Rory Stewart’s hike across remote areas of Afghanistan began with a couple of bodyguards assigned to him whether he wanted them or not. The senior of these, Qasim, has a habit of giving Stewart varying identities, depending on the people to whom he is presenting him. He doesn’t discuss this in advance and has no qualms about being economical with the truth; in fact, the only identity he never mentions is the real one.
In this account, he introduces him to one interlocutor as someone working for the UN, and to another, as an American soldier. I particularly liked his justification for the latter.
‘I did not tell those people who walked with us that you were a writer,’ said Qasim.
‘What did you tell them?’
‘I told some of them that you were in the United Nations. I told the others that you were an American soldier.’
‘That’s not a good idea.’
‘It’s a great idea. Now they are frightened. I told them that your walking stick is a beacon for summoning helicopters.’
Source: Rory Stewart, The Places in Between (London: Picador, 2014), p. 78
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