My fourth dawn in Dushanbe derived no further pleasures of flesh or mind than what I already had and with an afternoon and evening full of picnics, jolly people, sumptuous food, swimming in mountain pool I decided to take the morning really easy. I was to meet up with Shagarf, the Director of Pamir Silk Travels, at 10 am in Rudaki Street. As I stepped out into the street, I had pre-decided that for today, I won’t focus on women at all; I mean not on her countenance but would fix my gaze and wandering mind on what she walked upon, her footwear. I have had enough of the rest of her and like I said, now I am looking for an ugly woman in Dushanbe.
Why do I always focus on women, you may ask! Well I am not gay for one and as a specimen we men are literally nowhere compared to women when it comes to variety, imagination, boldness and sense of attire. We men dress alike anywhere in the world, same monochrome, same trousers, shoes, tuxedoes rarely and don’t experiment with colours, style or cut much. We are far too easily pleased and satisfied. Whereas women loves to change and dress and be adventurous in her dressing, design and outlook. This makes her much more interesting a subject for people like me who have nothing better to do.
So I keep my gaze on ground following the posterior of women as I amble down Rudaki like a earthworm with rabbit’s leg. I soon realize that Tajik women, no matter who or how they were, preferred low or flat heeled shoes, sandals, chappals, etc and rarely did anyone wear a stiletto or anything that unruly. Young girls opted mostly for flat leather chapplas with ankle straps, that wounds up her leg sometimes till her calves like those worn by Roman noble ladies and sometimes by gladiators. Almost no one wore flip-flops or causal unkempt shoes. The footwear were mostly of black, silver and gold with few dotted in and with blue and pink. Thus satisfied with my women footwear thesis, I reach the place and find Shagarf, a middle aged man with white hair draped in jeans shirt and trouser.
He calls out my name first as he has seen my website and knows how I look. We shake hands and then head for some morning brew. The shops have just started to blink so the roads are mostly empty. Few lazy policemen, feeling important in their uniform, loiter around. Shagarf takes me to Café Bar. We sit on the upper platform. The place is tastefully done up and I see a similarity there with India. We Indian brands and products often depict western and European models to show India since they are fairer than us and that’s a big deal still in India. Now in this café I come across a huge wall poster depicting an Italian man sipping coffee on some piazza, with his windshield fitted vespa behind. Tajiks are proud, handsome and rugged and fairer than any European, I couldn’t understand their fascination with western models to depict their own land.
Shagarf is a regular here, so the smiling manager strolled in soon and I realized he could be another super model in India. I wonder should I start a model coordinating agency for Tajik models in India dumping my adventure travel venture for good!
Shagarf shows me the Pamirs and our intended tracks on his latest ipad and another tour guide joins us for tea. It is green tea with fresh cherry and raisins within and it’s a wonderful anti-oxidant for my grumbling stomach. We discuss some more of our expedition and other places I wish to go later in the Pamirs. And then we part outside. I like Shagarf instantly. He is gentle, soft spoken and very sure of himself.
I went to a big sports shop where Shagarf had said I will find gas as well. I loiter around the shop that mostly displayed boxing and weightlifting paraphernalia. Finally at one tiny corner I find the gas and they ask for 45 TJS and then I realize that Rudaki 148 has been having one on me, where they had asked for 60 TJS per canister. 45 TJS or 10 US $ is more like it. Pat would be happy to hear that. Though this shop doesn’t have any fancy camping or climbing stuff like Anatoly.
I return home to fill in my diaries and to pack in for the picnic. Sharp at 1.30 pm Alanna hails from below and off we go. I am packed in with an American couple and their 6 yr old son, Sebastian aboard a brand new handpicked Honda that the lady is driving. Alanna drives the other car with Kevin, Sam and another couple (they are not couple really). We start off on Rudaki then turn to cross the beautifully frescoed puppet theater and then get on to a road that has been recently and nicely dug up to provide some sort of organized chaos to the city. Sebastian is a cherubic guy and tells me of his recent adventures in Turkey where he wanted to jump off a cliff but wasn’t allowed as he is below the permissible age of 9. What difference could 3 yr make, I ponder, but then Turkish baths are famous for making Turks go a little dodgy on their upper storey. Then he tells me how he floored the throttle of a speedboat, nearly drowning and killing the boat captain, making doughnuts on the water. His parents add supplements and compliments to the story.
We soon hit a highway with decent surface and the lady just floors. The road winds and we enter a green valley going over and atop undulating mountains. These are low like the lesser Himalaya and much more brown but the fields below are green and redolent with corn, maize, apricot and sunflower. People are riding donkeys, donkeys are riding trucks, donkeys are carrying loads of grains, cows are gazing, grazing and munching grass, a fast flowing mountain river appears to our right like a silvery ribbon through the dancing sunlight, cutting a fluid highway through the serpentine valley.
We slowly gain height and the air cools down. We are surrounded by hills, green fields and sunflower beds that just continue till they merge with the misty mountains at the horizon.
We finally leave the tarred road and take to a dirt one stopping in front of an imposing gate. We go in and find the place full of cars and people. This is a sort of mountain refuge or resort where anyone can come either with their own food or order and use the facilities like lounging in the garden under umbrellas, picnic anywhere or swim in the sizeable pool. Few of Kevin’s and Alanna’s friends were already there. We met them and spread out our food and other goodies beneath one of the large shades that had carpets on flat beds. It was warm but breezy and with mountains, small ones, all around I felt good. We started eating, chatting, most of them asking about my real work and purpose in life, to which I give my clueless answer as even I don’t know what it is; besides having fun that is. There’s a couple and with them is their son’s nanny, whom I find pleasant and I learn much to my delight that she hails from upper Hunza and Gilgit, that enchanting valley where K2 stands piercing the sky like a spear. I have always dreamt of going there as that is the only mountain region in the world I am not allowed to go due to my nationality. It’s a pity that we have this kind of disharmony between two neighboring nations that was one before. And I have repeatedly seen that no discord or hatred or mistrust exist within the people’s heart and I have many friends from there, but somehow our leaders aren’t able to dissolve the boundaries of their mind and heart.
So I got talking with the girl from Gilgit. I quizzed her all about the rivers, glaciers, mountains that I dream of visiting one day and perhaps can only visit them in my dreams. Soon enough Alanna got the cake out and we sang chorus as Kevin cut it rather deftly. I avoided the icing, preferring for the plain cake as I am careful of what I eat. The cake is delicious and finally I decide that I must do some exercise. I change into my swimming trunks and get to the pool that is so full of beautifully undressed Tajik women that for a moment I opt to stay out and enjoy god’s creation. As you all know I have the highest respect and regard for women and to me they are always fascinating and an object of mystery and beauty that is a joy for ever. We men can never match up to women in any field whatsoever and a woman’s dynamism and mystic aura always keeps me riveted and attracted to them. So I sit, with my legs dipped into the cool water, and gaze languidly at the splashing and dancing by the water side.
I finally jump in at the deep end and do few laps much like a sinking sailor in desperate need of a raft since I am really a very bad swimmer, though my technique is good as everyone says. The water at first feels really cold, but cold is my friend and then I do few dives and play with one of the kids, touching bottom and bouncing up and down. I am good at sinking and touching bottoms and underwater swimming, anything that doesn't need me to stay on the water surface. Then at a point I come out and lie down on the white pool chair and soon am lost and sleeping in my own wonderland of mountains, rivers, forests and one mysterious woman, who haunts my senses when I am out of my senses.
All good things do come to an end or conclusion, so we have to return as the sun starts sinking slowly but surely to our west. The drive back is nothing much to write home about except that Alanna’s friend in whose car I am the backseat rider, drove really like a F1 racer. Her son Sebastian and I enjoyed the ride as we zipped and crossed other vehicles like a meteor with a tail behind. The husband didn’t say much, perhaps he was speechless and the lady said quite a lot and we laughed and had a jolly good time. Only later did Alanna reveal that she used to be a professional driver…. Goodness gracious me! But they were and are a wonderful couple and we had a really good time in and outside the car.
The evening set in quietly and my stomach growling a bit as I had certainly overeaten and in the name of exercise had slept off on the deck chair by the pool dreaming of heaven and paradise and the embrace of my mystery woman. Nothing much happened thereafter except that mind kept wondering and wandering as it always does when it does anything at all.
Lessons learnt for and during the day can be summed up in only four syllables: I have no idea.
Once again from the bottom of my bottomless heartless heart, khayr and all things good and joyful. Love you all.
P.S. There won't be any further Dushanbe Diaries for the time being or may be for all the time beings since I am now off to the real mountains in a far away fairy land. Yes, I did spend one more day in Dushanbe (day 5) but in that day all I did was meet up with three women for lunch, met one moustached jolly guy for handing over nearly 200 US $ and then accompanied 2 beautiful women for shopping and of course ate several nans and drank few pots of Tajik tea in between, besides taking a ride in a sunroof fitted Merc that is actually a taxi and charged less than what a normal three wheeler in India would. So you can see, day 5 wasn't really exciting and I once again didn't really learn anything, except that now I am seriously thinking of learning Tajik, migrate to Tajikistan (that way I can finally climb K2)and as they say, live merrily ever after and then some. What can I say, I am like that only :)