Saturday, July 20, 2013

From ‘To the Frontier’ by Geoffrey Moorhouse

When the doors of the plane were opened, warmth wafted in; and with it came the familiar first intoxicant of the East, the penetrating odour of aviation fuel and hot earth, with a trace of decay which tantalizes because it can be either animal or vegetable, or a compound of both.

To the Pathans, who have sometimes come here from their mountain fastnesses to the north, Baluchistan is ‘the dump where Allah pitched all the rubbish left over from creation’. The Baluch themselves have regarded it without such contempt, but more wryly. In their homelands, they say, “If you see a cow you have found water, if you see a donkey you have found a camp, if you see a camel you are lost.”

In Pukhtu, the language of the Pathans, the word for the son of your father’s brother is tarboor; which is also the word for your enemy.

……..shops selling nothing but brass and copper utensils …..where a shopkeeper discouraged business by his piety. He was absorbed in the Koran every time I passed him, holding the book in both hands and bobbing his head rhythmically forward in the same religious oblivion that seizes Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

She had bronze hair cascading from a wide-brimmed straw hat which was laden with artificial cherries and other fruits, and she wore the kind of diaphanous dress that needs foundation garments if it is to be respectable.

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