Saturday, June 30, 2007

Country Poem meme---Yemen---400th post

I had gone to poefrica/rethabile to comment on his works. I landed up on this Country poem meme.

I thought why not give it a try! I did learn something about a country I know nothing! I even plan to find out more about its literature.

Intro for you all:

Take a country whose name begins with the last letter of your surname. (a) Jane Doe would take Ecuador, for example, or Egypt. England (like the USA and Ireland) does not qualify. Wole Soyinka would take Angola, or Afghanistan. If you cannot find a country with that letter (and only then), move back a step. (b) Jane Doe would take Oman, in that case. And as for Wole Soyinka, he would go for Kazakhstan, or Korea. And so on.

Here is my offering:

As my surname is Tripathy, Yemen was the only country that came to my mind.

1. Tell us what the capital city of the country

Yemen is a Middle Eastern country located on the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia. Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the North, the Red Sea to the West, the Arabian Sea. In addition, Gulf of Aden to the South, and Oman to the east. Yemen's territory includes over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra, about 415 kilometres to the south of Yemen, off the coast of Somalia. The capital of Yemen is Sana’a.

2. How many inhabitants that country has?

It has a population of about 20 million people

3. Find and share with us a poem in English of not more than 20 lines from that country. If it's longer; cut it to twenty lines or less.

Waddah al-Yaman, born Abdul Rahman bin Isma’il al-Khawlani(d. 708), was an Arab poet. He was born in Yemen in the second half of the seventh century. He was famous for his erotic and romantic poems. He was executed by the Ummayad Caliph Al-Walid I, allegedly due to his over familiarity with the former's wife. Waddah is now regarded as the national poet of Yemen.

One of his poems goes like this:

She said, "Don’t come to our home, my father is deadly jealous."
I said, "I’ll pluck you before he knows it, my sword is razor sharp."
She said, "There’s a whole castle between us."
I said, "I’ll fly my flag over the castle."
She said, "There’s a whole sea between us."
I said, "I’m a strong swimmer."
She said, "My seven brothers keep an eye on me."
I said, "I’m a match for them all."
She said, "Allah is watching us."
I said, "My lord is Merciful and Forgiving."
She said, "I have run out of words, so come tonight when everyone’s floating in dreams, and fall on me like dew, undisturbed."

4. Tell us something you particularly like about the poem you have chosen:

There was no other choice. It is the only poem I could find on the net from Yemen.

5. Add a line anywhere in the poem (beginning, middle or end), and clearly show which line is yours to avoid confusion and/or ambiguity.

I said, "Tonight I come to you and merge our souls."

She said, "Don’t come to our home, my father is deadly jealous."
I said, "I’ll pluck you before he knows it, my sword is razor sharp."
She said, "There’s a whole castle between us."
I said, "I’ll fly my flag over the castle."
She said, "There’s a whole sea between us."
I said, "I’m a strong swimmer."
She said, "My seven brothers keep an eye on me."
I said, "I’m a match for them all."
She said: "Allah is watching us."
I said, "My lord is Merciful and Forgiving."
She said, "I have run out of words, so come tonight when everyone’s floating in dreams, and fall on me like dew, undisturbed."

I tag J. Andrew Lochart, Borut and/or anyone else who wants to play.

Thank you. Please tag two people (leave a message on their blog, too).

BTW, this is my 400th post on this blog. I have been blogging for two years now!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rammed!------Sunday Scribblings

Sunday Scribblings asks us "What's your sign?"

The sign we are taking about here is astrological ones. Most people do believe in astrology.

How does one say that the sign affects them or that, they are ruled by it? How can the sun, the moon or the planets affect us from so far away? According to the astrologer they do! The whole branch of astrology would disintegrate if the soothsayers did not perpetuate those.

Most of my acquaintances do say that I am a typical Aries. Now what is a typical Aries? Aries is the first sign of the zodiac. Also known as the baby. Akin to a baby, they seldom think of the consequences and simply surge ahead, ramming hard, hurting own selves in the process. No wonder the Ram is their symbol.

What does being an Aries means to me? That is somewhat easy to answer. It means being straight forward, direct and forthright. I cannot beat around the bush ever. I am quick-tempered which subsides easily enough. I like new challenges. I thrive on those. I can make friends easily enough and stick to them, no matter come what may.

I can adapt to any situation. Adverse circumstances do not affect me for long. Material things are not as important as cultivating relationships.

I can take up an issue and follow it to the end if I am so inclined. I do need instant results due to my impatience. I might leave things half way through and start on a new venture. I constantly need to do new things or else I get bored easily enough.

Impulsiveness is one trait, which lets me down. I do not think much ahead and just plunge in, getting hurt in the process. Mind you, I do pick myself, brush up and get on with life. There is no other way for me.

I am always open to new ideas, new adventures, and new way of thinking. If I set my mind to it, no one can divert me from my purpose.

I describe here only a miniscule part of what I am. If it means that I am an Aries, I suppose I am. Cinquain, in a nutshell:

So courageous,
Accepting challenges
Quick-witted and quick-tempered
Ram hard!

As I mentioned some place else, I got bored describing myself and hence leaving it here!

However, I would like to add that more than signs (sun or moon or whatever), our genetics and surroundings play major rolls in shaping us.

Read more signs...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sestina----Learning from Life---Poetry Thursday

Sestina---Learning from Life

Why only now you seem to have a query
waking to reality by observing your compeers
Before this you did not care for ostentations
What makes you work out towards avocation
of that particular kind, to show solidarity
for all that, you have always pointed as fiasco

Leading from the front, what will this fiasco
of the situation get you other than a query-
cursory of superficiality, not of solidarity
as you expect. Your so called compeers
can only let you down, your chosen avocation
will never lead to those spiritual ostentations.

Being away from the world of ostentations
for too long, how can you make this fiasco
work by reaching for that specific avocation
which never interested you. Ignoring my query
you close your eyes, seeking blindly compeers
endorsements, forgetting all the solidarity

of your loved ones. Still I extend my solidarity,
standing up for you. Knowing ostentations
will leave you in no time, leaving all fiasco
behind. A new you will shun those compeers
who only pull you down; stopping the queries
of confusion. You will take in a new avocation

which can help achieve personal goals. Avocation
should not matter as much as much as solidarity
towards fulfilment. Never did a solitary query
answer what we really seek. Those ostentations
are only as good for a material world. Compeers
cannot comprehend what truly are life’s fiascos.

However, I must leave you to learn about fiasco
of being in your own way. Experience of avocation
of any kind can get you away from those compeers,
Who are willing you to fall flat. Solidarity
is an alien word for them- leading a ostentatious
life, seldom thinking or having any kind of queries.

would avocation lead the way for ostentations
or solidarity issue forth from so-called compeers
my query sanguinely discards to facilitate fiasco?

This is my first attempt at writing a sestina. As I have been doing admission for class 11 in my school, some girls just try to blindly take up subjects chosen by their peers. It somewhat speaks of that.

I need critiques to improve upon my technique. Please do feel free to offer me your opinions.

Addendum: Do go over to my Reading Room blog to read a review of Deadly Kisses By Brenda Joyce.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007




Beyond cure, I am irrational to past care,
envelopes of tomes hide heart's history.
Concocting negligible style every where
providing with tales of untold misery

I stay reproached, fixated to my content.
in philosophical abysm, I hurl all care,
no real excuses for all that I truly resent-
lone moments have crinkles engraved there.

Has nature too joined in to distress me-
notably uncaring every thing that grows
from those festers of agony that no can see;
nevertheless insisting we must not be foes.

Is it viable to put up with it that way-
so all thrive, I am yet again cast away?

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Taking a break from routine always feels so good. One does not have to cook, clean or do odd jobs!! I needed to escape the heat before my school reopens on 2nd July.

Dharamsala is situated on the Dhauladhar ranges of mountains, which are part of the Himalayan ranges. Its elevation ranges from 1380 m to 1830 m. It is not far from Delhi, being 560 km away. One can drive but in rainy season, it is not advisable to do so in hilly areas, unless one is very familiar. There is no direct train to Dharamsala. One has to take a cab from Pathankot, which takes around two and half hours.

I along with my mom started from home on at 8.15 pm on 16th June 2007 as our train was at 9.30 pm. We met my brother and his family at the railway station. Our train journey was largely uneventful although it was one hour late. We reached Pathankot at 8 am, our resort before 11 am and checked in as soon as possible. The resort we stayed in is situated in the midst of a Jungle, in the outskirt of Dharamsala. After freshening up and lunch, we started exploring the area. I wanted to look out for local food joints. I am not much into hotel food and in a new place, I am open to all sort of food ideas. I find street cuisine the best kind available.

The mountains were supposed to be snow peaked but it has been a harsh summer this year, which has led to the melting of the snow. One can see mango and lychee(Litchi) trees laden with fruit in this season. Himachal Pradesh is famous for its apples orchards but this particular area, which comes under Kangra Valley, was bereft of that! When I asked around, I was told apples orchards are to be found in Kulu, Manali and Shimla, not in this particular area. Very enlightening! We spent day one largely exploring the area, doing nothing much.

Dharamsala is well known, as it is the abode of the 14th Dalai Lama. (At that time, he was on a two and a half weeks visit to Australia and New Zealand). There is a Dalai Lama temple and a monastery built by the Tibetans. One finds Tibetans everywhere. As they cannot go back to their country, India has some kind of arrangement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, allowing them to live in India. One finds the Tibetan culture pervading in every aspect of the place. In attires, food, paintings. I saw many Israelis tourists too. Kosher food is easily obtainable for them.

The Norbulingka Monastery is only 2.5 km from the resort. It is a very peaceful, serene and is the summer retreat for the Dalai Lama. There is an institute, which only takes in Tibetans. There are around 400 Tibetans residing there as students, employees and monks. The institute boasts of a rich collection of art, paintings, handicrafts and thankas made by the students. The stuff they make there is, sold in the monastery itself. It is a no profit, no loss kind of thing as the money they get is utilized in the Monastery. I did buy two silver rings, garnet and amethyst, and a stuffed yak along with a silver amethyst bracelet from Mcleodganj. This mainstream market has much to offer but one has to be careful. Bargaining is very much the norm. I am good at haggling! I did pay almost half of what was asked for that bracelet.

I visited a very old, unknown, dilapidated fort, which was almost disintegrating; a church built by the Britishers some 200 years back, a lake almost dry and an ancient temple of Lord Shiva along with other non-descriptive places. In India, one can find most of the faiths co-existing peacefully at any given place.

I used to get up before 5 am and go out for a walk in the tea gardens near the resort. I had never been to a tea garden before this. I loved that time just looking at those endless tea gardens, inhaling the pure air, with only the sound of birds chirping. Where does one get that in Delhi?

Kangra tea is very famous after the Darjeeling tea. It is exported to most part the world. I also visited a tea factory where I learnt that tea is graded according to the filters used. I bought some green tea, fresh out of the mill.

The weather was not as cold as we had wanted it be. It was pleasant and rained much of the time. It did not deter us from enjoying. I walked around a lot.
Walking is the best from of getting to know a place and I needed that as I was stuffing myself all the time! I relished the Tibetan food i.e., noodles, momos, thupkas, manchurians etc, as well as the local countryside food i.e., various lentils, fried stuff etc. Tea was welcome at anytime. The quietness of the place gave me a tranquil feeling.

One sad thing was, my camera developed a snag and most of the pictures I took were lost in that maze. I have asked my brother to send me the pictures he took. As soon as he does that, I will post those separately.


PS: Do feel free to check the list of books I plan to read for Book Awards Challenge and Summer Reading Challenge on my reading room blog.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Secrets and Recompense---Sunday Scribblings and 3WW

Sunday Scribblings insists that I have a secret which I share here…

Coming back to the topic in hand, "I have a secret" holds true for most of us.

Several are open secrets. We tell those to all and sundry, warning them not to pass it on to anyone. The sure fire way of letting the whole world know!

We all have certain secrets buried in the recesses of our minds that no one can reach. Many secrets stay there forever, not to be shared with anyone. Secrets, which rest profound, are the ones, which trouble us most. Certain secrets are unhealthy too. These can hurt us no end. Those deep embedded secrets fester, rot and eat into us. There are times we want to unburden those but cannot find any outlet. We try to get rid of those but do not succeed.

There are some, which lose their secretiveness after a certain periodof time. They no longer seem important. Trivial secrets too stay in there forever decaying our thought processes. Nevertheless, we do not realise and still hold on.

Then there are some which can be penetrated by a special person who breaks into and rail roads leaving out nothing within us. Still one feels safe about that fact. Only then one realises the worth of secret dreams which give us hope for the future. Those are necessary secrets to survive.

Now I have gone into a pondering mode! I tend to do that a lot. My ruminations are never complete without a poem.

I am taking a complete different path here....... man against nature.

I took the the three words: Reach, Heavily, Cheek from 3WW and wrote this poem, killing two birds with one stone!


you want the secrets brought
out for selfish needs, giving no
second thoughts for the price
of your mindless performance.

you reach out, mauling heavily,
laying her soul bare, stripping
the core, which nourishes you
magnanimously, for aeons of time

when she hurtles those loosened
stones bereft of bindings to hold,
you have the cheek to ask her
why she is playing havoc with you.

those are your tidings, created
wholly by you, the consequences
of your actions, just as vitriolic spate
is the nature’s way of recompense.

Others too share their secrets here.....

Friday, June 22, 2007

Love Ponders---Shakespearean Sonnet---Poetry Thursday

I am back from Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. It is also known as the abode of His Holiness, Dalai Lama. I will write about that soon.

I will get back to all your posts too!

Here I offer a sonnet for Poetry Thursday though it is friday here. I wrote it a few days back.


with unseeing eyes my gloom gleams so
i start reassuring her on her eternal discontent-
how like Eve's apple does her allure grow
sweet, lovely and loyal, is all my argument

alert is my heart, to mind’s and soul's delight-
to pristine process, to amalgamations strange
that in black ink my love may still glisten bright.
aeons, you shall not show off that i do change

although pondering kills me, i have not thought
about that where depends birth, affluence or wit
i lament the lack of many a things i have sought
it might seem bare, in coveting words to show it.

these faltering steps give my heart an extra youth
to feed upon the curiosity of surroundings truth.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Out of circulation

Dear friends, I am out of circulation for a few days starting Sat night. I need the break very badly! Rest assured, I will read your posts after I get back. Have a great weekend and a greater next week ahead.

All of you are welcome to read my posts below this and give your valuable inputs.

The links are:

1) Is it Idiosyncrasy?

2) Flooding Joys

3) Batrachomyomachy

4) Leola

See you next weekend, folks.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Is it Idiosyncrasy?-----Sunday Scribblings

Now we have to show our eccentricities to all and sundry as per Sunday Scribblings!

Eccentricity to me means idiosyncrasy! Behaving oddly/out of norm/not conforming. To some extent, all of us are eccentric. At one point of time or other, we behave in variance to what is expected of us. At an oddity to ourselves. People who are closer to us sometimes are shaken out when we do not react the way we are assumed to knowing our nature.

I teach mathematics and occasionally science in a school catering to the so-called lower strata of the society. My appointment says teacher in mathematics. However, at times I wish to teach English to those students who do not know a word of English. That is just a minor aberration.

In India, teachers wear typical Indian clothes like sari or the salwar-kameez/churidar kurta. I do stick to that but I sometimes desire to shock my students by wearing outlandish dresses with knee-high boots/cowboy hats and darkest of glares with short spiked purple hair! I should not miss out the various body piercing or the metallic kaleidoscopic finger rings. What I would not give to see their faces just once. They do not expect that from their very proper staid teacher! They do not even know me to be crazy rock music fan. I look more of the classic type though my thoughts are in dissension with that.

In India, elephants and camels are normal sight on a road though not as common as cows! One of my secret wishes is to have a hippopotamus for a pet. I do not know when and why it came into my mind. I have had visions of myself walking the streets with a hippo in lease or maybe riding him. If not a hippo, at least I should own a rhinoceros.

So do you consider those eccentricities or normal? Alas, these are mere thoughts..:(

Click for more eccentric behaviour.....

* Please don't forget to read and comment on my review of "The City of Angels" by John Berendt. It would be much appreciated.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Flooding Joys----Sonnet----Poetry Thursday

Thinking of profusion where paucity lies
working for that goal where ideas are spend,
ignoring useless predictions and prophecies-
not even depending on thunder, rain and wind.

bringing in authenticated data into their way
changing the course, curing without disgrace
for the anguish to diminish and flow away-
welcoming the stream to our famine-ridden place.

Cascading, cool, and to enticements slow
nevertheless, rivulets overstay their power.
Trickling over fields for green plants to grow
bitterness disappears with their first shower.

Joys abound inwardly at first, bubbling outward,
in so profound a moment, we all look forward

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


err 4 words-

mundane body functions
or is it magic action

mind has no control
it tries hard to console

admit heat, boredom
or insomniac’s wisdom

repeatedly induces yawning-
stopping at forty countings

why the revulsion-
such intense aversion

how can it be it crude?
why consider it rude

fancy having psychomachy
maybe it is batrachomyomachy?


This was written in defense of yawning!

Pronunciation: bæ-trê-kê-mai-om-ê-ki -->

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: A tempest in a teacup, a mountain made of a molehill, making a federal case of a minor issue.

Monday, June 11, 2007


with piercing eyes

she appraises her province,
concern for her cubs
utmost in her mind.
calling for security
until they are grown up
enough to sustain,
independent of her.
nurturing instinct
being strongest
for a mother to be.
all her wildernesses
gone for a while,
Leola stands tall!

Being a member of the Shameless Lions Writing Circle, I named my lion, Leola and wrote this 48 words poem for her. She may be fierce and brave but when maternal instinct takes over....

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Spicy....Sunday Scribblings

This weeks' Sunday Scribblings is to write about Spicy.

Spicy has the following meanings: having the flavour, aroma, or quality of spice/ piquant, zesty/producing or abounding in spices/high-spirited, lively.

As soon as one says spicy, most of us get strong aroma of certain spices that we like. I get a smell of nutmeg and cloves!

Asian cooking is incomplete without the use of spices. Different places make use of different spices. In India, different spices are used in North and South India. These vary vastly. A few examples of spices used are basil, bay leaf, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, dill, fennel, mustard, nutmeg, cardamom, tamarind, cinnamon, curry leaves, pepper, garlic and ginger.

As I am an Indian, I love my food very pungent and spicy. Bland, boiled food is virtually unknown in this part of the world. Chillies, both red and green ones, are added to most vegetable preparations what most of you know as curry. Those curries taste great with plain boiled rice or chapatis/paranthas. Pickles are one item of food, which too contain many spices with oil and salt. No Indian meal is complete without pickles, which are made of raw mangoes or lemons or seasonal vegetables cut into small pieces.

Sometimes cloves, cardamoms, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are added to tea. Those may be added and boiled with water before adding tealeaves. These are good for curing coughs and colds giving instant relief. All these/or any one can be boiled in water, sweetened to taste and sipped like tea. I relish nutmeg tea with sugar and milk. These spices do enhance the taste of tea along with curing common colds.

It does seem like a lesson on the eating habits in India. What I have mentioned here is just a drop in the ocean! Do check up India Spices.

Check out more spices....

*Delhi temperature touched 46 Degrees Celsius today. In a way, we are getting nicely pickled. Nothing can be more spicy than that!!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Capitulation---Poetry Thursday

Journeying beyond experiences
gladly I surrender
into your eyes. They embrace
me without touching
any single part of me,
closed as they are but open
within the mind, for me,
receptive of my thoughts;

folding me into their
softness of gaze,
beholding my feelings
endearingly to their vision.
Glowingly melting the ice
within my textured heart,
mending it magically,
no markings visible as if never broken.

Gratefully I nudge my way
into your arms, wishing for
eternal home there,
sensing strength in your fragile being.
Vulnerability does not
bother me any more,
knowing I am safe with you.
Sense of completeness

hitherto unknown, engulfs me.
Burrowing myself deeper
I let go of my whole
being into your keeping.
You wordlessly open your eyes.
Mysterious depths take me
in. Pollinating each other
for an intense divine union.


Another book from my summer reading.

Please do read my review of "The Constant Gardener by John le Carré" whenever you have time and give your opinions. Those are always welcome!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wings of Tale---Shakespearean Sonnet--3WW

Endless, Ought, Shadow

Wings of Tale

How can ever I know what all you say is true,
turning the corner you saw a wizard’s face?
This kind of talk from you not at all new,
you are prone to see weird things at any place.

Some times, I feel your imaginings are so free,
with your perception, the world ought to change-
fairy tales seem so true, present becomes history;
pictures from playing cards come alive. Strange

shadows seem so normal. None of those decree
work any more around you. Who is going to dwell
about the way you are? My thoughts are let it be,
go ahead make it known what you observe. Tell

it all in vivid details. Let the wings of tales grow,
merging into reality- turning into an endless show!


And do feel free to read and comment on my review on "The Places in Between" by Rory Stewart.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Some pictures of Delhi

This in addition to the previous post, Megalopolitan.

Any average day in Delhi! Utter chaos. Photo taken up from a


An old shop in Chandni Chowk, a market from the times of Mughal Period.

A road in Old Delhi in front of Red Fort


Red Fort---built by Shahjahan. There is a Meena Bazaar inside the premises. That was set up for the princesses and other female folks of the Mughal dynasty

Rashtrapati Bhawan--Our President resides there!

Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. There is a larger one in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

India Gate--built in memory of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who lost their life in world war I.

Qutub Minar...Landmark to Delhi. A fine example of Indo-Islam architecture.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Megalopolitan....Sunday Scribblings

Sunday Scribblings asks us to write about town & country. Either and/or both. And why?

Writing about the place one lives in, one tends to get overtly sentimental and biased. I will write about it as objectively as I can. I may be excused for disjointed thoughts too, as I tend to drift when writing anything other than poetry!

As far as I remember, I have always stayed in a city. We arrived in Delhi in 1972 when I was around 5 years old. My dad had a transferable job. I completed all my education in Delhi. It does offer the best in terms of education. As luck would have it, I got a job too under the Delhi Administration.

....Lady Irwin School---My Alma Mater

It being the capital of India and that too being a political one, it is the most happening place in India. There is a vulgar display of wealth, wide disparity between the rich and the poor. Many flaunt their political connections. Rich get away with sheer muscle and money power. I suppose that is true for most cities in most part of the world.

Delhi is an architectural delight or eye shore as some sceptics may call it! The traditional and the modern co-exist. Mughal Architecture and Lutyen’s Delhi balance each other rather very well. The wide roads and the green spaces make up for country life.

I curse Delhi, I hate its extreme summer, at times the people, the culture, the crowds, the stink but I love it. I love the street food--the wide variety and with so much varied tastes.

Piping hot, straight from fire! Gorgingly delicious.
I enjoy browsing in the roadside markets, haggling. I like the sidewalks. I even watch people fighting over trivial issues. Delhi never had any culture of its own despite having a rich history. All those who arrive here get their own set of notions and thinking. Delhi assimilates all that, gives more in return.

Delhi teaches one to survive. Any one looking for a work here always lands up one. Almost no one goes hungry here. All seem to be in a hurry on any weekday. On weekends too, there are crowds but the pace slows down. Lawns in front India Gate get filled up with people relaxing. With eateries coming up in the sidewalks, it is pleasure to behold.

I like to go out of Delhi. I travel a lot within India during my vacations. I have been to major cities as well as small towns, countrysides, small villages. Those rejuvenate me and refresh me. Nevertheless, I love to come back to Delhi, despite the heat, the dust, the hustle, the bustle...whatever!

*I tried posting more pictures but blogger goofed up. I gave up after several tries.
**I posted those pictures here, in the next post! Do chk those out!

Book Review---The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

ISBN 0-15-603156-6
The Places In Between by Rory Stewart
Harcourt Inc.
Pages: 299

"The Places in Between" has a great narration of travel. Rory Stewart writes this with the juxtaposition of a sage, writer and comedian. He philosophizes, sees the depth of character in humanity and has a sense of humour despite many odds.

Stewart's travels in Afghanistan were fraction of a much longer journey, a walk across Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. However, in this book we only get a glimpse of his walk from Herat to Kabul. Walking through bitter cold, in snow, it almost seems an impossibility to complete the journey but he does it for us to read about it.

Stewart dresses up in Shalwar Kemis worn by most Afghans. He merges into them. Only difference being he does not have a beard. He loves those Afghans who are not always welcoming. In his own words, despite sometimes being "greedy, idle, stupid, hypocritical, insensitive, mendacious, ignorant and cruel, these people never attempted "to kidnap or kill me" — even though he “epitomized a culture that many of them hated." For average citizens of Afghanistan, some of whom had worked for or aided the Taliban, he beholds with admirable calm.

Stewart, who speaks Persian, has no illusions and is mater of fact mostly. Armed only with a wooden staff tipped with a metal nub foraged from an old Soviet armored personnel carrier, he begins his journey with two companions who are rather forced on him. He is at times accompanied or escorted by villagers along his trek. He even ends up with a full-time companion, a retired fighting dog "the size of a small pony" that is earless, tailless and has more gums than teeth. Stewart names him "Babur." Together they face the toughest part of the journey, through deep snows, blizzards and mountain passes. At times Stewart must almost literally drag Babur along. Stewart commendably does not give in to sentiment. He is about to collapse from cold and exhaustion, "half buried in deep powder," he looks up to see Babur barking at him. "His matter-of-factness made me feel that I was being melodramatic. If he was going to continue, so would I."

Babur's 16th-century autobiography, the "Baburnama," is among the books Stewart packs, he following a route used nearly 500 years before by Babul the first emperor of the Munhall Empire. The quotations from Baburnama are a delight. He draws the parallels at numerous instances.

While some villages appear relatively unscathed from years of warfare, others have been severely damaged or traumatized. The effects of war appear even in geographic descriptions. Afghans refer to many places and locations by some tragic or brutal event that occurred there, not by physical attributes.

The loss of great cultures is evident by the villagers looting and the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Talibanis.

The Places in Between uncovers and revels in the diversity, strains and struggles of the people, their land and culture. It is a fascinating journey into a place as diverse as Afghanistan. A man’s walk brings all of it alive for us. We get a very good glimpse into a world wholly unknown to us.

I have posted it in my reading room blog. As no one read it there, I am re-posting it here!