Monthly Archives: September 2012

day 77


Besides eating and watching bits of random documentaries, movies and cringe worthy Indian advertisements, not much can be said about the happenings of Sunday morning, which in all honesty is great because that’s what Sunday mornings exist for; nothingness. In the afternoon Madhuri, Zeeshan, Ajaz, Haroon, Sayma and I made a trip up to see my, still nameless, goat and while the three boys and Madhuri had running competitions on the inclines, Sayma and I lingered a safe distance behind.

Worried that she was walking slowly because of me, I tried to speed up and she turned around to tell me that we should walk slowly. She says she doesn’t run, not even when Azon Sir was here. He used to run with the boys and she used to walk slowly with Felix and Shawn Sir. At the parts were my walk slowly degraded into more of a slow motion backward movement, she patiently waited and encouraged me on confirming and reaffirming that ‘boys are silly’ for running so fast. I think I will fit her in my bag and take her home with me.

Since there was not a lot else that happened yesterday and the results of the cricket matches are best left unspoken, I have attached photos, most of them taken by the kids, of our goat trip yesterday. Most of them have nothing to do with goats of any sort but are rather variations of Afroza poses. But she’s cute. And photogenic. So that’s okay.

Sayma and i being left far behind Madhuri and the sprinting boys

Madhuri and the lamb

Afroza and her mother in dumnal

So much cuteness

the bhakalwar’s dog with spiky collar around his neck to fight off leopards and unwanted intruders

haroon posing with random goat

my nameless goat and i

more afroza

which would you pick, galaxy or iPhone?

oh whoops, we pick iPhone :/

sayma, madhuri and afroza

afroza and mum seeing us off

day 76


tea at ajaz’s house

and the harvests begin

madhuri trying her hand at grass cutting

after nicking my finger, i have decided grass cuttings a lot harder than it looks

waseem bundling the product of our efforts

more tea in badpuraat harpoons house. from back to front: anaayat, haroon’s mum, waseem, sayma, madhuri, irfaan, me, zeeshaan, harron’s grandmum, ajaz

the beauty that is sayma in the beauty that is haroon’s garden

Ajaz, alarmingly proficient in the art of hard bargaining, promised us that if we did not make a trip up to Badpura today, he would not accompany us to see Billy, the nameless goat, tomorrow. Badpura is a painfully steep walk up and I really wished I could turn around and tell him we’d go goat viewing without him. Luckily it was one of those rare moments wherein I was reminded to think before I spoke and realised that between the weird off-road mountain part you have to eventually take and the Kashmiri screams, up to the owners, to tie up the vicious dogs that you had to make, we would not manage without him and so I grudgingly obliged.

We left for Badpura just after 4 and a shameful number of huffs and puffs later, reached the bottom Batt house only to find it absolutely deserted. Madhuri who had been banking on afternoon tea looked visibly dejected and cheered up significantly when Zeeshan appeared from one of the houses, signaling tea, even though it meant more uphill climbing. Zeeshan, Irfaan and Ajaz arranged some blankets for us and played good hosts until our tea was brought in, accompanied with plates burdened with huge servings of halwa (some sweet thing), chapattis and biscuits for each of us.

After tea, Madhuri and I accompanied the kids on a tour of the harvest progress in Badpura and attempted, rather laughably, to assist with the grass cutting. Due to coldness of winter, meter deep snow falls and frozen grounds, all the crops are cut, dried and stored away for the winter. Harvest begins mid-September and carries on through October. The edibles like corn, beans and pumpkin are all collected to be stored as food the winter. The fruits that can be dried are cut and left on rooftops to dry and the crops, including the grass, leaves off the trees, corn stalks and wood for fire are all cut, bundled and laid out to dry before being stored as animal feed for the winter. The days in October are perfectly suited to harvest as the rain has subsided and while the mornings and evenings have a distinct chill to them, the days are often filled with the perfectly stong sunshine that is needed to yellow the crops.

Each house picks a day for their harvest and on that day, the rest of the village goes to help them. They start early in the morning and the people of the house whose crops are being cut, are responsible for providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for whoever comes to help. People line up in a straight row down the mountain and work their way across the mountain, cutting as they go along. There is one person who leads them and another who stands with a drum and beats it at anyone who had fallen behind or has started to slack. The day ends with a big dinner and the hosts will attend the harvest days of everyone who has come to help them with theirs.

It all sounds truly magical and confirms my suspicions that you can be neither lazy nor selfish if you live in the village and there is something about the spirit of community, in the harvest tales I have heard, that warms my heart. Our harvest day is on Tuesday apparently and while Madhuri is very keen on joining in the vertical production chain, after my failed attempts at grass cutting today, I fear the constant beating of the drum at my ear and so I have opted to join the moral support and photography crew. So much anticipation!

day 72 continued


my goat whose name is still under deliberation. till then, he’s really just billy goat gruff

Let’s just say that uphill climbs are really not an activity that was ever designed with fat people’s enjoyment in mind and if it were not for my ego issues, I would have turned back at 9 minutes, taken a picture of the goat that’s always near the house, and pretended it was mine. But when two 11-year-old boys are effortlessly scaling the rocks without so much as a breath out of place, you are kind of compelled to man-up and soldier on. Obviously there is no tourist friendly path to this place, or if there was, the boys were not inclined to take it and the last 5 minutes of our hour long ascent was spent, for want of a better term, rock climbing.

The Bakarwas, who are currently staying up in Dulmar, looking after the herd, seem perfectly amused that I have come to visit my goat and hastily give me a mat to sit down for fear of having to rescue a collapsed foreigner from the bottom of the cliff. Haroon goes off with the one guy and they return some time later, herding the goats and sheep down into the barn. I spot my goat and still weary of its head butting tendencies, take a picture from a far and promise the boys that I will return in a few days to see it again. In the mean time, Haroon picks up the cutest little lamb and then comes up to me and plops it in my hand and even though my picture with the lamb is cringe worthy and I am surprised I didn’t strangle the poor thing, I have included both pictures (well at least I will once they actually load).

The sun began to dip behind the mountain and Ajaz, our timekeeper signaled that it was time to leave and in the ten minutes that they spent trying to locate Tommy/Joe/Dog/Chocolate, the dog, I stood alone allowing fears of bears and leopards to creep into my mind with each disappearing ray of sunlight. Thankfully the dog was located and the trip down took a significantly less time than the uphill journey and where the path forked, confident that I’d get home in one piece, Ajaz and Haroon took the path that went up to Badpura and the dog and I took the one that went down to Hajipura.

Really tired at this point I, without much thought, followed the dog who usually always knows where he’s headed and went along in oblivion until we got to some strange fields I do not ever remember having crossed. Luckily I recognized one of the boys from the govt school and using the sum total of my urdu knowledge, enquired ‘upper aur niche’. He pointed up and confirmed ‘upper’ and I could kind of see a path that looked like the main road and so the dog and I made our way up only to find ourselves at a dead-end in the middle of a ninety degree slope (okay a little exaggeration) with no real path up and no survivable way back down. Rather shamefully I did not remember the name of the boy and so after a few screams of combined popular names, managed to get his attention and a few moments later Anayat and Waseem, brothers of Haroon and Ajaz came scrambling up the mountain, grabbed my bag and lead us to flat ground.

We again reached what I thought was the main road and a familiar house and I thanked Anayat for his help and told him I’d be on my way. A few steps ahead I met Ajaz and Haroon and with feelings of dread I enquired where we were. ‘Badpura’, they replied, carefully trying to hide their mocking amusement at my patheticness and my heart sank. Badpura is very high up, the sun had just about set and unlike leaopards and bears, my night vision and speed both leave much to be desired. More out of pity than anything else I think, Anayat took my bag and guided me home and if I’d ever had any doubts that this goat was going to require sacrifice, I really didn’t have them anymore.

Dramatics aside, the boys tell me we are going up on Friday again.

Weary excitement.

day 72


uniform modifications complete with multicoloured button additions

*pictures are loading incredibly slowly so I will load the rest at a better internet time tomorrow hopefully

It seems, in the last week especially, that school and school related things have started to consume my life. Most evenings I am tired by 10pm and have to force myself, more as a reassurance against old age than anything else, to stay awake to see the proverbial clock strike 12. Lately when pursuing conversations with people back home, although wildly tired, I realise that in comparison to their stories, I really don’t have much to report on, other than school and I’ve started using kids from the school in daily conversations with people back home as if they are old familiar friends and I fear what Madhuri said, is starting to realise itself. We are becoming like those cat people who keep telling insufferably detailed stories about their fur balls to anyone who cares to listen, under the false assumption that their audience is as fascinated with their cat’s ability to play the flute, as much as they are and so on that note, it is with great excitement, that I finally have an unrelated school story to tell.

I’ve always wanted a goat. In my mind, I guess I thought very much along the lines of Mary had a little lamb. I pictured it following me to school. Waiting at the gate to see me. Bleating in excitement when I returned. Flaunting fleece white as snow. I pictured us spending afternoons on the barn, it grazing while I read a book. I envisioned deep attachment and companionship that would make the sacrifice for Eid, exactly that, a heart wrenching, depression inducing sacrifice which captured the true essence of the day.

And so it is greatly exciting that I finally have a goat! Well I’ve had him for a few weeks now; two, to be quite precise and the plan, rather regrettably, is to use him as my Eid sacrifice at the end of October. Sadly it turns out that my lamb is actually a goat and could not be further away from my Mary’s lamb fantasy. He is big. He has black hair. He has one regular horn and one coiled one. He has big eyes that shine a bright yellow at times. He does not look very cloud like. He doesn’t seem to like me much. He tries to head butt me whenever I muster up enough courage to go feed him and quite honestly, he is, to accurately sum it up, quite scary.

Determined to make the relationship work, I allocated each of the kids a day of the week on which it was their responsibility to feed him while I watched from a far and took pictures. They seemed unnaturally enthusiastic and confident that my plan was rather inspired; we enthusiastically went looking for him after school on the third day. He was not there and after several inquires we found out he’d been taken up to Dumlar to graze and my sadness at the news both surprised and excited me.

Anyway the kids have been trying to entice me to go up to see him ever since, and not wanting to seem like a heartless machine, I keep displaying sufficient interest in the topic, right until the part where they mention Dulmar is an hour’s walk away, at which point I always promise another day, stop the social discussions and get back to teaching. I guess if I had photographic proof of my goat, I’d be less inclined to make the trip up to Dumlar, but considering I haven’t any photos of him, mostly for fear of being head butted, I finally gave in and this afternoon Haroon, Ajaz and I set out after school to locate the goat.

day 71


maggi village style: open packet. sprinkle included seasoning over. lick and crunch. 

lattah’s niece, Rubeena (well according to the kids anyway)

madhuri five seconds before almost dropping shahnaaza, fattest kid in the village

imtiyaz totally not getting why finding out how many hours in a leap year is necessary at all

And the Yearbook submissions continue and every few days I try to get them to write answers to a few arbitrary questions. Today’s question for the 3rd and fourth kids were:

  1. What do you dream of when you go to sleep
  2. What would you do if someone told you that the Govt. school was better than HPS?

A few responses:

“My name is Mighty Mehfooz. When I go to sleep I dream of South Africa. I go their and play their crike and live their. If someone told me that Govt is better than HPS I will say no say this words again because I get engry he say HPS is no good.”

“My name is Arty Amjed. When I go to sleep I dream of my school. I dream of my education and sometime I dream of India. If someone told me that Govt school is better than HPS I will get angry because there very good teachers.”

“My name is Intelligent Imtiyaz. When I go to sleep I dream I go to Leh. Some time I dream Felix Sir. Some time I dream the lion bite me. Some time I dream Azon Sir. If someone told me that Govt school is better than HPS I will hit them and I am angry.”

“my name is Happily Humeera. When I go to sleep I dream of Safiyyah ma’am is playing in lawn and there are very beautiful. I play with Safiyyah ma’am. We are very happy. If someone told me that Govt. School beter than HPS I will engry because HPS is very good teachers.”

“My name is Umer Umbralah. When I go to sleep I dream of Felix Sir. Sometime I dream I will play mad. Sometime I dream I will go to Azon Sir we will go to Bid. If someone told me that Govt school is better than HPS I will say no sad again this word then I also am angry because HPS is good school.”

“My name is Super Shahid. When I go to sleep I dream I am singing. One day I go to Delhi and one day I drink juice. If someone told me that Govt school is better than HPS I will get angry. I told him don’t say this word again because there are very good teachers and they no hit me.”

“my name is Rugged Ramzan. When I go to sleep I dream I lost in forest. I am screaming. I was cry. If someone told me that Govt school is better than HPS I get engry because HPS student was good.”

Amazing Abbas, Angery Aadil, Melow Muneeza, Athletic Ajaz and Anxious Ayaz all had variations of the above answers.







The universe and I have never been great pals. She seldom listens to my pleas regarding red robots; hardly ever convinces professors to extend deadlines and most certainly has never been a supporter of my thin campaign. While I wouldn’t call our relationship toxic, it is most definitely not a very generous one and so you can imagine my surprise when I got up this morning to find the package my parents had sent from South Africa, at the foot of my bed.

There’d been talk about this package from mid-August and for the fortnight that followed, I received daily messages from my parents enquiring what I’d like from home as one of their friends was returning to India at the beginning of September and he had offered to post a package from them. Having been here barely a month, and very into the whole ‘when in Breswana’ buzz, I kept ignoring their questions and insisted that I didn’t need anything.

They were persistent and once I realised they were going to send a package irrespective of whether I wanted anything or not and that the current contents of the package seemed solely medical, I caved and asked for some couscous and one of my warmer pajama pants that I’d left at home for fear of being judged on the polka dots. As ramadaan came to an end, I began to realise that I had significantly underestimated the extent of my snacking habits and so when my aunt messaged to ask if there was anything else I’d like, I didn’t even pretend politeness and replied with requests for several edible snacks, a carefully calculated time later, so as to not seem over keen.

Due a series of unfortunate events, the package always ended up at the required destination a day later than it needed to and so for the last two weeks I have been alternating between completely dismissing its arrival and making mental lists of things I should have included in my list and with two days to spare before driving myself crazy, it finally arrived.

Great anticipation and large amounts of duct tape are not a good combination, I have realised and after several failed attempts at getting the box opened, I almost cut of my thumb trying to stab a hole through the tape. It finally tore open and the first thing I saw was a box of energy drink sachets; sweet, I thought. I maintained the excitement when I got to the mosquito bands and I even feigned enthusiasm at the bottle of sulphur tablets, despite having no idea what they were meant to be for, but by the time I reached the second bottle of the weird sulphur tablets, my heart started to sink and just as I was about to take the entire box and donate it to the village’s dispensary, I saw the couscous. Then the dried mangos, the Cadbury slabs, the guava rolls, the sweets from heaven packet filled with my favourite candy, the SOCKS, polka pajama pants and by time I got to the packet of princess gums, I hastily shut the box for fear of excitement overdose.

It sounds dramatic and really weird to have heart palpitations over candy, couscous and socks but then I guess that weird is a largely subjective term which becomes dramatically skewed after 70 days of being away from brightly lit, multiple aisled grocery stores. And while I doubt the contents are going to last more than 4 days at the rate I am consuming them, I have eternal love for my parents, sisters, aunt and Nabila.

I have also decided to believe that the universe, happy with my largely organic life, water conversation, electricity reduction and pollution eradiation over the past two months, decided it was time to ease up and in light of the perfect timing in the arrival of the package, I am largely optimistic about our relationship going forward.


day 69


If I had to sum up the general feeling that surrounded day 69, (and I kind of have to because there’s been no electricity the entire day and my battery is about to die) in one word, it would be: homesick. It was bound to happen eventually and all things considered I am quite impressed that it took this long. After careful consideration, I have attributed the feeling to fears-of-missing-out on the wedding/ long weekend that is currently underway back home but have decided that it’s one of those fleeting homesick feelings which don’t require sleepless nights, cries into pillows and deep depressions and so I anticipate a full return to complete contentment and underserved happiness tomorrow morning while enjoying my breakfast pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Anyhow considering my laptop has an amazing 6% of battery left, I should probably post this soon and then head straight on to the long awaited Saturday night no-school-tomorrow sleep. Great excitement!

sabbah trying to zap me with her death stare after i took my camera away from her 

stage one: abdul karim (left) eyeing the walnut that nasir (right) is trying his best to break

stage two: given up on the walnut, nasir (right) resorts to some meditation while abdul karim (left) sneaks in a nose blow on the strap of his school bag

stage three: haven given up on walnut dreams, abdul karim takes to converting the corridor into a personal lounge because truth be told: kindergarten is an exhausting adventure

taking direction from abdul karim, i invent an excuse for him to move and supervise the three kids who are doing test rewrites from the comfort of my lounge

madhuri engaging in some sort of violent game with the kids and losing quite shamefully to umber’s ingenious leg targets

after repetitive ‘ma’am’ calls for the better part of a minute, mehfooz realized i was not going to look up from my camera and determined to show me his drawing, stuck it in front of the camera lense.

shahid’s agreement: ‘i think sri lanka will win. if they win safiyyah ma’am will not give me homework on monday. if they lose then i will [take] safiyyah ma’am bag home for 1 week

shahid rocking toothless because front teeth and hair are so last century