The South Asian Life & Times - SALT   
 Summer 2015          



 Summer 2015


 Editor's Note

 Maharaja Duleep

 Nizamuddin Revived

 Nizamuddin Basti

 Sunder Nursery

 Humayun's Tomb

 Nizamuddin Dargah

 Gautam Gambhir

 Kangchenjunga - 60
 Years of 1st Ascent

 Darjeeling & Beyond

 Visual Arts
 India Thru the Lens
 Goa Photo Festival


 Book Reviews
 Balochistan at

 Crafts Atlas of India

 Himalayan Cities

 Kaavad Traditions of

 Indian Troops in

 Rajasthan - exploring
 painted Shekhawati











   about us              back-issues           contact us         search             data bank


  craft shop

print gallery


At a Crossroads

Authors: Willem Marx and Marc Wattrelot
Hardcover; 140pp
Illustrated Black & White photos
Niyogi Books, 2014
₹2495 / £50 / $95

Balochistan At a Crossroads is a powerful blend of eloquent narrative and compelling images. The book is both a travelogue and an adventure story with spectacular black-and-white images that capture the spirit of Balochistan. Marx and Wattrelot offer a rare insight into an area of which little is known and one that has become one of the most dangerous on earth - one has escaped attention all these years.

Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan – with only 5% of its population is blessed with great reserves of natural resources – natural gas (supplies to most of Pakistan’s needs), iron ore, and mineral wealth. But it is also a known drug trafficking route, and a land of insurgency, where hundreds of people have disappeared. The Baloch story has had very little international coverage - because it is a difficult and dangerous place to report from. Willem Marx (a journalist) and Marc Wattrelot (a photographer), are perhaps the two rare journalists who managed to travel extensively within the province, at times having to encounter the wrath of government authorities.

Balochistan, despite its natural wealth, has remained a poor province with the worst literacy and health statistics in the country. This has led to alienation of the Baloch people who feel “increasingly distant from the central government.” There have been several insurgencies in the past, led primarily by BLA – Baloch Liberation Army. In the past their targets were army establishments but of late they have been attacking civilians – the recent attacks on a train and on Hazaras received very negative press. The Baloch, as an ethnic group, are spread over three countries – Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

The book is an account of their travel in the province - along the stunning Makran coast, to the port of Gwadar, to the ship-breaking centre at Gadani,  to the fishing villages,  to the tribal fiefdoms of the desert – and driving on the new highway considered the “bright new hope of the region.”  Gwadar port city, people were told, would be made Dubai like – a city rising from the sands. The authors saw a ship or two – and that was all. The Chinese built Gwadar, Singaporeans run it - despite the heavy investment, it remains a white elephant.  

The locals, happy to see them, invited them to their homes, and extended their legendary hospitality, shared whatever food they had. They stayed with local people, not in hotels in order to avoid intelligence agencies. They relate their chance meetings and conversations with struggling fishermen, young activists, regular folk, and government agents to walk the reader through the region's political, ethnic and economic history, which explains the present-day conflict. “So much in Balochistan is reminiscent of a fascinating past, but it is when you meet the people here — few though they are amid the vast majesty of the landscape — that you realize it is the future to which they are all looking, often with trepidation.”

The land, according to the authors, is blessed with unparalleled and striking landscape but there is nobody to view it or enjoy it - “possessed of more than five hundred miles of beautiful coastline, with mangrove swamps, dolphin reserves, golden sands and sheer limestone cliffs among its fabled attractions.” Quetta is a beautiful city ringed by mountains.

The book is a brilliant piece of journalism and photo-journalism.


About the authors

Willem Marx, grew up in the UK, studied Classics at Oxford University before graduating from New York University with an MA in Journalism. He has reported from more than 40 countries and has been published by Harpers Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. He is currently a correspondent for Bloomberg TV, based in New York, having previously worked as a television journalist for ABC News, Al Jazeera and CBS News. As a child, he had lived in Karachi.


Marc Wattrelot grew up in Paris, France, where he attended the Sorbonne University and Sciences Po Toulose. There he studied Geography, Political Science, and Journalism. His photographic work in Balochistan won the Anthropographia Honorary mention and has been exhibited internationally. He was previously based in New Delhi, where he worked as a journalist for several French television channels. He is currently based in Beirut with his family and works as a documentary filmmaker in the Arab world.


Read the entire article in the print edition of The South Asian Life & Times



Copyright © 2000 - 2015 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.