“GTR,” said my Afghan driver, swinging into the press of motor rickshaws, Mercedes trucks, bicycles, buses, broken-down pickups, brand new Japanese sedans, and buffalo carts burdened with sugarcane that throng Peshawar's main thoroughfare. "GTR—Government Transfer Road." Pedanticism struggled with my instinct for politeness, and won. "Surely not," I heard myself saying. "Grand Trunk Road." Three Pakistani voices from the back seat lent me support. "Yes, the English gentleman is right: GTR—Grand Trunk Road." Had they been raised on Kipling too? Kipling cut no ice with my Afghan. He leaned harder on his horn, which is to the North-West Frontier what stoplights are to the rest of the world, hissed "Government Transfer Road" under his breath, slid me a glance that promised decapitation if I strayed into the Tribal Area, and accelerated into the traffi
The streets of Peshawar are dense with women in strictest purdah, which means that every inch of their skin is hidden from public gaze. Not always quite every inch: there are degrees of adjustment of the chaddah—the veil that women wear—so that sometimes it covers everything but the eyes, sometimes only the hair, and sometimes a corner is pulled above the shoulders, to be held in the teeth, a sort of token purdah conceded by the wearer who needs to bargain or talk to a friend. But the general rule is full purdah, and for many that means the complete outfit, with but a strip of gauze across the eyes to indicate whether the woman is coming or going. Clearly, the occupant must embody the principle of submissive femininity as completely as her husband personifies masculine domination. At least, how is the outsider to discover otherwise, since the one person he can be certain of not meeting in Peshawar is a Pathan (the Pathans being the largest and fiercest of the tribes that straddle the Afghan-Pakistani border) of the opposite sex?