We picked up the net and took off our Kimeez shirt which we wrapped around our heads to keep it close and block the sun. Wazir, our friend and close relative to the grizzly bear, looked at my chest and pulled a hair; I think he expected to hear a comical “sproing” sound, but I would give him no such satisfaction. He pointed at his chest and said “this is for real man,” then pointed at mine and said “this is for your wife to play with!”
The river following alongside us in our old Japanese jeep was the Ishkoman from which the valley gets its name. The perfect fishing spot eluded us temporarily, but we were sure to find it. At points that seemed impassable on the treacherous mountain road, Jamal would send out his younger cousin to pile rocks and construct makeshift bridges on top of streams and tributaries that blocked our way.
Wazir worked as a gemstone salesman in Dubai but always came back to Shonas for Eid Al-Fitr. He said he knew an old shepherd who lived by the river and collected rocks and that we should pay him a visit to see if he had restocked his wares. The old toothless man that appeared was wearing a vest that looked as though he’d been gnawing on it with his toothless chops and he smelled like the expired milk of his prized goat. The smell of mutton inside the barn was dizzying; it had permeated every fiber of every object including the crystalline structures of the quartz and amethyst that he had stockpiled over the years.
After Wazir affirmed the worthlessness of the man’s petty stones, we followed outside only to be met with the prized goat whose musk clung to every inch of the shepherd’s meager possessions and would cling to us for a while after we left. The goat was resting under the shade of a tree, sprawled on his back, bearing all. Maybe he was intimidated by the overly exhibited manliness of the goat, or maybe he was curious, but whatever the reason Wazir thought it would be best if he (warning: graphic images may remain in your mind days after reading) ran up and flicked the goat’s penis. There was a quick grunt of protest from the goat that could care less about the musings of an immature gem peddler. Wazir turned to me and said “it is huge; this is a lucky shepherd, go touch the goat penis.” Now I will do some unappealing things in the name of cultural sensitivity, but for some reason I presumed that the unceremonious flicking of a goat dick (goat-dick-flick) in no way fell under the umbrella of “traditional Pakistani culture.”
There was a something special in the wind and in the clouds that told us to stop the car and start fishing. Wazir whipped out a bottle of mountain dew before our clamber down the mountainside; Pakistan loves mountain dew. Jamal stayed with the jeep on the dusty mountain path while Wazir, Mullah, cousin, Matt and I all stumbled down to the river carrying two big fishing nets. In our makeshift turbans and rolled up shalwar pants, we watched as Wazir and cousin waded into the frigid river with high spirits. They caught 8 or so adult river trout in less than a few hours.
Wazir loves mountain dew
During our trek along the river looking for a spot for me and Matt to try fishing, Wazir snuck behind a bush to take a leak. I went too and figured that Wazir needn’t be alone while he tried to catch up with the rest of the group. He zipped up, ran out from behind the bushes and, with an outstretched arm, suggested that I take his hand. It wasn’t a tight grip as if he were shaking my hand for the first time and yet it wasn’t tender enough to be an interdigitation shared by lovers. It was an odd but comforting feeling; I hadn’t really held another man’s hand since I was a child holding on to my father’s. It seems that in a society where women are often kept out of the public eye, men have adapted to feel comfortable holding hands just to get that human touch and know that someone is there beside you. I doubt that Wazir felt a revelation similar to my own, but I think he knew that I appreciated the gesture. Matt and I tried our hand at net fishing only to catch a few baby trout that we had to throw back.
Driving back on the opposite side of the valley, we ran into an old friend of theirs who was having car trouble. He hooked a tow cable to the back of our jeep and we drove back together.
Murad was waiting for us back at his house. So was Jageer, Murad’s brother-in-law Hassan, Moussa and others. Murad’s wife and kids would be deep-frying the fish we caught and we would all partake in the biggest dude party this side of the Indus river.
There are a couple of key things at any good dude party that are all owed to Pakistan's unique Muslim-influenced heritage:
- Women are kept separate from men when many are present; no slimy girls allowed.
- The dress of both men and women are meant to be humbling, not flattering, and cover up sensitive body areas. This means that all clothes look (and feel) just like pajamas.
- Many people outside of large cities don't have a television which means that dancing is still a primary form of entertainment.
- Everyone drinks the aptly-named Doodh Pati Chai (tea); "Doodh Pati" sounds just like "Dude Party" in a Pakistani accent.
To sum it up: you eat a lot, kick the girls out, get in your pjs, dance, and drink dudeparty tea. It's a dude party, dude.
wearing matching pj's prepping for the dudeparty
We had enjoyed a nice gender-segregated meal with 15 other guys when there was a sudden blackout. Murad's wife came in to the pitch black room with a flashlight and a propane tank. The tank was attached to a small lantern bulb and illuminated the room in a dull light that made it feel like camping. Jageer picked up an old gas can to drum on and Wazir found a sitar and the dancing began.
Dancing happens in 2/4 time with the first beat slightly syncopated. Dancers go up one at a time and strut their stuff in the middle, surrounded by friends who are clapping, cheering, and singing. There is no right way to dance, and it seemed as though the more true to yourself you were in your dancing, the better it was. Each person had their own flavor of dance, with hints of Pakistan - shoulder shrugs, wrist flips, staccato leg movements reminiscent of a chicken's mating dance.
The music plays and you do your move, only one move with very slight variation. Then the beat picks up, people shout louder and clap harder and your one move evolves, much like a Pokemon, into a more complex version of your first move. The shrugs get deeper, the flips get quicker, the kicks get stronger. It's quite a sight and a worthy experience to be a part of. If only every day could be a dude party.