Kalash Valley….Bumbaret. 28th April 1992.

Mountainous places. This height appals and fascinates me. The difficulties of living, coupled with the purity of the air and these people attract me in a strange way.

Accepting Shringiree’s invite to live with them was the best thing I could have done. It has given me some real insight into the slow pride and great spirit of these people.

Shringiree. The tobacco seller. Dark and smoky evenings around the stove. The ever cooking cornbread (sometimes with walnut filling!) and cawwa (tea). The mumbled “Sparta baba…” (Hello sister…) from the late calling customers, wrapped in a Chitrali blanket and hat with their leathered brown ‘twinkle’ faces.

The tense silence in the presence of the ‘Muslim’….”Muslim” a race of human not like them…their long time enemy.

“Naye Prousht.” (“No Good.”)

Shringiree winks slyly at me.

The great weight of cowrie shell head dress hanging , both on her head and over the crude clothes rail.

She slips a bit of tobacco under her lip and nods half closing her eyes.

Her son spits at the stove.

“Hisssssssssss……..baba……prousht.”

Sometimes she talks quickly at me and I try to understand. She looks sad when it is obvious I do not and I almost feel guilty for not having learnt enough Kalash yet!

It is dark and we trudge out for a pee. With a hint of mischief she hisses “Pssss? Pssss?”.

Out we go, with the ‘tarri’ (stars) and the ‘munstruc’ (moon), squatting in the field of cropped maize, sharing this moment. Her great black dress covers her knees and preserves her modesty- while I, in trousers, feel naked and Western over this soil.

“Prousht.” (Good.)

They light me a little fire (angar) every night and a hurricane lamp flickers on the wall.

The earth floor is damp and cold and Shringiree sings me to sleep from next door.

The room I have is for here son when he is married, but just now its “ma duri” (my house). Frantic sign language.

“When ….you….go….ma duri…when you…..come….ta duri…”

“Prousht. Prousht.”

I am paying them the same as the hotel…but they are so generous too….

Kalash Valley…”every which way is a foot path.”

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