother was recently looking through old papers in my grandparents’ home in ...

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The stone crushers of Taxila: Are we ready to lose pieces of our history and heritage?

Taxila valley, which lies just beyond the Margalla Hills bordering Islamabad, is a picturesque, rural place with sleepy villages nestled below its green hills. Located less than an hour’s drive from Islamabad, the area is famous for Khanpur Dam and a series of archaeological remains which were declared as world heritage sites by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) back in 1980. Ideally, Taxila should be preserved as a tourist destination steeped in history, but over the years, stone crushers (a machine used to break down large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel or rock dust) have been ...

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Racism overshadowed Ozil in Germany, but at Arsenal, a season of magic awaits

In the summer of 2010, Mesut Ozil burst onto the scene of international football. Already making waves at Werder Bremen, the then 21-year-old playmaker became the fuel for the German machine. His creativity and pace went on to define German football for the next six years, with Ozil being a vital part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning squad. It was also that summer that my obsession began with Ozil. His creativity and pace defined German football but his relentlessness and commitment defined why I fell in love with the sport. The five-time German Player of the Year, who has earned ...

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We all know what divides India and Pakistan, but do you know what unites them?

When it comes to India and Pakistan, one comes across an array of academicians and scholars in western campuses with piles of research on the Kashmir problem, Siachen and Sir Creek. But one hardly comes across any serious initiative to explore what unites India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan are inheritors of a common civilisation and hence we have an ocean of shared heritage in literature, philosophy, music, food, and mysticism. These days, it seems we have completely forgotten the days when we regaled ourselves over the melodies of Noor Jehan, Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali and Ataullah Khan Esakhelvi. Even the days ...

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Bujayote: The future of Pakistan’s musical valley may be bright, but the future of their music is dark

In the extreme north of Pakistan, a small area located in Yasin Valley known as Bujayote, is the home of traditional musicians. According to these artists, this name is associated with one of the very early musicians named ‘Bujaye’, a professional, whose generation pursued this profession. The area is also locally known as “Ustadishoo Deh” which literally means the neighbourhood of the musicians. Yasin Valley is one of the many mountain-locked valleys in the extreme north of Gilgit-Baltistan. The instrumentalists of Yasin perform in a set group of more than three. One of them plays a pair of kettle drums locally called ...

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