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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

The Beluch imbibe no intoxicants


Beluch Huts and Weaving Loom.]

[Illustration: Cave Dwellers, Nushki.]

The weaving looms are the largest and principal articles of furniture one notices--not inside, but outside the houses. The illustration shows how the cloth and threads are kept in tension, from every side, in a primitive but most effective manner. The women work with extraordinary rapidity and with no pattern before them, beating each transverse thread home by means of an iron comb held in the hand. The pattern on the cloths is of a primitive kind, generally sets of parallel lines crossing one another at right angles.

In the same photograph two Beluch dwellings can be seen, with matting showing through the thatch. In many villages, however, the walls of the houses are made of sun-dried bricks, and only the roof is made of a mat plastered over with mud. In either case the Beluch seems to have a liking for crawling rather than walking into his house, for the doorway is invariably very low--41/2 to 5 feet high.

One is generally sorry to peep into a Beluch dwelling, but I felt it a sort of duty to see what there was to be seen. Nothing! or almost nothing. A large wooden bowl, a stone grinding wheel with a wooden handle to grind wheat into flour, a wooden drinking cup or an occasional tin enamelled one, of foreign importation, a matchlock, and that was all. In some of the smarter

dwellings, such as the houses of chiefs, a few additional articles were to be found, such as a _badni_--a sort of jar for taking water--flat stones which are made red hot for baking bread, some occasional big brass dishes--_tash_--used on grand occasions--such as wedding dinners; and a _deg_ or two or large brass pots.

Nearly every household, however, possesses one or more _khwa_ or skins for water, and a large _kasa_, made either of metal or wood, into which broth is poured during meals. Occasionally in a corner of the hut a small table is to be seen, on which are placed all the family's clothing, blankets, _darris_ or carpets, and _lihaf_ or mattresses. These carpets, or rather rugs, are generally spread when receiving an honoured guest.

The Beluch diet is wholesome but simple. They are fond of plenty of meat when they can get it, which is not often, and they generally have to be satisfied with dry bread. The woman who can make the largest and thinnest bread is much honoured among the Beluch. When they do obtain meat it is generally boiled and made into a soup called _be-dir_, which in the Brahui language really means "salt water," to express "flavoured water." Milk and _ghi_ are dainties seldom indulged in and, being Mussulmans, the Beluch imbibe no intoxicants, but are smokers of strong bitter tobacco.

It is not uncommon for lambs, sheep and calves to share the homes and some of the meals of their masters.

Perhaps the most peculiar folks at Nushki are the cave dwellers, who live in abject misery in holes eroded by water in the cliffs near the river. When I visited them most were half-naked and trembling with cold. A few rags answered the purpose of blankets. The only articles of furniture and comfort were a primitive pipe moulded out of mud--the _chilam_ or the _gaddu_ as it is called by the Kakars--which occupied a prominent place in the dwelling, and a musical instrument placed in a receptacle in the wall of the cave. At the entrance of the cave a wall had been built for protection against the wind and water.

In another dwelling an _assah_ or long iron rod, like a crutch, the emblem of fakirs, was noticeable, and by its side an empty "potted-tongue" tin with a wire attached to it--an article which was made to answer to a great many uses. This cave had a small store place for food, a drinking cup, and the wooden vessel--another emblem of fakirs--in which charitable people deposit money for the support of these poor wretches.

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