Without the Window, It's Not Worthwhile

Without the window it’s not worthwhile. To think of the exorbitant rates of plane tickets, how soon the journey is over, clearly the most valuable item up for grabs is the view. Consequently, it is entirely unsatisfactory to slum it in the aisle or worse, squashed between unwelcome strangers in the middle seat, especially when the price is the same. Those other seats are simply a rip off for people who know no better, who cannot have enjoyed a window seat previously. Without a window seat it’s not worth flying. It’s perfectly reasonable not to board the plane.

These are not my words. While I tend to prefer the window I would not refuse to fly; nor would I expend so many words explaining my preference. For Iqbal, silence was a negative waiting to be filled. His tips and stories came like a flash flood, bowled you over with barely time to recover before the next flood began.

Farsi is a language of exquisite beauty. It’s the language of great literature, of poets like Hafez and Saadi and simply to hear the language spoken is like a melody from heaven. The phrases used even for everyday speech are poetic and enlightening. Of course Iqbal couldn’t appreciate the entirety of it, but from his Urdu he could glean enough. He was Pakistani and it was a dreadful loss for my Australian friend Lachlan and me to be in Iran surrounded by the sweetest language unable to comprehend a single word.

Farsi is beautiful. I would say we might have told Iqbal we had Farsi lessons and were more than beginners, but it’s not easy to spit into a raging torrent. And yet, Iqbal was very likeable.

We were on the same flight from Bandar Abbas to Chah Bahar in eastern Iran, in Iran’s Baluchestan. Flights were very cheap in Iran with one way fares as low as ten dollars due to the appalling, for the Iranians, exchange rate. I don’t think we met on the plane, as Iqbal found the window seat in front of mine – but as we needed transport from the airport into Chah Bahar town, we shared a taxi.

It’s unacceptable to use somebody else’s bathroom. If one needs to use the bathroom they should certainly do it before leaving home, before arriving at another person’s home as a valued guest. Children should be instructed same. There is nothing worse than visiting another man’s bathroom – it will leave the host wondering if it was them you came to see or if you only came to use the plumbing.

No comment from me.

Chah Bahar has its Baluchi ways that were significantly different to most of Iran. Baluchis were mostly Sunni and their clothes harked more to the subcontinent than to the country’s west. The only difficulty, common to all port cities in Iran, hotels for foreigners were expensive. As Iqbal really was a nice guy, the three of us agreed to share a room, with two single beds and a mat on the floor for me, in between.

It was in that small period between the turning off the light and the sleep arriving, with the very last of the day’s chat winding down, when I heard one of the strangest sentences ever. We were finally asking Iqbal why he was in Iran. Through the darkness I heard him say, “I lost my jeans. I’ve come to find them.”

Politeness says a small reply is in order, something along the lines of “oh, that’s nice” or “I hope you find them.” I don’t recall if I managed to squeeze something out, but I was entirely grateful for the darkness – nobody could see me biting hard on my lip to prevent laughter from bursting out. It was helpful that I couldn’t see Lachlan’s face at that stage, because I knew he would be having great difficulty holding his own laughter back. But the silence – it was no longer a negative waiting to be filled – it was substantial, unbearably heavy and with the force of a category five cyclone. That silence couldn’t be resisted.

I heard the first busts from Lachlan’s closed mouth – and then we roared laughing, both of us – unseemly, rude and for several minutes, unstoppable. Iqbal didn’t understand what was humorous.

There were some obvious questions – why would a man lose a pair of jeans in a neighbouring country – had he been there before or were they somehow smuggled over the border? How regularly is it that people travel abroad in search of missing trousers?

When the laughter eased and we sought explanation it became apparent we’d misunderstood. It wasn’t his jeans he’d lost but his jinns. He’d sent them to Iran and they’d not returned. Of course, the concept of losing one’s jinns also raises some obvious questions – but it was better not to ask. It was time to sleep.

We took the plane on to Zahedan, the capital of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province and not very far from the border with Afghanistan. Iqbal was with us – he was going the same way – and he was still a rather good and likeable guy. So we stayed at the same hotel.

If you ever happen to get shot in the leg, it’s certainly no excuse for interrupting a dinner party. Particularly if it’s a family birthday party and others are in high spirits in the hope of an entertaining night over a meal, then it’s better not to mention the shooting. As for the blood that’s dripping on the floor under the table, a fistful of napkins can help, and if it’s done discretely nobody need know. Then, once the meal is completed, it will possible to drive the wife and children home before quietly continuing on to check into a hospital.

It was the first moments in Zahedan that I started to consider that Iqbal might indeed have some kind of superpower. Lachlan and I had gone to buy water and I was discussing Iqbal’s flourishing communicativeness. I said, “He can talk on any topic. He could talk for an hour about his socks!” Socks was random; yet minutes later, back at the hotel when we went to find Iqbal to go sightseeing, he was just putting on his socks.

The best socks are made with thicker wool by Afghans. You can buy them at the Afghan market and other socks simply won’t compete – Afghan socks are warmer and more comfortable and never get holes in them because they are hand knitted. Once you’ve worn Afghan socks you’ll never wear others. If it’s not Afghan the socks aren’t worth buying.

Zahedan is picturesque with its backdrop of jet black hills. We took to the city’s photogenic suburbs with their mud brick houses. It was inevitable that in the mix of buildings we’d end up standing on somebody’s roof. What was unexpected was that the householder came rushing out and asked us not to stand there because it might collapse. Instead, he invited us to come in for tea.

We chatted with the Zahedani and he was rather impressed by our Farsi. For some reason, maybe his accent, we could understand him well while Iqbal struggled. “These two have come from the other side of the world,” said the Zahedani, “and their Farsi is good, but you come from a neighbouring country and you can’t understand.”

Yet he really was nice guy, Iqbal. So what did it matter if he’d lost his jinns? It could happen to anybody.

The story of apparel cannot be told by jeans and socks alone... There'd need to be...

                        various knitwear items in vomit green...

                                                                                         a sari shawl in alpaca, of course!

                                     the very latest in elegant, chic, forest wear...

This article also published in Star Magazine, here: Without the Window, It's Not Worthwhile

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