Now here’s a strange coincidence. In the summer of 1994, after a year living in Rawalpindi and working for The News – the English-language sister of the Urdu Jang – I spent six weeks travelling in the high mountains of the Pakistani north. I hear the area has since been opened up for tourism, but in those days, it was the very definition of isolated. You were unlikely to meet even a Punjabi up there, let alone a group of Scotsmen, let alone a group of Scotsmen from the specific part of Galloway in which I’d passed a large part of my childhood. And yet that’s what happened: in Mastuj, on the Chitral side of the Shandur Pass, I bumped into three sons of Galloway, artists, fishermen, farmers, and they were called Robin, Robert and Richard.
Brought together for a few hours there in a dip between the Karakorum and the Hindu Kush, we marveled at our common Gallovidian connections and the strange similarity of our names, and drank several cups of tea together, and shared several Chitrali cigarettes, then slept side by side on the floor of the tiny village’s one-room accommodation. The next day we continued on our respective ways – I towards Chitral, and they in the direction of Gilgit.
Soon the encounter was lost in the stream of events; that is, I more-or-less forgot it, until one afternoon fourteen years later, when I had recently returned to Galloway, and there was a knock at my door.
It was Robin. The other one.