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Chapter 39

A new city--The Bungalow--Numerous Beluch
villages--Nomads--Beluch architecture--Weaving
looms--Implements--Beluch diet--Cave dwellers of Nushki--Beluch
dress--Children--The salaam of the chiefs--An impressive
sight--The Kwajah Mahommed Ziarat--Shah Hussein's Ziarat and its
legend--A convenient geographical site.

On arriving at this new city, with actual streets and people moving about in them, shops, etc., it seemed to me at first almost as good as if I had arrived back in London again. The Bungalow, on a prominent hill 75 feet above the plain, was simply and nicely furnished, and was most comfortable in every way. From it one obtained a fine panoramic view of the small town and the neighbouring country with the many Beluch villages scattered about.

North, two miles off, was Mengal, a village of about 300 houses and 1,500 people; west lay Jumaldini (2½ miles distant), 200 houses, 6-700 inhabitants; north-west, Badini in two blocks, one belonging to Alun Khan, the other jointly to Khaian Khan and Adal Khan: 200 houses collectively, 400 to 500 people. Little Badal Khan Karez, with only 30 houses, stood to the south-west. The population of these villages is formed of the tribes called Barechis and Rashkhanis, the people of Badini and Jumaldini being entirely Rashkhanis. The Barechis formerly inhabited Afghanistan, but migrated to the Nushki district three generations ago. Bagag (south-west) is a village generally inhabited by Mandais, a branch of the Jumaldini Rashkhanis.

Two big villages are to be found south, and they are called Batto, which means "mixture," owing to the populations being composed of Rashkhanis, Mingals, Samalaris, Kharanis, and other minor tribes; and south of Batto are two more villages (east and west respectively of each other). The one east is Harunis, a separate tribe from either the Rashkhanis and the Mingals, who follow the head chief Rind. The second village (west) is Ahmed Val, inhabited by Ahmed Zai Mingals. Besides these villages, the remainder of the population is of nomads.

It may have been noticed that regarding the village of Bagag I said that "generally" it was inhabited by Mandais. Certain villages are inhabited by certain tribes during the summer, the people migrating for the winter months, and other tribes come in for the winter and vacate their quarters in the summer. The Beluch is not much burdened with furniture and can do this without inconvenience.

The crops grown consist of wheat, barley and jowari (millet). Where good grazing is obtainable the younger folks are sent out with sheep, horses and camels.

Almost each tribe has a different style of architecture for its dwellings. Those near Nushki are usually rectangular in shape, domed over with matting covered with plaster. The only opening is the door, with a small porch over it. Wooden pillars are necessary to support the central portion of the dome (semi-cylindrical), which is never higher than from five to eight feet. The mangers for the horses, which form an annexe to each dwelling--in fact, these mangers are more prominent than the dwellings themselves--are cylindrical mud structures eight or nine feet high, with a hole cut into them on one side to allow the horse's head to get at the barley contained in the hollowed lower portion.

The weaving looms are the largest and principal articles of furniture one notices--not inside, but outside the houses. The illustration shows how the cloth and threads are kept in tension, from every side, in a primitive but most effective manner. The women work with extraordinary rapidity and with no pattern before them, beating each transverse thread home by means of an iron comb held in the hand. The pattern on the cloths is of a primitive kind, generally sets of parallel lines crossing one another at right angles.

In the same photograph two Beluch dwellings can be seen, with matting showing through the thatch. In many villages, however, the walls of the houses are made of sun-dried bricks, and only the roof is made of a mat plastered over with mud. In either case the Beluch seems to have a liking for crawling rather than walking into his house, for the doorway is invariably very low--4½ to 5 feet high.

One is generally sorry to peep into a Beluch dwelling, but I felt it a sort of duty to see what there was to be seen. Nothing! or almost nothing. A large wooden bowl, a stone grinding wheel with a wooden handle to grind wheat into flour, a wooden drinking cup or an occasional tin enamelled one, of foreign importation, a matchlock, and that was all. In some of the smarter dwellings, such as the houses of chiefs, a few additional articles were to be found, such as a badni--a sort of jar for taking water--flat stones which are made red hot for baking bread, some occasional big brass dishes--tash--used on grand occasions--such as wedding dinners; and a deg or two or large brass pots.

Nearly every household, however, possesses one or more khwa or skins for water, and a large kasa, made either of metal or wood, into which broth is poured during meals. Occasionally in a corner of the hut a small table is to be seen, on which are placed all the family's clothing, blankets, darris or carpets, and lihaf or mattresses. These carpets, or rather rugs, are generally spread when receiving an honoured guest.

The Beluch diet is wholesome but simple. They are fond of plenty of meat when they can get it, which is not often, and they generally have to be satisfied with dry bread. The woman who can make the largest and thinnest bread is much honoured among the Beluch. When they do obtain meat it is generally boiled and made into a soup called be-dir, which in the Brahui language really means "salt water," to express "flavoured water." Milk and ghi are dainties seldom indulged in and, being Mussulmans, the Beluch imbibe no intoxicants, but are smokers of strong bitter tobacco.

It is not uncommon for lambs, sheep and calves to share the homes and some of the meals of their masters.

Perhaps the most peculiar folks at Nushki are the cave dwellers, who live in abject misery in holes eroded by water in the cliffs near the river. When I visited them most were half-naked and trembling with cold. A few rags answered the purpose of blankets. The only articles of furniture and comfort were a primitive pipe moulded out of mud--the chilam or the gaddu as it is called by the Kakars--which occupied a prominent place in the dwelling, and a musical instrument placed in a receptacle in the wall of the cave. At the entrance of the cave a wall had been built for protection against the wind and water.

In another dwelling an assah or long iron rod, like a crutch, the emblem of fakirs, was noticeable, and by its side an empty "potted-tongue" tin with a wire attached to it--an article which was made to answer to a great many uses. This cave had a small store place for food, a drinking cup, and the wooden vessel--another emblem of fakirs--in which charitable people deposit money for the support of these poor wretches.

The dress of the better class Beluch men consists of a khuss, or sort of loose shirt reaching below the knees, and the enormous trousers falling in ample folds, but fitting tight at the ankle. At an angle on the head they wear a conical padded cap, embroidered in gold or silver, inside a great turban of white muslin. They also wear shawls or long scarves thrown over the shoulders in a fashion not unlike our Highlanders. Either shoes with turned-up toes are worn or else sandals. Felt coats or sheep-skins are donned in winter, while the richer people wear handsome coats and waistcoats of cloth embroidered in gold or silver. The chiefs possess most beautiful and expensive clothes.

The women of the poorer classes are garbed in a short petticoat, usually red or blue, and a loose shirt. A long cloth, not unlike a chudder, is thrown over the head, and is kept tight round the forehead by a band. It is fashionable to let it drag on the ground behind. Women generally go about barefooted. Better class ladies wear similar clothes but of better material, and often richly embroidered. Occasionally they put on large trousers like Persian women. The hair is either left to flow loose at the sides of the head, or is tied into a knot behind.

Necklaces, ear-rings, nose-rings, bracelets and armlets are worn; white shells of all sizes from the Persian Gulf, as well as glass beads, playing a very important part in women's ornaments. Bracelets cut out of a large white sea-shell are common.

Beluch children are rather quaint, with little skull caps, much decorated with silver coins, one of which larger than the others hangs directly over the forehead. The poor little mites are further burdened with ear-rings, bracelets and heavy necklaces of glass beads. Mothers seem tenderly fond of their children.

I was much delighted on the morning of January 29th to find that all the chiefs of the neighbouring tribes, garbed in their gaudy robes, had come with their retinues to pay their salaams to me. I heard the buzzing noise of a crowd approaching up the hill, and on looking out of the bungalow window beheld a most picturesque sight. A tall, long-haired figure in a brilliant long gown of red velvet, with gold embroideries in front and back, walked slowly a-head, followed by a cluster of venerable old men, some in long yellow skin poshteens, others in smart waistcoats covered with gold and silver embroidery. All wore huge turbans with gold embroidered conical caps inside. Behind them came a mass of armed men with swords and rifles.

On reaching the bungalow, fearing that I should still be asleep, they became silent, and as I watched them unseen from behind the blinds I do not believe that I have ever in my life gazed upon such a fine, dignified, manly lot of fellows anywhere. They seated themselves in a perfect circle, some twenty yards in diameter, directly outside the bungalow, carpets having been spread where the chiefs were to be accommodated. The chiefs sat together, and the soldiers and followers--over 150--with guns, matchlocks and Snider rifles, squatted down in two semicircles at their sides.

An opening was left large enough for me to enter the ring, and when I approached all respectfully rose and salaamed, and the chiefs, coming forward in turn, shook me heartily by the hand with the usual long Beluch salutation, each bowing low as he did so. Sitting in the centre of the circle on a carpet, which had been spread for me, I addressed them in a few words, which they seemed to appreciate, and each chief answered back in a simple, straightforward and most thoughtful, gentlemanly manner.

Mahommed Ali, the leading chief, in a red velvet coat, was the Mingal Sardar of the three powerful tribes, Jumaldini, Badini, and Mingal, and by his side sat Kaim Khan with his shield and sword, the second Sardar of the neighbourhood and brother of the Jumaldini Sardar. Jan Beg, who sat on the left hand side of the chief Sardar, was a thin tall man, and Alam Khan, a splendid old fellow with a fine inlaid sword, can be seen standing in the photograph reproduced in the illustration.

The last of the principal five Badini chiefs was a comparatively young man of black complexion, long jet black curly hair, and garbed in a gaudy poshteen, sword and belt. His name was Kasin Khan.

Then there was Kadar Bakhsh, uncle of the present Mingal Sardar, a man most useful to the British Government, and beside him his brother, Attar Khan.

Gauher Khan, nephew of the Mingal Sardar, was a picturesque young man with heavily embroidered black coat and a black turban. He carried his sword in his hand.

As one looked round the circle it was really a most impressive and picturesque sight--colours of all sorts dazzling in the sunlight. Among the other most important men were Adal Khan (cousin of the Badini chief), a very old fellow, curved from age; and Bai Khan, his cousin, who looked somewhat stronger; Kaiser Khan, a smart young fellow with curly hair, black coat and trousers, was the son of the Jumaldini chief, and a young fellow of weak constitution, by name Abdullah Aziz, was son and heir of the Badini Sardar.

(Sardar Alam Khan standing.)]

Sherdil and Mehrullah Khan, with elaborately embroidered coats and Snider rifles, sat among the elect, and the others were soldiers and followers, but a fine lot of fellows indeed, all the same.

When the formal reception broke up I showed them my repeating rifles, revolvers and various instruments, which interested them greatly; and the leading chiefs having been entertained to tea, they eventually departed after repeated salaams.

Although the Beluch and the Afghan shake hands on arrival, they seldom do so on departing, the handshake being for them an outward sign to express the joy of seeing a friend.

On surveying the neighbourhood from our high point of vantage at the bungalow, we found plenty to interest the observer. To the north and north-west directly below the hill could be seen a graveyard in two sections, the tombs being very high above ground, with prismatic tops of white stones, whereas the bases were of black pebbles. The tombs in the graveyard to the north-west were in bad preservation. There was at this spot a well known Ziarat called Kwajah Mahommed, and the British Government has given much pleasure to the natives by sanctioning a "mufi" or remission of revenue for ever of all the land belonging to this Ziarat in order to provide for the support of it.

The people of the district are extremely religious, and they have erected Mesjids and Ziarats on every possible hill in the neighbourhood. The most interesting is the Shah-Hussein Ziarat, which has a curious legend of its own. They say, that when the Arabs attacked Shah-Hussein, he killed all his enemies by merely praying to God. With their heads, which suddenly turned into solid stone, he built the Ziarat. The tomb is made, in fact, of round stones, some of enormous size, evidently worn into that shape by water, but the natives firmly believe that they are petrified heads of Arabs!

Nushki is most conveniently situated in a large valley with mountains sheltering it from the north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south-west, but from south-south-west to north there is a stretch of open flat desert (the Registan, or "country of sand") as far as the eye can see. To the south of the bungalow is a hill range stretching from north-north-east to south-south-west, and suddenly broken by the valley, through which runs the stream which, then proceeding along the Nushki plain from east to west, turns in a graceful curve round the western side of the hill on which the bungalow is situated, and proceeds across the desert in a north-north-west direction, where, having supplied several villages and irrigated their fields, it eventually exhausts itself in the desert. A broad river bed can be noticed on the east side of and parallel with the above hill range. The east side of these hills has been much worn by water action; so much so that actual holes and caves in the soft strata of sand and gravel have been corroded by the water, and these holes, as we have seen, are now inhabited by destitute Beluch.