Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Rendezvous at Kunar Caravansary & Khairabad Swamp

August 1890, in the Goshta district of Nangarhar Province, just North-West of Afghanistan's border with British India...

And home to the Kunar Caravansaray...

Located along a less-travelled secondary route across the border, Kunar remains well-maintained and well-supplied, as is often the case when an establishment provides valuable service to a powerful interest, even if only on rare occasions.  It is said the owner-operator, Ibn-Kali Kali, aided the Iron Amir, Abdur Rahman Khan, to thwart the plans of his cousin, Ayub Khan, when Ayub returned from exile in 1881, tried to take Kandahar, and failed miserably.

Today a familiar covered ox-cart and spare mule proceed North towards the way station...

A short time ago a larger traveling party made a bookend journey, moving South to Kunar from the Afghan capital of Kabul, but evidence of their arrival is nowhere to be seen -- from the exterior...

The small caravan arrives at its destination, the front gates open & proprietor Ibn-Kali Kali beckons the travelers, enter...

The cart is backed up to a building and its sole passenger -- Lieutenant Hampton Fitzroy of the Yorks & Lancs, prisoner of the Ghazis who overwhelmed his garrison at Chakdara Outpost while he was sick from having foolishly eaten olives he plucked off a tree -- is taken inside.  Having recovered from his illness and also from the severe beating his Ghazi captors delivered, they have prudently taken the precaution of binding his hands behind his back...

With the Subaltern socked away in an empty guest room, Mullah Sadullah -- who's been waiting for this package to arrive since he arrived here himself a few days ago -- knocks on the door of the Caravansary's VIP "Sardar Suite"... 

Where General Wali Surak of the Afghan Army waits smoking his Dokha ("Dizzy") pipe...

MULLAH: "My General, the cargo has arrived safe and sound!"

GENERAL SURAK: "So I am told."

MULLAH: "In accord with the agreement between your Iron Amir Abdur Rahman Khan and my most esteemed Malik, Sarban Khan of the Yusufzais. you will now show me the contents of the stable and transfer them into my possession, as most humble representative of Sarban Khan."

With a show of indifference, the General turns to his adjutant, a Guard Cavalry officer in a shiny brass helmet, and speaks to him in Persian --which he's certain the Mullah knows as well as he knows the Pope's catechism...

GENERAL: "Captain Mir, show this clucking chicken what's in the stable before he lays an egg in front of us."

CAPTAIN: "By your command, my General!"

The Captain ushers the Mullah over to the Stable, opens the door and bids him enter in the common tongue of Pashto...

CAPTAIN: "After you, oh, Holy One..."

The Mullah steps into the stable...

And gazes upon the contents within...

MULLAH: "Mother of the Prophet, I feast my eyes on the Perpetual Bliss of Paradise..."


* * * * *

Meanwhile, 130 miles to the West,
 South of Kabul & North of Charasiab...

Alongside the Logar River sits
Khairabad Swamp...

After the sun sets
a visitor from Kabul arrives
on one of the swamp's tiny islets...

It is the serving woman  
who listened-in
on the parlay between the Iron Amir and
Mullah Sadullah at the Bag Palace in Kabul...


Her name is Maryam Singh and she's here for a 
rendezvous of her own, not with a Mad Mullah or
the ruler of Afghanistan, but with her brother,
Jai Ho Singh, who lives a secluded life nearby
at the foot of Diwaalya Pusht Pahaarh*...

(*Brokeback Mountain)

Maryam tells her brother what was important enough to bring
her to the middle of the swamp in the middle of the night:

MARYAM SINGH: "The Iron Amir has agreed to trade 200 Martin-Henry rifles to Sarban Khan of the Yousufzai in exchange for... ... ..."

JAI HO SINGH: "In exchange for what, sister?"

MARYAM SINGH:     "It's so ridiculous I can barely force myself to say it, yet say it I must..."

MARYAM SINGH (CONT'D): "One British officer.  Some young fool who gave himself the ague by eating raw olives just before Ghazis attacked Chakdara Outpost which had been under his command, and was captured.  One rifle... or ten perhaps.  But 200 HUNDRED?!  It is madness.  Sheer utter madness."

JAI HO SINGH: "Perhaps.  Or perhaps it makes perfect sense to those who know more than you... and I.  Or perhaps it is the workings of the Mad Guru.  Either way... the Colonel's got to know!"

MARYAM SINGH: "I knew you'd say something like that, which is why I had to come tell you."

JAI HO SINGH: "You've done well and upheld our family name as the truest allies of the Raj!"

JAI HO SINGH (Cont'd): "Tell me, where are the rifles to be delivered?"

MARYAM SINGH: "Kunar Caravansary, in Goshta."

JAI HO SINGH: "Bole So Nihal!"*

MARYAM SING: "Sat Sri Aka!"**

(*Shout aloud in ecstasy)
(**God is true & timeless)

Brother Jai Ho & Sister Maryam turn and head
across the swamp water in opposite directions...

The sun is high up in the sky by the time Jai Ho
returns home to the foot of Diwaalya Pusht Pahaarh
to be greeted by his old friend & loyal housemate, Habibi Singh...

HABIBI SINGH: "What news, Jai Ho?"

JAI HO SINGH: "You won't believe it if I tell you.  All that matters is that I deliver it to the Colonel before it's too late. You shall stay and keep watch and be ready to stand in the gap, if needed."

HABIBI SINGH: "You forget yourself, Jai Ho.  It is I who was Risaldar Major of 2nd Punjab Cavalry, PFF*, whilst you were a mere Jemadar!"

(*Punjab Frontier Force)

JAI HO SINGH: "Hate to tell you but we're not in the regiment anymore -- plus I'm the one whose sister works as a clandestine agent for the Political Branch in Simla.  Wait here a moment, Habibi, I'll be right out..."

HABIBI SINGH: "I thought you said we're not in the regiment anymore?!"

JAI HO SINGH: "This way when I reach them, the Sahibs won't mistake me for a foe."

HABIBI SINGH: "But every Afghan will."

JAI HO SINGH: "That, Habibi, will be no mistake!"

JAI HO SINGH (Cont'd): "I must go now, my friend.  Never fear, never inspire fear!"

HABIBI SINGH: "Except in those who deserve it!"

HABIBI SINGH: "Bole So Nihal!"*

JAI HO SING: "Sat Sri Aka!"**

(*Shout aloud in ecstasy)
(**God is true & timeless)

As he watches his friend gallop off to deliver the vital information, Habibi ponders how one other thing is definitely true beyond any shadow of a doubt: somehow their old warhorse looks much more handsome with Jai Ho on his back.



  1. Replies
    1. You are a very observant & incisive fellow, AJ!

  2. Lovely terrain and figures and it continues to entertain!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave your very positive comment, AJ! "Continuing to entertain" is really the highest I can aspire to!

  3. Fab. Can't wait for part two.

    The building are real works of art.

    1. Thank you, Darrell! Glad you enjoyed it and hope you continue to do so. I appreciate the compliment RE: the buildings, almost all of which were built by the very talented Chris The Model Maker.