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Revisiting Abbottabad

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Located north of Islamabad, Abbottabad town is surrounded by lofty peaks and pine scented air. Among Pakistan's towns and cities, Abbottabad -- small, neat and clean in a spacious valley -- is a rarity. Apart from being famous for its educational institutions and Pakistan Military Academy, Abbottabad also serves as the gateway to some most stunning sites in Pakistan. While other hill stations are deserted during winter this place has visitors due to its bracing weather all year around. The town has beautiful gardens and tall, tree lined roads: splendid stretches of turf with plenty of room for polo, football, hockey and golf.

At 1,250 meters above sea level, Abbottabad lies below the lush pines of the Murree Hills. The importance of the town has been diminished a little after the completion of Karakorum highways because, in the past, the only track available to reach Karakorum was through Babusar pass, which could only be approached through Abbottabad. In spite of this development, it continues to be a transit town for those who want to venture to northern areas of Pakistan. Abbottabad is the junction point from where one can go to places like Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Indus Kohistan of the Karakorum Range. One can also reach Swat, Dir and Chitral of the Hindukush Range or can approach to Naran, Lake Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum, Lipa and Jhelum Valleys are also connected through Abbottabad. It is where the hills start.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, June 28, 2016, , links to this post

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

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While most of my friends were having a great weekend, I was taking a trip to explore the lush green plains of Punjab, riding my trusted old motorbike on Band Patri (track along the bank) of Lower Bari Doab Canal (LBDC). Many new and interesting things came in the way, which normally remain hidden from commuters on the National Highway or travellers in the area. The countryside embraces you with lovely colours, atmosphere, people and bits and pieces of history. And, there is no hassle anywhere in the way.

As spring approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, ride 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.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, June 22, 2016, , links to this post

Mai Bismillah

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I believe in “mothers” as an instruction. They are always there for granted. I had to say fare well to another great mother on Saturday, June 18, 2011. I feel the pain, sadness and void within on two accounts; one she was my mother in law and second she was a great person – an anjuman in herself.

I will always remember her for many things. Best one that I liked is that she would say Bismillah with almost each sentence in her conversation. Starting everything with the name of Allah had visible effect on her persona and I could see blessing of Allah almighty in her worldly affairs. Anyone could see that. Due to this I very fondly used to call her Mai Bismillah.

Another of her distinct trait was her generous hospitality. She was very hospitable. Anyone going to her house (and many people used to go to her house) would have food or whatever was suitable and possible at the time. She would go a long way to make sure that any guest has food before leaving. And this act too brought in more blessing in her life.

Looking back, I can say that what she did for her off springs and what she accomplished would not have been possible without uncounted blessings of Allah almighty.

You were a great mother and great person Mai Bismillah. I will miss you for ever. May your soul rest in eternal peace.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, June 18, 2016, , links to this post

Sailboat in sea without wind

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, June 09, 2016, , links to this post

Chill out at Chillas

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In northern Pakistan, Chilas - a small town - was once an important crossroads on the ancient trading route taken by travellers like Marco Polo. A jeep track leads from Chilas over the Babusar Pass to the Kaghan Valley. Until the opening of Karakorum Highway (KKH) this track was the main route to the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Going still is tough on the route that is passable only in the summers. We decided to take this track when I took the trip in May with my comrades, which started from Shinkiari.

Before leaving Chilas, visit to the famous inscriptions on the rocks is a must. Ancient inscriptions around Chilas date back in a period around first century BC. The most interesting thematic inscriptions are itched onto the faces of rocks between the KKH and the Indus River below Chilas town. One of the most interesting rock drawings we saw depicts two figures dressed in robes -- presumably Buddhist monks -- approaching a stupa in order to worship. The larger figure with a shaven head is carrying some sort of offering. The stupa to which theoffering is being made consists of a rectangular foundation with a ladder leading up to the path for circumambulation, which is surrounded by a railing. The dome of the stupa is decorated with a zigzag line, may be indicating a garland, and is surmounted by a small rectangular shrine and a vertical shaft with three horizontal discs. The architectural and stylistic features of this stupa drawing are similar to those of stupas found in the Swat Valley and other parts of ancient Gandhara in north-western Pakistan. Above the human figure making an offer and to the left of the dome of the stupa is a drawing of a single pillar with a capital (apparently a wild goat or ibex, which is the most common animal in rock drawings in the area) on a rectangular platform.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, June 08, 2016, , links to this post

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

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Commencement address by Steve Jobs a few months ago when he stepped down as the CEO of Apple. As Jobs passed away on October 5, rediff.com brings you his words of advice that are as relevant today as they were in 2005 when he addressed students of the Stanford University.

After going on medical leave that has lasted six months, Steve Jobs has announced that he is stepping down as CEO of Apple.

It is common knowledge that the head honcho of the one of the most valuable companies in the world, who built it up from scratch, is ailing from pancreatic cancer.

There is a lot we can learn from Jobs and not all of it pertains to succeeding in your profession -- he believes you should live life to the fullest, without compromise. Here, we present a prepared text of the commencement address delivered by Jobs on June 12, 2005:

I am honoured to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, May 23, 2016, , links to this post

King's treatment

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I was off line for some day because I had been to my village. In my absence, my urban friends were enjoying their space while I was busy collecting lot of love that is always in store for me when I am there.
Going to my village is like coming home. Every time I go, I have a king’s treatment there when I meet everyone and anyone. One of the good traditions in the village is that ever one around the range of one’s parents’ age is chaha (uncle) or khala or phoopo (aunt). You call them not by name but ny relationship and they respond you accordingly  Lot of real and pure love permeates from these titles and one can feel the warmth. I love this very much and enjoy with pride.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, May 16, 2016, , links to this post

Why everyone blogs and why you too should?

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I have been in bogging for a long time now. In 2007, I wrote a post Why Everyone Blogs and Why You Too Should? I asked readers and fellow bloggers to list their reasons to blog. Some 85 people answered and gave their reasons as to why they blog?

I often go back to the post to find out if those bloggers are still blogging. Sadly there are very few who are still blogging. Rest has faded away.

It is so easy to get lost in excuses when your desire to blog and it is only natural. May be we are programmed not to pursue goals even if we truly believe and we want it. The reasons may be any: fear of failure, other more pressing priorities in life, not enough time. That is why in life you may find usual circle - start something then give up, or you start then stop then start again. Many of us go through this exercise at some poi of time in life. This life cycle is truer in case of blogging. Several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated.

Eve shorter is the life span of bloggers who start a blog for goal of making  money through blogging in hurry. Too soon, they find that it is one of the difficult tasks and abandon their effort. That is why I suggest that have a solid reason to start a blog, research your subject and plan what you want to contribute Making money is even harder than most of us think.

Blogging should be an informed decision. If you don’t have a thorough plan in place then don’t start.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, May 09, 2016, , links to this post

Travel Writing

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Travel writing is a fine art; accepted literary genre that is read. Writers who are gifted with an ability to understand what they see and can breathe life into a place when they narrate their travel experiences. The Internet that is wrongly considered as a pedestal for instantaneous scribbles mixed with emotions and indecipherable abbreviations has already become a place to find some good travel literature, travelogues and travel stories in addition to online trading of travel services. It can be one of the best display places for travel writers to showcase what their countries have to offer.

Travel is prosperity and leisure pursuit, which is a result of many things; history, heritage, culture, natural beauty and a quest to know what is unknown and meet wonderful people.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, May 04, 2016, , links to this post

Malka Hans

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I was posted in Okara when I did this journey in 1999 with my good friend Husain Qazi. Lately this journey came up in Literature Festival Islamabad. Good memories. 

Punjab is a gold mine for history seekers and curious travelers. You may find much more than what you hear or read. It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. What is more, people of the area are eager to help – on their own expense - when you ask anybody. One finds volunteer 'guides' who were forth coming with wealth of information. The distances in the hinterland are short but the landscape is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen by a child.


Given the history and heritage, it is easy to fall in love with ‘out of the way’ town like Malka Hans. Once an abode of Waris Shah, who stayed here and composed universal romance Heer Ranjha, malka hans is still serene, tranquil and pollution free. Legend has it that Malik Muhammad (alia Malka) who was a member of Hans tribe founded the town some 700 years ago. Hans became powerful when Mughal King Alamgir conferred a vast land around Malka Hans on Sheikh Qutab Hans. In 1764, Muhammad Azam who was the descendant of Qutab Hans became head of the clan. Ran Singh Nakka treacherously took Muhammad Azam prisoner where he died in confinement.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, April 27, 2016, , links to this post


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