The Silk Route expedition traverses 1,500 kilometres in Uzbekistan, taking in its varied landscape, meeting its vibrant people and absorbing its colourful culture and chequered history. Text & photographs by SUDHA MAHALINGAM
AFTER the severe steppes of Kazakhstan and the stark mountains of the Kyrgyz Republic, the India-Central Asia Foundation (ICAF) expedition through Central Asia entered Uzbekistan on the last leg of its journey. This republic came across as a stark contrast to the lands we had crossed so far, not only for its varied landscape, vibrant people, colourful culture and chequered history but also for the thoroughness of the Uzbek immigration and customs officials at the land border. Our luggage was rummaged through meticulously, even our laptops were opened and files scrutinised. The procedure took a long time, but all the while we were entertained by the immigration officials who spotted resemblances to Bollywood stars in the facial features of the three young women in our team.
Professor P.L. Dash of Bombay University, who is currently the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) India Chair at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, the Uzkek capital, had come all the way to the border to receive and accompany the delegation. A new set of vehicles had been arranged to take the team through the next 1,500 kilometres of Uzbek territory. The Cyrillic script gives way to Latin and the Russian language makes way for Uzbek. Yet, all the towns of the Ferghana Valley—Andijon, Ferghana, Rishton, Namangan, Kokand—still bear the unmistakable imprint of Soviet influence, with their broad, tree-lined avenues and clean streets.