Dang handy for walkabout, this is a Punjabi word for ‘walking stick or staff’. Rory Stewart carried one as he strode through India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

‘I had carried the ideal walking stick through Pakistan. It was five feet long and made of polished bamboo with an iron top and bottom; I had walked with it for nine months but had not brought it into Afghanistan. It was called a ‘dang’and Jats, a farming caste from the Punjab, used to carry them, partly for self-protection, until the middle of the twentieth century. Many people in both Pakistani and Indian Punjab still had their grandfathers’ sticks in their houses … One man told me that his great-grandfather had killed the last lion in the Punjab with his dang. I liked walking with my dang: striking the ground on every fourth step gave a rhythm to my movement.  It was useful when I was climbing and it took the weight off my left knee.  But no one else carried them now except the riot police. The word ‘dang’ had an archaic flavour and people laughed when I used it.’ 

When he arrives in Afghanistan he decides to get a new stick made and enters into a complicated discussion with a group of Afghan men as he tries to describe what he needs, since he didn’t know the Persian word for it.  Eventually, he gets what he wants and walks out with it, crossing paths with an old man. I liked their exchange:

 

‘As I walked out an old man with a bushy white beard looked at the stick.

‘You’re carrying it for the wolves, I presume,’ he said.

‘And the humans.’

He nodded.

‘What do you call this type of stick?’ I asked.

‘A dang,’ he said.’

 

Source: Rory Stewart, The Places in Between (London: Picador, 2014), pp. 9-13

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