The malefic saint

The saint, who the driver thought was good, actually posed obstacles in building of a road, betterment of district.


Salman Rashid March 02, 2012

Just one day before the great earthquake of October 2005, I was being driven from Naran to the Babusar Pass. The driver, a talkative chap, treating me as a first-time visitor was regaling me with the glories of his beautiful valley, where the new blacktop road was being laid at top speed.

Ahead of Jalkhad, the new road took a sharp bend away from the hillside. The driver stopped his jeep and, pointing to vein of rock coloured differently from the rest of the hill, drew my attention to the various marks where the engineers had applied explosives to claim the hillside for the road.

The story was that a holy man of God happened to pass by as the engineers were at work. He was told to wait until after the charge was blown up. Incensed, this man of God cursed the engineers and prayed that never should they be able to smash the rock. And sure enough, the rock could not be cleared. And so, while the road until then hugged the contours, it now veered off to the left (as we travelled up) before resuming the alignment a couple of hundred metres on.

I asked the driver if, when the man died and was buried in his valley, he would visit the grave to offer prayers. The answer of course was a resounding ‘yes’. I asked again who was to benefit from the new road. The real beneficiaries of the road, he said, were the people of Kaghan valley who would gain from increased tourism. Then, I reasoned, this saint that he thought was such a good man was actually a demonic fiend throwing up stumbling blocks in the building of the road and, in effect, the betterment of the district.

The man was flabbergasted. The roadwork had begun only some years earlier, the story was widespread and neither he nor anyone in the Kaghan valley had looked at the foolishness logically. I told him there had to be a technical explanation for the curve in the road. It could possibly be that removing that particular vein would destabilise the mountain or something of the sort. Then I laid into him.

What crazed and idiotic people could possibly make saints of malefic demons who turn sweet lakes bitter (Kallar Kahar in the Salt Range), prosperous river valleys barren (Ari Pir in Lasbela district) and arable land fruitless (Deosai Plateau). If there was a true believer in God he would love not only his Maker, but also his fellow man. For such a person, it would be the greatest sin to harm the interest of God’s creatures.

I told the man that it was our own lack of understanding that we translated into the characters of the holy men we created where none existed. For good measure I slathered this supposed holy man with true Lahori abuse for being mean with the good people of Kaghan valley.

Later that evening I was back in Lahore and the next morning the earthquake struck. If the driver survived (I don’t know if he did), he would have been convinced that the holy man had brought down the earthquake for the abuse I piled upon him. Little would it matter that I, culpable of the insult, was safe in Lahore while tens of thousands of innocent people died.

We Pakistanis are an illogical lot. Mind, this is no generalisation. We cannot reason with logic about much that concerns us. This is especially true for the supernatural or the quasi-religious. Our minds are closed.

I think we are like this because of rampant inbreeding. The ‘village idiot’ is no novelty in our villages. In Gilgit-Baltistan and KPK, I have seen villages with a greater than ever share of these special persons. Ditto in the Salt Range and the districts along the Indus River. I admit I have not looked at the inbreeding phenomenon in Sindh and Balochistan.

We are a gifted people to be still getting along rather well, despite the inbreeding. Imagine what we could have achieved without the handicap.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.

COMMENTS (12)

Agnivesh | 9 years ago | Reply

Such an ungrateful community these Muslims! They kill their minority and want Muslims to be protected. They ask for a country and still live in India!!

Deb | 9 years ago | Reply

These malefic saints are not peculiar to Pakistan alone. We in India have a fair share of these crooks as well. I guess it's an offshoot of our oriental (mystic) culture.

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