An Indian envoy with Turkmen ‘roots’

April 6th, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by admin  

(Ashgabat Diary)
By Vishnu Makhijani
Ashgabat, April 6 (IANS) By a happy circumstance, Mohammed Afzal, the Indian ambassador here, could be said to have Turkmen “roots”. It’s like this: for the better part of his years, Afzal was the editor of an Urdu weekly published out of the Turkman Gate neighbourhood of Delhi’s old quarter. Now, he’s the Indian ambassador to Turkmenistan.

Turkman Gate, in turn, is named after Bairam Khan Turkman, the father of the philosopher Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khanan who served the emperor Akbar in 16th century India.

Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, on an official visit here, Saturday made a pointed reference to the duo in his remarks during the delegation level talks here with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimohammedov.

“India and Turkmenistan are great ancient civilizations with ties dating back to several millennia…India’s capital city, Delhi is dotted with monuments that prove this legacy,” Ansari said.

Afzal was pretty tickled about his roots.

“Yes, a number of people have remarked about this ever since I came here (a year ago). And yes, it’s a happy coincidence,” he said.

Afzal has a pretty interesting background. In 1990, he got the nod from then prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral to serve a six year term in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament.

He then served stints in Delhi’s Urdu Academy and the minorities cell of the Congress party. He, thereafter, served a stint as India’s envoy to Angola before coming here.

His son, Adil Afzal Khan, now edits the weekly, but its office has now shifted from the Turkman Gate area to the Daryagunj neighbourhood about a kilometre away.

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The world over, it’s mainly women who wear pointed or semi-pointed shoes. Here, they’re getting a run for their money from men - and could even be in a minority.

A quick straw poll revealed that seven out of 10 men prefer shoes of the tapering kind. The women were evenly divided, with five of 10 opting for shoes of the broad toe variety - even if these were stilettos.

Then, a poster for men’s shoes carried eight visuals - all of them of the pointed kind. And a display in a department store featuring 12 shoes had seven of the tapering kind.

A sales assistant at the store confirmed that the pointy variety moved faster than their broader cousins.

So, what gives? How come this reversal of roles?

All the men I spoke to were puzzled as to why I was asking what sounded to them a daft question?

“Why do I wear these pointed shoes? Well, everyone else does so, that’s why,” was the general response from most men.

“Wasn’t it uncomfortable wearing such shoes?”

This made them ponder for a moment. “Yes, it was in the beginning but now I’ve got used to it,” was the longest response, in terms of words, that I got.

As is usually the case with women, their responses were more logical.

“I do a lot of walking, so I find a broad toe shoe more comfortable,” said one.

“So, how come you wear stilettos?”

Her eyes widened and then narrowed. “Because women wear stilettos!” she ultimately offered.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

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