“…One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions.”
In his book, Jamil Ahmad was able to write down various stories and traditions of the different tribes living in the area close to the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. The chapters are just loosely connected, but with this variety in personalities and locations he is able to give us a more complete view of the different tribes and its customs, laws and lifestyles. The daily life of the nomads and communities are in general completely foreign for those who life in the Western world but reading this book we are able to understand the life in this area better. Which is a relief, since normally the border area is known better for the terrorists who are supposedly hiding there than for their original inhabitants.
The wandering falcon is the character who holds the book together. The falcon, also known as Tor Baz, appears and disappears in most parts of the book. And although it’s not the main character, it’s the one that keeps with you… Tor Baz is the son of a young couple who fled their tribe to escape punishments for breaking the tribal law. They managed to survive a few years with the help of some soldiers, but the tribe found them in the end and sentenced them to death. Tor Baz survives though. He becomes a character who wanders around in the border area with different tribes, travels over mountains and the plains, and lives both in towns and tents of the tribal people. He appears to belong nowhere and everywhere, and with his help we get a broader perspective of the situation on different levels of the society. The Afghanistan/Pakistan border: a place where traditions have lasted for centuries; a world full of extremes (both in culture and geography).
Although the writing style is simple and the chapters don’t really connect, I believe that Ahmad was able to let us into a world foreign to most of us in the Western world. He was able to give us a beautiful portrait of the life as it was in those remote lands. Must read if you are interested in the area and want an idea of who are the tribes and how they really live.