My ‘pappa’ Jan disappears to the ‘Hindu Kush’ all the time. As a little girl, and as a big girl, I hear my ‘mamma’ Gail call after him, ‘Are you off to the ‘Hindu Kush’, Jan?’ He slips out the backdoor, and he stays, out there, for hours. He is in the garden! Here, he covers a compost heap, reinforces a terrace, builds a little dog-proof fence and spans a shade cloth. He catches water, leads it along a little furrow and lets it drip into a bed of dark soil. He fills little pots with a special mix of nutrients and seeds. He cuts and grafts, nodes and stems. He harvests and rinses and then sorts and displays. When he returns through the backdoor he has a basin of beans and a promise of pumpkin. Sometimes more green beans than Gail can smile at!
Even in the most barren of plots, Jan searches for a little trickle and a soft mushy patch. He grows something, everywhere. It’s the part of the world that is in his hands.
Of course, the words ‘Hindu Kush’ jump off the map, straight at me. Jan’s ‘Hindu Kush’ has 7000m high peaks! They define the messy borders between Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. And within its dark shadow, there hide high-elevation, fertile valleys. Once the snow melts away, the persistent find blue lakes and lush land.
Fancy, today we ride in the shadow of the ‘Hindu Kush’! (next to the Afghanistan border; see post “Afghans walking …”). It is dry and dusty, grey and brown. There is not a blotch of green. The road takes all day and the valley turns black. And just then, three parked trucks surprise us. We stop, and we find a ‘Jan from Tajikistan’!
He fetches us! He leads us through his valley of lush and fertile. We meet the three truckers also staying the night. He suggests a spot, a little aside, for our tent. He catches the glimmer in Harry’s eye that spots beer bottles that dance in a mountain stream. He brings a table, two chairs, a round flat bread and bowls-full of a chunky vegetable and meaty broth. And he leaves us, with a silent night, in the shadow of a dark ‘Hindu Kush’.
Every trickle finds a channel. Every bed gets a seed.
The next morning ‘Jan from Tajikistan’ shows us the part of the world that is in his hands. We meet his wife and daughters and grandchildren. We hear of his sons’ work and his father’s Presidential award. A generator powers down, a daughter calls out, goats bleat and chickens scratch. But it is the sound of melting water that raises the roof! It thunders down rock-face, gushes along channels and squirts into green beds. Red tomatoes, white onions, yellow pumpkin, purple aubergines and green spinach sprouts and spreads. We cross the road and see his experiments with guavas and lemons and oranges!
Oh, we converse easily in the language of hands and face. And together we savour every single part of the world that is in his hands.
We leave ‘Jan from Tajikistan’ and his abundant valley in the shadow of the harsh ‘Hindu Kush’. And we don’t see another soul till midday.
And along the road, all Harry & I think is … ‘There are not enough ‘Jan’s in the World’’…