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Title: Hunza Dastan – ہنزہ داستان
Author: Mustansar Hussain Tarar
Year of Publication: 2015
Number of Pages: 295
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dissent_travel_literature – June 11, 2019
I borrowed this book from a travel companion when I was travelling with a group to Shimshal. He had brought this book to read during the long journey, but apparently he had lost interest pretty quickly. I was only too eager to take that book off his hand and start reading it myself. While reading the book, I felt as if I was making this journey with an extremely informed and wise companion whose acute observation and compassionate humanism was a welcome invisible presence.
Tarrar sahab made those journeys to the northern areas before the recent boom in tourism and it reflects in his writing. His categorisation of the Karakoram mountains along the Karakoram Highway as “Kalay Pahar” was something that I found to be accurate and relatable. This term often finds its way in my conversation. One becomes aware of the huge physical and aesthetic space around him in the north in which his imagination finds words and worlds that are hidden above and below those kalay pahars. He is not afraid to show his fear, nor shy about documenting an overwhelming emotion of experiencing beauty. This raw honesty is a voice that is always welcomed by those who are travelling and searching.
This travel log wasn’t just a deep contemplation on nature. He documents his experiences of meeting the local people in Hunza. You will find many short stories knitted in the narrative. The book starts with him hearing the name of Hunza for the first time in London, and how that evening ultimately inspired his decision to travel to Hunza, years later. He also narrates the history of the people he encounters, which makes this book a travel guide as well. However, as anyone who reads this book will notice, the Hunza he describes might seem a bit unfamiliar to those who go there now, largely because of massive commercialisation and rampant tourism. One almost envies Tarrar sahab for making these trips while Hunza was not so much crowded or commercialised.
If you are looking for something deeper than mere sightseeing as you go north, Tarrar sahab’s Hunza Dastaan can deepen your experience as a traveller. You might see things that were hidden before in plain sight.
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