George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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sible dangers of a situation ; and by an hereditary
cupidity, which in some instances almost amounts to

In his own country, on the other hand, the Kdm Kdfir
is polite, dignified, and carries himself with a free, in-
dependent, and self-satisfied air. A Jast is rarely seen
alone. If only going to a friend's house, he will have
one or two men following him. He walks slowly, and
with an air of being what he is — a great man. I was
quite unprepared for the lofty bearing and the self-pos-
sessed manners of some of my wild-looking friends. The
younger men are very picturesque. They are much given
to posing in graceful attitudes, and show themselves off
with a charming simplicity. A warrior who has killed
four or five Musalman enemies is allowed tlie })rivilege
of wearing a blue shawl, made out of the dead man's
turban, in some instances. The young braves took a
great delight in wrapping this blue shawl round them,
and then placing themselves in some prominent position
where I could not fail to notice them. Once or twice,
when I made remarks about such individuals, others
standing by would hurry ofi', and a short time after-
wards reappear wearing the blue shawl, and then stroll
casually near me to show that they also were warriors
of repute. All the youths, most of the boys, and not


a few older men also, were incessantly shooting with
the galail, the Eastern variety of the stone-bow, at
the season of my arrival in the country. Anything
would do for a mark, and the practice they made was
very fair. Veiy small boys brought toy bows and arrows ;
but every male found something or other with which to
show his prowess to the stranger Frank,

My Kdmdesh friends were really and sincerely anxious
about my safety at night, and continually begged me to
be cautious. Dan Malik observed that all Kafirs were
thieves and murderers. He did not say this as if he
censured his fellow-countrymen for their little failings,
but merely to illustrate his argument that my doors
should be securely fastened at night, and that my bed
should be continually shifted about, so that no man on
my roof would know the exact position at which to fire
through the smoke-hole when the house was dark.
He and others begged me not to light candles in my
room for the same reason. There is no doubt that the
Kam were for some time in great anxiety lest the
Mehtar of Chitral should bribe some one to murder
me secretly. It was known that he was annoyed at
my being in Kafiristan, and every one also knew that
Torag Merak had been heavily bribed by Mehtar Jao
Ghulam, in the Mehtar's name, to stop me in the
Pittigul Valley. In acknowledgment of the kindness
of my advisers, I took all reasonable precautions for
my own safety, and quickly discovered a way to render
my room perfectly secure at night without necessitating
my having to remain in darkness. I continued to make
everv effort to conciliate the people and to make myself
popular, but great care had to be used that the cupidity


of my friends should not be excited. Several little occur-
rences took place which showed how necessary it was
to be cautious. In the Pittigul A'alley, Torag Merak
had taken twenty-five rupees in prepayment of some
sheep, and had never delivered the animals, nor did
he subsequently do so. One of Dan Malik's sons,
named Kdnsta Dd,n, that is, Dan junior, hurried to me
on the day we arrived at Kdmdcsh, and breathlessly
said he was badly in want of money for an urgent
and special purpose ; that he had two sheep on their
way for me to buy — would I pay him in advance,
seeing whose son he was ? 1 agreed, and the sheep
never arrived. Then Chandlu Astdn, the headman who
did me such good service when Torag ^lerak was
blocking my way in the Pittigul, being about to start
on a visit to Chitrdl, was entrusted by me witli the
care of Sayed Shah and the Balti coolies left behind at
Chitral, and was instructed to bring them to Kdmdesh,
now that the outlook was so peaceable. He was pro-
vided with money to pay for supplies for the party on the
road. He took the money, but provided no food for Sayed
Shah and the Baltis, and quarrelled with and threatened
the men when they reproached him for his bad faith,
'rhese little swindles and iniquities would have done no
harm if they had not been generally known ; but a
Kafir cannot refrain from bragging, and each and every
one of the above-mentioned peccant individuals boasted
loudly of his astuteness, and in this way others were
instigated to plunder me, not only from the love of
gain, but also because they wanted to be esteemed as
smart and able as their fellows. I was consequently
expected to buy most miserable, diseased sheep, at the


full price of well-grown, healthy animals. Shermalik
was drawn into the conspiracy, and brought dying sheep,
the property of his friends, for me to purchase, and went
off in great anger, knowing the taunts and jeers in store
for him when I refused to listen to his blandishments.
It seemed at one time that we must go without mutton
altogether, because nobody would sell other than diseased
animals. Then Barmuk, my next-door neighbour, stole
one of my sheep, killed it, and ate it with his friends
in broad daylight, during the ceremony of patching up
a quarrel with his partner. My wet and dry bulb
thermometer was carried off and broken, merely with
the idea of seeing what it was made of, and the people
round were hungering to devour my substance. I had
to put my foot down firmly, lest worse troubles ger-
minated from those existing. Dan junior and Barmuk
were kept at a distance and deprived of my friendship,
until one had made reparation, and the other had sworn
to do so in the spring ; the other defaulters also made
solemn promises to repay the sums they had received.
Then the people, seeing that no one was to be allowed
to plunder me, became contented, and we all got on
more pleasantly together.

Sayed Shah, with my remaining baggage, reached
Kdmdesh on the 22nd of October, full of complaints
against Chandlu Astdn, and rather nervous still about
the general position of affairs. But there seemed to
me to be no cause for alarm. Several deputations of
the headmen had come to me from time to time, to
tell me how welcome I was in their country, and
to discuss the future. They indeed always wanted me
to send off on the instant for rifles ; but when I showed


them the futility of making any request on their belialf
to the Government of India on that subject, and ex-
plained fully my reasons for having come amongst
them, and my desire to help them and be their friend,
they invariably accepted my remarks and assurances with
the utmost good-humour, and went away from the
conferences with smiles, and in apparent satisfaction.
Sayed Shah had not, however, been in the village four
hours, when he rushed over from Torag Merak, who
liad returned to Kdmdesh a few days before and whom
he had been to visit, with horror in his face, and breath-
less with excitement, to say that Torag Merak, speaking
in the name of all the tribe, had declared that I was
to have ten days within which proper arrangements
must be made for a hundred rifles to be given to the
Kd-m, and that if this was not done, the least of tlie
consequences would be my immediate expulsion from
the valley. It seemed to me, however, that the old
chief had been working on Sayed Shah's known timidity
as an experiment ; so I took no notice of the demand,
but went coolly to one of Torag Merak's public feasts
the next day as if nothing had happened. He re-
ceived me with grins, and was by no means uncivil,
lie exhibited on this occasion a considerable skill in
''chaffing" me, which I accepted as of good omen for
our future relationship with one another. Torag Merak's
jokes cannot be reproduced, unfortunately. He was like
Mr. Vincent Crummies' pony in melodrama — too broad
— too broad.

We soon began to experience considerable difhculty in
getting supplies, especially sheep, as already mentioned.
Fowls and eggs were scarce. They are not used by Kiitirs


as articles of food, and the people of the tiny hamlet
across the river, Agarii, proroised to supply me with fowls,
but they only sent me one or two altogether. Even grain
and flour were, after a time, only obtainable after a vast
deal of worrying. In these circumstances we were com-
pelled to take advantage of the gratuitous distribution of
food by men undergoing the necessary ceremonies for
becoming headmen or Jast. These compulsory public
banquets were continually recurring at short intervals.
On every such occasion my coolies and servants were
marched off to the feast, where they were entertained in
precisely the same way as everybody else. That is the
right of every one who happens to be in the village at the
time, whether he be a casual visitor or a regular inhabi-
tant. I also sent back all my Balti coolies to Chitral
and Gilgit, except the five who had engaged to remain
with me permanently, it being of the greatest importance
that we should have no more mouths to feed than were
absolutely necessary.

In stating that there was no cause for alarm in the
general attitude of the Kam people, it would be more
correct to say that there was no such urgency in the
matter as Sayed Shah imagined ; but there were not
wanting signs to show that all the tribe were by no means
agreed upon the desirability of having me among them.
Two parties were gradually formed. One of these,
numerically important, waited with some impatience for
an indication that my presence in their village meant
a material and immediate advantage to them. A
subdivision of this party began to get anxious to try
against me the characteristic K^fir tactics of bullying
and blackmailing. The second party, my steady sup-


porters, included, amon

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 8 of 38)