Quetta, Pakistan: Friday March 25, 1996: I continued to meet Kasi family members everywhere I turned. They told me that all the area that is now Quetta had once belonged to the tribe. Then the British came, and they had to sell much of the farmland to the foreigners. But they were still able to retain large tracts of land and lots of houses in and around the parts of Quetta that used to be their village.
We all motored over to Dr. Kasi’s house. Since the father and the oldest brother are dead, Dr. Malik Kasi is the senior tribesman and lives in his father’s house. Other brothers live within a stone’s throw inside the compound. Going inside was again like entering a carpet and porcelain museum—high ceilings, beautiful wooden stairways, double wooden doors, fine Persian silk, and woolen carpets. Again we drew up carpet pillows, had tea and fruit, and talked. The men invited me to go to a special barbecue place for dinner at 8:00 p.m.
When the other brothers, nephews, cousins, and family members left, Dr. Kasi and I began to talk about the carpets. I asked him if he would teach me how to recognize good carpets and give me an idea about pricing. He was flattered. We went through the whole house, room by room, and he explained the styles, designs, weights, and different geographical areas of the weaving. He then asked me if I would like to go out to a home and see how the family gets involved in weaving a carpet. Of course I said, “Yes!”
As we were leaving Dr. Kasi disappeared for a few minutes, and soon he and his wife appeared with a very, very fine, small carpet. She said that they wanted for me to please accept it as a gift from their collection. She said that the doctor was so pleased to have someone to talk to about history and carpets. Of course I accepted!
It was very dark by now as we left the gated compound and headed through the village streets. Dr. Kasi had brought both of his young sons with him. That put some of my fears at ease. We drove probably seven or eight miles out into the desert, where we came to a village of mud buildings surrounded by high mud walls. We turned in between two local food shops, where they were still doing night-time business by the light of lanterns.
The pathway we followed was one that Dr. Kasi had followed one time about a year earlier when he had come to treat the wife of the house who was extremely ill with a life-threatening sickness. The high mud walls lining the narrow passageway allowed very little room on either side of the car. The center of the pathway was where all the sewer and wastewater collected and eventually collected in a ditch that ran along a railroad track on its way somewhere into the desert. A door opened in the wall, and lantern light from one of the mud houses streamed into the passageway. Two men stepped out in front of Dr. Kasi’s car. Fortunately the men were very friendly and insisted that we come in and eat with them and meet their special guests, who had arrived from Turkey. We politely turned them down, but they became quite insistent that we at least come in and have green tea with them.
Dr. Kasi hastily tried to explain to me that the Muslim culture in that part of the world demands that they take good care of pilgrims or travelers and not leave them out alone at night. It is a great insult if you refuse the offer. We continued to protest and asked them to please give us directions to the carpet weaver’s house. The two men finally agreed and ran ahead of the car lights to show us the way. The passageway in places was so soggy with the sewer water mixed with the recent rain that we very nearly got stuck several times. The thought ran through my mind how impossible it would be to ever solve the mystery of my disappearance in a situation like this if, in the darkness of the desert, someone wanted to rob and kill me. There is no law and order out here, and very little chance that anyone would ever try to pursue the matter.
Enough of that! We arrived at the correct doorway, and a very Mongol-Chinese-looking Asian man warmly welcomed us into the home. The first room housed the family’s valued possession—a donkey with a feed bag strapped around its head. Eventually we came into a large open area where the family was gathered around a warm charcoal fire built on the dirt floor. All the family members surrounded Dr. Kasi when they recognized him. He was obviously their hero. In fact, all the children were named in one way or another after him.
The large open area also housed a horizontal loom set up off the floor about eight inches. When the family understood that Dr. Kasi had brought me to see them do a little carpet weaving, one of the daughters jumped right over to the apparatus, pushed the shuttle mechanism forward, and began stringing woolen threads, which had been wrapped around sticks of wood, through the lateral base strings. She was really very confident and quick. Then, with some wooden tools, she beat the new strings compactly into place before she pulled the shuttle handles back to align everything.
I asked Dr. Kasi what they used as a pattern for such a complicated design. He said, “There is no written-down design. It has been memorized and passed down from mother to daughter for years and years. A girl is very valuable and has greatly increased marriage qualities if she possesses the memory of such a design.”
A family keeps the carpet weaving going almost constantly by having each member take turns helping. It takes them several months to finish a carpet.
In order to help us get out of the sloppy, stinky maze of walls and bogs, one of the young men of the family, whose job it was to drive the donkey cart, rode with us all the way out to the main road, giving us directions like a pro. Tough luck, but he had to walk in the dark all the way back to his mud house.
On the way back to town, I took the opportunity to quietly share with Dr. Kasi how God changed my life and the details of how I got involved in Project C.U.R.E.
We were about twenty minutes late when we arrived at the barbecue restaurant. Abdul Ghafoor Kasi, the policeman, and his nephew Khursheed Kasi, the family orchard farmer, were already there. We had a splendid time eating skewered goat meat and some kind of bird meat and who-knows-what-else meat dipped in different yogurt concoctions and laced with high-powered herbs and spices. Once again I prayed like crazy for an immune system equal to the occasion.
I returned to the hotel about 11:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 16
This morning Dr. Roohullah Mohammed Qazi called my hotel room from the lobby. No returned phone call; he just showed up. I didn’t know for certain whom I was talking to or whether he said Qazi or Kasi, so I told him that I would come right down to the lobby. He was ready to take me to the hospital, but I explained that another Dr. Munir Kasi was going to pick me up momentarily and take me to the office of Mohammed Irfan Kasi, the secretary of health for the government of Baluchistan. While we waited, Dr. Qazi and I went to the coffee shop for tea.
Right at 10:00 a.m., Dr. Munir Kasi came to the hotel desk. I explained that Dr. Qazi was there, and if Dr. Munir preferred, I could ride to the hospital with him. He said no; he had brought the secretary of health with him to the hotel, and he was waiting at a corner table in the lobby to see me.
I started from the beginning of the story with the secretary. We discussed several technical points, and then he gave me the assurance that he would oversee the safe passage of the containers through customs and then from Karachi to Quetta.
At the hospital Dr. Qazi took me to his office. His delay at the hotel with me had caused a real traffic jam in his office. We called one of his doctors to give me a complete tour of the hospital facilities. I spent until the middle of the afternoon viewing some really pathetic sights. To see a lot of what I have to view on the needs-assessment parts of my trips often leaves me absolutely emotionally wiped out.
Out on the sidewalks in front of the entrance of the different wards were sick people lying on blankets or pads provided by family members, who were huddled around them. Lots of mothers, whose heads and faces were completely covered, squatted on the ground holding disgustingly dirty and terribly sick babies.
Ward after ward, building after building, it was like a never-ending sea of sickness. The doctor who was giving me the tour said that people would travel hundreds of miles to get help from the hospital. They would even come south from the interior of Afghanistan with their old people and sick kids.
On the rounds through the different wards, I ran into Dr. Buzdar just getting ready to scrub and go into brain surgery. We hugged, and he was so happy to see me. He said that he had received word that I was coming to Quetta just the day before. Again, it made me wonder about all the fax messages I had sent. Somewhere there had to be one huge pile of fax papers being held on someone’s desk.
Later I went back to the hotel. I had gone right through lunch. That really wasn’t much of a problem, however. Someplace in the hospital I had lost my appetite.
At 4:00 p.m. Abdul Ghafoor Kasi and his nephew Khursheed, whom by now I was calling by his nickname “Chief,” came to pick me up at the hotel. We drove all through the bazaar and market areas of the city. There were literally thousands of small shops selling everything you could imagine.
They explained to me that some of it was cheap stuff left behind in Afghanistan when the Russians pulled out. But almost all the merchandise had been smuggled in over old historic trade routes once used by camel caravans from Iran, Afghanistan, and as far away as India, Turkmenistan, and China. Loads of electronics and audio-video equipment were for sale, which had been stolen from the ports in Karachi. Thousands of motorbikes and motorcycles were smuggled into Quetta, broken down into parts, and then reassembled and sold.
What I am learning about Pakistan is that there is absolutely no rule of law and order that governs the average person. Now I am beginning to understand a little better about the newspaper articles I’ve been reading in the local paper—the little boy the police recovered from a man in Quetta, who had abducted the boy from his home in Karachi to be sold into forced labor in Kabul, Afghanistan; a tribal dispute that broke out not far from my hotel in Quetta over a building being erected on a questioned site, which resulted in four killed on the spot and five more in critical condition; people in Hyderabad begging for some relief from the bandits in the area, who charge each individual two hundred thousand rupees for “protection.” If the money is not paid, the bandits start killing members of the families one at a time. In fact, the military has completely pulled out of much of Karachi because it is too dangerous to be in that city.
Next Week: Being Totally Accepted into the Family