Deshe Bideshe/Home and Abroad by Syed Mujtaba Ali

“He asked me whether I knew anyone in Peshawar or if I would go to a hotel. I said, ‘An acquaintance of a friend is coming to the station, but I have never seen him before and am a little concerned about how he will recognise me.’

The Sardarji smiled and said, ‘It is not as if a carriage load of Bengalis are getting off the train in Peshawar, if you wait for a couple of minutes he will surely find you.’
Encouraged, I answered, ‘Of course but since I am wearing a pair of shorts-‘

The Sardar laughed loudly at this and said, ‘Do people know each other by the parts covered by a pair of shorts?’
I mumbled, ‘No, but it would probably have helped if I had worn a dhoti and a panjabi-‘

The Sardar was not to be beaten. He said, ‘Tajjab ki baat! Amazing! A Bengali can only be recognised by the ‘Punjabi’ he wears!’

I decided not to go any further with that for fear that the Sardarji would make a bigger fool of me if I tried to explain to him the subtle differences between a Punjabi and the panjabi worn by a Bengali. I decided instead to let him talk. I asked, ‘How much cloth do you need to make a pair of your salwar pants?’

He said, ‘Three and half in Delhi, four and half in Jalandhar, five and half in Lahore, six and half in Lalamusa, seven and half in Rawalpindi, then ten and half in one jump by the time you reach Peshawar and in the land of the Pathans, Kohat Khyber – you will need the entire bolt of cloth.’

‘Twenty metres?’
‘Yes, of khaki shirting. ”

~ Deshe Bideshe/Home and Abroad – an account of his journey to Kabul and the time he spent there

Syed Mujtaba Ali, 1949

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