| NEW DELHI, Sept 29
NEW DELHI, Sept 29 It took more than three
decades for Pakistan's Jamil Ahmad to get published. The first
draft of his musings on life in the tribal areas of Pakistan and
Afghanistan was written in the 1970s -- and then forgotten.
In "The Wandering Falcon", published earlier this year in
India and due out in the United States next month, Ahmad gives
readers a rare insight into a highly traditional, honour-bound
culture in the region long before the Taliban arrived, relying
on what he observed as a member of Pakistan's civil service
serving in Balochistan and other provinces.
Tor Baz is the central character of Ahmad's book and he
forms a tenuous link between the nomadic tribes, their code of
honour and the harsh, desolate landscape that surrounds them.
Ahmad, 80, who is now retired and lives in Islamabad, told
Reuters in an email interview that the two decades he spent
among the tribes were perhaps the most fulfilling of his career.
Q: It is rare to see an author make his debut in his 80s.
Tell us more about how this book came about?
A: "How the book came to be written is in some ways a story
by itself. In 1970, I was posted to Swat, which turned out to be
a light charge. I decided to while away my spare time by
writing. My wife suggested that instead of diverting myself by
writing bad poetry, I should focus on writing about the tribal
areas, where we had spent more than a decade of our lives. I
"She faithfully typed the pieces that I wrote on an old
manual typewriter. I would occasionally tinker with the rough
draft as some thoughts struck me. However, by and large, the
document hibernated for about thirty years."
Q: How much of "The Wandering Falcon" is inspired by real
A: "Almost the entire book draws inspiration from real life
experience. Some characters have been transported from one place
to another. Some incidents have been transported in time but the
images, the scenes, the faces, the fragments of conversations
that I registered form the bedrock of this book."
Q: Except for the first part of the book, the central
character Tor Baz makes fleeting appearances. Was this planned?
A: "This point has been made in one form or another by many
friends over the years. I treat Tor Baz as a real person. My way
of thinking, a twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week hero
figure is the stuff of myths and comic books. In real life, the
best of human beings has only brief moments of bobbing on the
crest of life. The book is created around Tor Baz. He is absent
in two of the chapters, but these two chapters lead to the
Q: How is life in the border areas different today from the
tribal life portrayed in the book?
A: "The two decades I spent with the tribes were perhaps the
most fulfilling part of my service memory. Presently, I am
living a retired life and am no longer in direct touch with the
tribal areas. However, from what I hear and read, the tribal
fabric and their traditional way of life has undergone radical
changes. Their leadership stands decimated and their age-old
code of life has suffered erosion."
Q: What is the time-period spanned in the book?
A: "(It) stretches from the First World War up to the late
1970s. The early period, that is 1900-1956, is based on some old
documented records and personal diaries of political officers of
that period. My own association with tribal areas started in
Q: What was your writing schedule?
A: "I had no set writing schedule. I wrote if and when I had
some time to spare after working hours and when I was in the
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?
A: "It would be presumptuous on my part to consider myself a
'writer' merely because I have written one book."
(Reporting by Tony Tharakan; editing by Henry Foy and Elaine