Alice in Indusland
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Alice Albinia, author of 'Empires of the Indus', gave a talk at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, on Sunday, May 2, 2010. The program was arranged by the Friends of South Asia ( http://friendsofsouthasia.org/), the World Sindhi Congress ( http://www.worldsindhicongress.org/, and the Sindhi Association of North America ( http://www.sanalist.org/).
In her talk Albinia read from the book and explained how while reading Vedic texts she became interested in exploring lands irrigated by the Indus. She started her journey near Karachi where the Indus meets the Arabian Sea and traveled upstream.
River Indus is the primary drainage of the area bounded by the mountains of Baluchistan in the West, the Himalayas in the north-east and the Thar desert in the east—all the rain and snow that falls in this vast area, and does not get absorbed in the ground, drains towards the sea through the Indus. It is not obvious if Alice traversed each tributary of this humongous drainage system, but she did follow the longest run.
Unlike Danube or Mississippi, the Indus flows across contentious borders. Alice had to often terminate her travel at the border in one country, go back to a major city, fly out to the next country and then reach back to the river at the place where she left it in the previous country, only to be on the other side of the border. She traveled through Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, Afghanistan, Indian-occupied-Kashmir, and China to ultimately reach the spring she and several others consider to be the starting point of the Indus, in Tibet.
John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” So, studying the Indus, Alice’s journey quickly becomes a study of civilizations supported by the river, of colonizers who eyed the river as the pathway to unreachable places, of people who exploited the river, and of current beneficiaries of the waters who consider other communities -- invariably the ones living upstream -- as their enemies for polluting the river and in many instances stopping the water from reaching them.
Albinia calls the Indus “the cement of Pakistan’s fractious union.” Many believe otherwise and consider the river (its water) to be the bone of contention.
Complete audio recording of Alice Albinia’s talk is present at: