‘This Will Kill That’
“Ceci tuera cela” (this will kill that), were the enigmatic words of the archdeacon Claude Frollo in Victor Hugo’s “Notre-Dame de Paris”. At this particular instance in the novel, Hugo in his signature way takes a usual break from the flow of the story and deliberates upon the words uttered by Frollo as he shifts his glance from a book in his hand towards the cathedral towers of Notre-Dame. Hugo presents these words to us as a priestly premonition that human thought was to change its form and more so, its mode of expression. That the paper posted a direct threat to the edifice and that the press was about to obsolete the architecture. Fast forward it to a hundred years and the same is the predicament faced by the paper against the e-revolution. Human expression has further transformed, significantly over the past five decades and is ever-changing as of now. The virtual milieu and the cloud era have obsoleted the durability of the medium of paper.
Tehkal Christian Cemetery at Peshawar, bears witness to the puzzling phrase of Claude Frollo… it bears witness to the hostility of human expression across the sands of time onto something that once was a durable scripture. Through the mutation of human thought over the years, dear reader, this has killed something in Gora Qabristan Peshawar.
Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, the North-West frontier of Pakistan, is a region of legendary romance on the pages of history, a significant chapter of which are the days of the Sub-Continent under British Raj. Nothing stood as a formidable obstacle to the British, but the borders of this volatile stretch of land that was administered by Gora Saab through a mix of political and military structures. This, dear reader, is altogether a different discussion that merits deliberation through the available literature that is both rich and interestingly diverse in content and genre (while on the subject; one of my favorites is The Frontier Scouts by Charles Chenvix Trench). Coming back to the main course; my stroll at the Tehkal Christian Cemetery was inspired by the urge to claim my share from the aura of Victorian romance at Peshawar. The antiquity of the structure was represented through scattered patches of graves some partially damaged and the others altogether vanished from the surface. Pardon me the cynicism, if I say that the cemetery resembled a clutter of historic references with some vital information missing. Whatever remained on ground is very dearly guarded by what is now the third generation of the family that took on the job of undertakers at the cemetery. Faqir Khan, with a traditional Pashtun warmth, was my host at the place. I was afforded the full support in taking a detailed walk, part of which was sort of tour guided.
The pictures presented below are not an effort to deliver history in some chronological order, but a random snapshot of what exists of a very rich past that needs to be protected and restored as an archaeological heritage of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Through these snapshots, I cam across this reference to a bloody Umbeyla Expedition against Sitana Tribes; a mention of the Jamrud-Torkham Railway Track initially laid in 1905 along the course of the River Kabul and later dismantled; a testimonial to the early 20th century Peshawar Vale Hunt. There are these footprints left by some pioneer regiments of The British Army; The South Wales Borderers, Cameron Highlanders, The Black Watch, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Northumberland Fusiliers, Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Air Force and more. Lay buried among the soldiers are their kin and others and those quite prominent ones in the Indian Civil Service during their time …
Update: Apr 17, 2014
Last week I was at Peshawar and my intention to further explore the Loi Shilman Railway Project was a pre-meditated one. For the record, this was an old railway track from Jamrud being laid for Torkham through Loi Shilman valley but later dismantled in the early years of Twentieth Century. What I could spare at best was a hurried visit to Jamrud Railway Station (around 20 kms from Peshawar). It was touch and go, but I did spare time to interact with a Railway Veteran there. The gentleman had no clue about the Railway Line, I was talking about. I do believe that the old track through Loi Shilman was laid ahead of Jamrud towards Warsak and there might exist on ground some traces / remnants of the long dismantled Railroad. My schedule spared me just enough time to take some snaps at Jamrud Station and I had to postpone the Loi Shilman exploration to the possibility of a subsequent visit…