The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

It's Just Lunch....or IS IT??

Monday, March 28, 2005

This is where I want to go after taking the bar.

So, there’s no harm in planning trips early, right? As far as I can tell, I’ll have a couple months and a lot of money to do whatever the fuck I want. So, this is the best I can do. Call it the Sanjana (historical) reality tour. I’m not sure about side-trips and hiking and stuff like that. This is just the general route. I think it’ll take about 2 months or so. Click on the above map to enlarge it.

Fly to Istanbul, from there fly to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. From Ashgabat go to the historical epicenter of my dad’s people, the ancient Zoroastrian city of Merv (including the neighboring city of Sanjanhere’s the Zoroastrian Diaspora story in a nutshell… also “after the Arab conquest of Iran, the ancestors of the present Indian Parsis took refuge in the mountainous districts of Kohistan in Khorasan for about 100 years. They spent about 15 years in the port city of Hormuzd on the southern coast of Iran, possibly contemplating migration. They finally left Hormuzd by the sea route and landed in India on the island of Div in southern Saurashtra. They stayed in Div for about 19 years, and thereafter, most probably due to the growing threat of an Arab invasion, left Div and settled on the west coast of India, near the place later to be known as Sanjan about 145 kilometers north of Mumbai.”) Merv is also considered by many to be the epicenter of the original Aryan people, the source of Indo-European language similarities. This is, of course, hotly debated. But, the point is the Merv is one of those fascinating places I have to go to. Plus, the family connection is pretty bad ass.

After Merv, head north to the Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, in Uzbekistan. I had to go to these places after reading Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game, a history of the 19th century Russian-English rivalry for Central Asia. Russia actually tried to build a railroad along this route. Bukhara and Smarkand lie between the great Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Both flow out of the Aral Sea, so they may not be there by next year. Next, go to Tashkent and then cross to Kyrgyzstan…which I’m told is the new source for cheap internet cigarettes. I’m crediting the cigarette moguls with last week’s overthrow of the government.

Believe it or not, all of this so far can be done in as little as 11 days. I’m not saying that’s gonna be my pace, I point that out just so you don’t think I’m advocating the impossible.

Anyway, Kyrgyzstan was the original start of my trip, till I realized I had to go to Merve, Bukhara, and Samarkand. Kyrgystan is, by all accounts, friendly and welcoming and has some of the most dramatic scenery in Central Asia. I figure I’ll go to Osh and then Bishkek…then head for the mountain passes. I’m particularly excited to cross into the Western Chinese province of Xianjing via the monumentally high Torugart Pass (its circled on the map). This is one of the main Silk Road mountain pass roads, and was the gateway for many epic migrations since time immemorial. The Torugart Pass leads to Kashgar, the western-most city in China.

From Kashgar I’m going to head south to Pakistan via the epic Karakoram Highway. I circled the mountain pass crossing that the Karakoram Highway goes over. This leads through the heart of the Northern Himalayans and the source of the Indus River to Islamabad. From there I guess I have the option of trying the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan (circled on the map), but that sounds like a bit of risk these days. Instead, I’ll probably take the train to India. I’ve never been to Northern India, and I want to check out Naini Tal (where my dad went to boarding school) and Shimla/Leh, which are supposed to be a great Mountain towns. After that, I’ll head south to Jaipur and Udaipur. I’ll head to my family in Bombay via the Gujarat coastal towns where my ancestors landed after fleeing Iran. They named the towns Sanjan after the families coming from the town of Sanjan in present-day Turkmenistan. My dad’s father’s line is named Sanjana because they were the priests of this original settlement. You can read here about how they kept the sacred fire’s burning even after another batch of Muslims invaded Gujarat. Finally, I head to Bombay and then probably to Goa for a week at the beach.

Anyway, Sanjan in Turkmenistan to Sanjan in India…its coherent at least. Anyone is welcome to come, ESPECIALLY Russian speakers.


At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you left out the part where you stop by the pakistan-afghanistan border and catch osama and bring him to justice

At 9:59 AM, Blogger sujan said...

this is one bad ass trip idea.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger JS said...

CATCH Osama?!...You're forgetting that this is a REVOLUTIONARY blog. DUH!

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I might be down for joining you. I promise I will not speak Russian, chuckle every time I see the spider "zh" symbol sandwiched in between backwards R's and N's, and steadfastly insist that we remain in obviously incorrect bus stations.


At 6:14 PM, Blogger JS said...


That would be bad-ass. I think your ability to at least pronounce words written in cyrilic script will ensure that we don't die. This whole thing reeks of Spies Like Us.

I forgot the best part of Turkmenistan. Its run by a relatively harmless but despotic meglomaniac dictator: Saparmurad Niyazov-

"Since being elected president (unopposed) of this former Soviet republic in central Asia, Niyazov has developed a personality cult that would be comical were it not accompanied by extreme repression. He gave himself the title Turkmenbashi, or “Father of all Turkmen.” His picture is on all Turkmen money, statues of him are everywhere, and his profile always appears in a corner of the TV screen. Niyazov renamed the month of January after himself and September after Rukhnama (Book of the Soul), the work that summarizes his philosophy and is required reading in all schools. He shut down the opera, ballet and circus as being un-Turkmen and closed the Academy of Sciences. In harvest season, rural children are taken from school and forced to work for minimal pay. Last fall, Niyazov announced that he’d survived an assassination attempt, which he used as an excuse to arrest political opponents."

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite possibly one of the most humurous and underappreciated cults of personality in the modern age. Worth the visit if only to see the picture of him in the corner of every TV screen.

I doubt anything on this trip could ensure that we don't die, but that's the beauty of doing it before our student loans kick in.


At 6:31 PM, Blogger JS said...

I'm glad the spirit of the venture is so clear.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, after looking into it a bit more, I can't imagine not being at least mutilated on the trip, if not outright killed.

Every country is a repressive dictatorial regime warring with islamic guerrilla rebels. Sending a couple smart-ass Americans with tribal blood into the mix his kicking it up a notch further than even Emreril would consider prudent.

It takes a twisted mind to turn India into the civilized pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i could be so down to do this trip.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Nuit Blanche said...

Nine months after the post, has the trip materialised yet?


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