Friday, July 25, 2008

camp life

i guess i haven't mentioned all the dance, music, laughter and silliness that was the hall mark of our walks to and in camp.
every morning wed start fresh and energized after a solid breakfast of oatmeal or corn flakes, garlic omelet and chapatti, paratha and honey, or pancakes and blueberry jam, all washed down with milk tea.
a few men had transistor radios, Imran was one of them . slung across his chest it either made for some great Indian oldies from radio Srinagar or some annoying static also from radio Srinagar! on our walk into Arbab Purin he tuned it to a Chinese station and slung it across my chest for a listen to mandarin in the Karakorum's. between static and not enough listening skills, two words in every sentence is all i could make out - made me feel great though - less guilt about not bringing some books along for practice. though i did carry a small note book of characters id written over these two semesters - never once got to open it and actually refresh my memory.
another time he tuned into a Farsi station for my listening pleasure! if it wasn't the sometimes muffled sometimes clear radio music, it was me singing my hand full of telephone book songs, or the men singing their cornucopia of Indian, wakhi and farsi songs - all in all my batteries would die down mid way to wherever we were headed. then id perk up as wed come closer to the campsite - i think just the excitement of knowing it was coming to a temporary end brought a fresh burst of energy with it. our men ofcourse had energy all the way - no one ever tired of talking or singing.
we were so different in our walking styles - they never walked in silence - there was always a conversation or singing. their language is soft sounding with many 'sh' sounds to it, at times it almost sounded like they were whispering something to each other. wed talk to each other and to our men, but they'd also be long silent hours behind, or in front of one or the other of them.
we needed quiet - they needed company - we needed privacy - nothing was private for them - we retreated into our shells and 'private spaces', reading our books and writing our diaries - they shared every thing, from thoughts, skills, time and most importantly cheerful dispositions, to physical presence. humor and lightheartedness always present.
no matter how long a day, they made time for a nightly rollicking after dinner game of cards . wed laugh and be silly over the simplest of these card games. a particular favourite was 'bullshit' - everyone knew it well. much good cheer always came from these 'bullshit' sessions that went on for a few hours every night. it was a new game for imran, he'd learnt it quickly and well, and would usually come out ahead.
i was always providing back ground music for the evenings entertainment, which the ever present chorus would jump into. Kamila would join the games on occasion - but mostly wed both look over whoever's shoulder wed be sitting next to, and fall into the melee of cheating, noise and laughter -
all this would ensue huddled together under various sleeping bags in the middle of the kitchen tent - we were meant to use the fancy mess tent - but probably did that no more than twice or thrice through our entire two week trek. the three kids would go straight to the kitchen tent, either helping, or learning to cook or just keeping the two cooks company - so ofcourse Kamila and i had no desire to sit by ourselves in the formal mess tent. wed all pile into a space meant for two or three people, instead packed tight with 9 or 10 people, all laughing, talking, singing while the meals were cooked and the constant tea was served.
no one was ever bothered by the clutter, the mess, the tight squeeze, the nose blowing (every ones dry as chalk noses) the constant "close the tent flap" shouts the instant someone came in or out, or nargis' nightly salt rub massage, foot stretched out for Gul to massage, wrap her ankle and bandage her toes.
don't know how the two cooks - khusdil (didil) or ali shaw managed to whip up delicious meal after meal with all of us sitting practically on their heads! they were never fazed by our not so subtle, over bearing, demanding, in your face American ways - or the Ali Gesque humor that nadir is so good at or the flow of American vernacular that they barely understood, or nargis' attempts at urdu - 'sharaab hai' for 'kharab hai' ----- i could go on endlessly. it was just pure unadulterated fun that no one was in a hurry to end.

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