Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Life is truly cheap and difficult for tribal people, especially women, who live in the rough, mountainous areas along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although interest in and knowledge of this area has peaked with the war against radical Islamic elements, much of the culture of this region is lost on Americans. Into the breach comes a delightful collection of short stories from the pen of an eighty-year-old insider, Jamil Ahmad, whose tales are loosely tied together by the appearance, often peripherally, of Tor Baz, orphaned at a young age and handed from caretaker to caretaker until he becomes a roving presence on the margins of society. In The Wandering Falcon the reader gets a taste of the precarious nature of life, where one can easily be snuffed out for crimes of a long-lost relatives, or sold away (especially girls) in times of economic distress (which is just about always), or simply killed during frequent raids and feuds. People are kidnapped in an almost ritual manner, bringing money and status to the thieves. These are tough, proud people, steeped in their traditional ways, struggling against change and western incursions. There is humor too, and one also senses beauty. While the book is entertaining and educational, mostly it reminds me just how lucky I am to be born in America.