What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?


I’ve been to Lahori weddings, Arab weddings and Pakistani weddings outside of Pakistan and now I’ve had the—I would like to say—honour of experiencing an authentic Pakhtun wedding. May I say I have been honourably amazed on a number of levels!

The idea of weddings in Pakistani and Indian cultures revolves around the rhetoric; lots of love, lots of happiness, lots of food, and lots of relatives with opinions. Of course it also is shortly accompanied by a lot of aggressive looks and hands being sent about, mostly of unknowing soon to be weds. As a side order the procession itself has inherited a lot of traditional madness.

The wedding I’m in has absolutely no indication of the above. Save aside the food of course my hosts have definitely lived up to that reputation and God bless them for that. But when I say this wedding had none of the above I’d like that to be summed up and justified with the following sentence; we hadn’t a damn clue how or even when to congratulate the groom!

Cultural differences do come up as you travel from place to place each new area a new world in it’s own with a variety of bounties set to explore, but perhaps we took a big dip somewhere on the way or maybe we just were living it all wrong all this time!

Not for a moment was the groom or bride allowed to meet each other not even after their vows were done with. Sure they got their time together later but if I recall it was just an hour or two when they were yet again set to drift away.

Segregated in our ‘male fort’ we really did not know how to handle the situation especially since we were coming from a background where sitting down and chatting up a woman was no different than sitting down and chatting up a man. So we just sat there and took in all we could as everyone chatted us up with their lakhs and pakhs.

Come dawn we left for a little sight seeing around the area a beautiful place very rugged and definitely explained the character of the people it housed. Everyone was strong and rugged, men and women. Looking at our friend whose wedding we came to attend we couldn’t quite fit him into everyone else, all these years of him living away from these mountains, away from the chaos of ravaging animals during feast, of the constant clamour of his native tongue, of these brilliant hues in the distance, the peace and quiet of the night, of family guffawing when it was a moment to guffaw among other what nots, he had forced himself into a world that was chaotic in its own right. A chaos of light, flickering images, noise not as near peaceful yet surprisingly poetic on its own.

He had thrust away a heaven for the insides of a drum. A bunker with muffled sounds in the distance for a bomb shell dropping down screeching the air as it fell.

He was nothing like them. He was weak and thin, yes he had that Pakhtun temper but was that all that was needed to be one?

These thoughts pushed my mind around as if in a playground of bullies, I stopped to notice just how peaceful the area was. It was all broken when our host explained how coming out in these parts alone was never a good idea be it night or day the sounds of fire arms in the distance was ever present, the black market forever on watch, and being a target for said fire arm wasn’t entirely unlikely to happen.

But beautiful it was still. Perhaps the thought of lingering death made the scene more vibrant. Calm yet deadly. Coming from the bomb shell of the city this bunker seemed deadlier due it being alien.

We had expressed our interest in visiting the more rougher side of the mountains. Closer to the distant sound of fire arms. In its vulgar bed.

He scoffed and gave us a pat on the back saying we’re crazy.

We were, so we insisted still.

A man crossed our path, not the path we tread but far away in the distance but if we were to keep going then yes that would’ve been our path so my statement still held. Had he been armed or not we could not tell. His donkey could not have told, but I’m sure he had a better idea than me. What I found most exquisite was how his donkey knew the path better than he did and it just went along its hoofs tuning themselves to the sounds around them as they hit the ground his back bearing his owners load.

The scene was in a word cute, as if they both had been in an argument and his donkey just didn’t want to have him walk by his side. Why I wondered he was armed or not confused me.

The mountains in the distance kept poking at me as I moved my thoughts away. The old lake a dam now was so quiet the mountains around seemed to be shouting, screaming, a roar, a frenzy in the distance. All they did was stand there and stare. All I could think of was that market surrounded by check posts and gun towers. The slightest move noted.

A friend of mine could argue till forever with me over why I think the mountains are dangerous. Then again she’s lived with them longer, so she knows them better. I’ve been with plains, with deserts, and open spaces they’ve held their own specific dangers for me. The threat of the mirage being the only thing that could be anything remotely deadly. Always in sight always aware you could say I was more cautious more observant but for my own surroundings I was normal. She’d call me an idiot, but then she has more reasons to than just that.

Originally published at haideraliakmal.tumblr.com as part of an earlier travel log.



Design Futurist, Printmaker, nerd, and occasional writer interested in the interconnectivity between empathy, memory, and the digital world.

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Haider Ali Akmal

Haider Ali Akmal


Design Futurist, Printmaker, nerd, and occasional writer interested in the interconnectivity between empathy, memory, and the digital world.