Tuesday, February 22

Halva In Andijon

The clear evening settles into a chill, breezy night. Andijon feels like Agra in its older parts, especially in a certain disorder. There is of course the Yangi-Bozor (new market) area, and several boulevarded parks that feel like postcards from somewhere else; but here and there a mosque with a crush of crowds, or a side lane intractable with cars, returns the illusion of having been here before.

We find our hotel, a two-story establishment of Soviet vintage slung on a broad street. It is past 9 pm when we reach our rooms. There is an enormous iron boiler in the bathroom, beside an equally enormous shallow porcelain tub that would easily hold six people (with neither drain-plug nor shower-curtain –- we wonder how they imagine it is to be used), and fifty-year-old furniture whose velvet upholstery is now threadbare. Some louts are holding a birthday party in the basement 'bar', desultory pop music comes thumping up through the floor.

In-spite of a red neon PECTORAHT sign outside, waxing and waning apparently in time to the beat emanating from the basement, the kitchen is closed. Tired from a long day, everyone swigs pomegranate juice bought in Kuva, and then goes directly to bed; only, Mr. M wants to have something proper to eat, and will not be consoled with raisins or milk. "I is hongrie", he says plaintively. We bundle up -- it is probably just below freezing outside -- and set off in search of food.

The night porter is unlikely to be much over 20. He has already tried to sell me a highly suspect USB key for internet access, suggested I contact him directly for discounts on future stays, and told me his wife is studying to be a doctor in Andijon (they plan to emigrate to the UK after she graduates). He says with a certain schadenfreude that there is no obvious place to eat nearby, but we can always try walking to the doner-stands near the bus station: "up the street, turn left, right for a mile, under the bridge, hard left where three lanes come together" and so on.

There's always that disorientation of wandering around in a strange city at night. Mr. M, at the intersection of being three years old, tired, hungry, as well as cold, wants to be carried; he will not consent to walking even the distance between two of the dim street-lamps. We head for buildings with clusters of light; a mile passes, we are belied every time as the lights resolve to grimy garages prising wheels off vans, or kiosks recharging cell phone sim cards. Most of the town has headed home by now; as Mr. M gets heavier by the minute, we punctuate our search for a place to eat with stops in the lee of shuttered shops. At the farthest arc of our journey to Uzbekistan, I am lost at last.

The lanes shrink in width. In one corner shop, men are making halva below a naked bulb. The process seems unchanged from that described in Sadriddin Aini's reminiscence of his boyhood, The Sands Of Oxus:

At the far end of the building was a line of cooking fires, and on each fire sat a cooking pot, tilted forward. Syrup was boiling in some of these pots, and in others soapwort was being whipped into a foam with a handful of twigs bound together, called a chelchub. At the end of the row of cooking-fires was a level pot in which oil was boiling. One man was pouring flour that had been browned, a little at a time, into one of the large tilted pots, and two others were mixing this syrup with wooden paddles. As the flour blended in they kept on shoveling up the resulting batter, turning it over, and slamming it back down. A tall, dark, middle-aged man with a long beard was giving orders to everybody and showing them what to do.

At the other end of the building was a broad, high sufa and on it was a large wooden tray, a good two yards across, surrounded by a layer of sheepskins. At the edge of the sufa by the tray was a bin of flour.

The halva-maker scooped out some flour with a large metal shovel and spread it out on the tray. Then he went back to the pot where flour and syrup were being mixed and checked to see how it was going. When the flour had blended in and the mixture looked like bread dough, the master told his workers, "That's enough, bring it out!"

The workers began shoveling out the syrupy dough onto the wooden tray.

The master, evidently free of his most demanding work, looked at us and asked "What do you want?"

My brother greeted him and handed over the tanga. "Father sent us for a qabza of halva."

"Fine," the master said, "but we've already send the halva we made this morning to the bazaar. So just watch for a while and we'll give you some fresh halva when it is ready."

The syrupy dough was spread out over the flat tray. All the men working at the pots washed their hands up to the elbows and squatted down on the skins around the tray. The master also sat down at their head. One young worker remained standing by the flour bin with a big metal shovel. The halva-makers took the dough in their hands and kneaded it into a long snake, joining the ends to form a ring; then, bending over the tray, they kneaded the ring into a a broad, flat layer that reached right up to the edge. Then the young man with the shovel sprinkled flour on it, and the kneaders folded the halva into half to make two layers. Then they kneaded it again until it covered the tray as it had the first time, the young man spread more flour on it, and the kneaders folded it in half again to make a compact mass of four layers.

The halva-makers continued in this fashion, so the the third time there were eight layers, the fourth time sixteen, the fifth time thirty-two, the sixth time sixty-four, the seventh time one hundred and twenty-eight, the eighth time two hundred and fifty-six, the ninth time five hundred and twelve, the tenth time one thousand and twenty-four, and so on till twenty five folds had been completed, and the layers of the cake, seen end-on, were as thin as threads in a skein. "That's enough," the master told his workers.

Mr. M is very hungry by now. I try to buy some halva. It takes more time than would seem warranted, to explain our desire to get 5000 soums-worth. The usto shakes his head -- Not for Sale. "Biz bermaymiz."

I am not sure what the problem is.

"I am willing to pay what you want!"
He shakes his head.
"Ne prodetsya?" I try fractured Russian from the phrasebook.
"Tolʹko na zavtra." Only for tomorrow.
Why not some today?
"Uhadit!" Go away, don't bother us! "Razve ya ne govoryu ya ne budu prodavat?"

We have to leave. Mr. M's eyes well with tears, but he is gravely stoic. We walk away, the company of halva-makers get up from their kneading to stare at us departing. I tell Mr. M the halva was for someone else. Perhaps an order, for a wedding.

At long last, one clump of lights turns out to be the bus-stand. There is a restaurant. We stumble in, Mr. M's lips blue from the cold. It seems to be a Turkish-run Mediterranean restaurant, a clean well-lighted place, several dozen patrons eating pizza or drinking beer. The apron'd waiter waves us to a table with a flourish. A line of toque'd cooks are making doner kebabs, shaving shawerma or grilling vegetables. A manager bustles up - 'Warm milk for the child?' Even before we are done connecting culturally with the staff via Amitabh Bachchan, piping hot french fries, crisp salads, and pita with hummus, have all arrived at the table. Mr. M's hands are shaking as he shoves food into his mouth with two little fists.

Saturday, February 12

Anda Jonim Qoldi Mening

We sit on a tapchan in a chaikhana at the center of Andijon, eating potato-samosas in the sun, talking about the Kyrgyz-Uzbek conflict that has displaced a hundred thousand ethnic Uzbeks across the border. Osh lies scarcely 35 miles to the SE across the low hills we see in the middle distance. Talk turns to expatriation. Ferghana also exports her sons; millions find work away from the densely populated Valley in other cities of Uzbekistan, and also in Kazakhstan, in Russia, or beyond. Here someone's friend works as a waiter in a Tokyo restaurant, there someone's brother is a cabbie in Sydney.

The exile's anthem is Anda Jonim Qoldi Mening (Over There Remains This Soul of Mine), a play on Andijonim (My Andijon), and sung from the perspective of that most famous of exported sons, Babur Mirza. The lyrics are by the contemporary poet Latif, incorporating some verse originally penned by Babur himself (source text here). The verse of Babur's segment follows the meter of the complex syllable-length-based aruz system, the rest of the song is based on the more common barmaq. Aruz is a Persian-Arab prosodic meter based on alternate long and short syllables; it is ill suited to Turkic languages, you can see from the Chagatai original the different feel of Babur's verse compared to the contemporary Uzbek words.

After his descent into the plains of India, Babur never saw his beloved Andijon again. In 1528-29, towards the end of his days (he was 45 years old), Babur ordered a great festival, or tamasha. Nobles gathered from different regions of his empire, along with anyone who could claim descent from Timur or Genghis Khan. Groups of peasants from Ferghana who had befriended and aided the fugitive Babur before he was an emperor, were invited and given places of honor. He gave away gifts in a final accounting, almost emptying out his treasury (after his death his soliders were asked to return a third of their pay); by this time, he was coughing blood, bleeding from his ears, and smoking hashish to bear the pain.

Humayun (then about 20), fearing the succession might be tampered with, rushed back to Agra, but fell seriously ill on arrival. Babur is said to have circled the sick-bed, praying to God to take his life instead of his son's. Tradition says that following this prayer, every day Humayun got a little better, and Babur became more and more ill with a fever. Babur Mirza died at age 47 in 1531, his last words apparently being to Humayun, "Do nothing against your brothers, even though they might deserve it."

Babur was first buried in Agra; when Sher Shah temporarily defeated Humayun, the remains were banished to Kabul courtesy of the Suris. Some years ago, Uzbek delegations dug up earth from both the graves, and reburied the clods on a hillside overlooking Andijon, behind a little monument that now houses a small museum, a statue of a pensive Babur at the front.

Anda Jonim Qoldi Mening was recorded by Sherali Jurayev, a well-known Uzbek singer. You can see him below singing the song -- in two parts -- to a gathering of Uzbek bigwigs (who can presumably identify with Babur Mirza's confession of 'many hundred black deeds.') The book he flips seems to be the English hardcover edition of Wheeler M. Thackston's Baburnama. Karimov found some lyrics in Jurayev's other works objectionable, and the singer's hobnobbing with the activist British Ambassador Craig Murray did not go down well; these have apparently earned Jurayev a ban from Uzbek radio and TV, but he is still said to be able to perform in private.

Anda Jonim Qoldi Mening

Padarimni yutib ketgan
Jarda jonim qoldi mening
Qalbim torin tortib chertgan
Jarda jonim qoldi mening
Qalam birlan shamshir tutgan
Jarda jonim qoldi mening

Shaboblikda shabgir eigan
Jarda jonim qoldi mening
Anda jonim olib qolg'on
Andijonim qoldi mening

Nodirimsan Andijonim
Qalbim hargiz tark etmayin
Habibimsan Andijonim
Yoddin hargiz trak etmayin

Ilhomchisan Andijonim shirin
Hargiz tark etmayin
Andan onim boqiy etgan
Andijonim qoldi mening

Bobir-i-man fatva bergan
Yurtim hargiz tark etmayin
Andan onim boqiy etgan
Andijonim qoldi mening.

Bog'ishamol nasib etgan
kuygan dilim zor aylabon.
Riolikni rafiq bilgan
Raqiblar ozor aylabon.

Diyorimda muqumlikni
zamonam dushman aylabon
Furqatiga ehtimolim
Afg'onga istiqbol aylabon
Farzandini mehmon eigan
Andijonim qoldi mening

by Babur:

Har yong'aki azm estam
yonimda borur mexhat
Har soriki yuzlansam
O'trumda kelur qayg'y.
Yuz jabry sitam ko'rgan
Ming mexnaty g'am ko'rgan.
Osoyishe kam ko'rgan
Mendek yana bir bormy?
Tole' o'qi jonimg'a baloliq bo'ldi
O'z yerni qo'yib
Hind sori yuzlandim
Yo Rab, netayin,
ne yuz qaroliq bo'ldi.

In the ravine that swallowed my father
Over there remains this soul of mine
With the friend who plucked the strings of my heart,
Over there remains this soul of mine.
In the place where the pen is wielded like a sword
Over there remains this soul of mine.

In my youth they attacked by night, but
Over there remains this soul of mine
There they made me heartless; but
In my Andijon remains this soul of mine.

You are my precious, my Andijon,
May my heart never leave you.
You are my beloved, my Andijon,
May your memory never leave me.

You are my inspiration, Andijon my sweet,
May I never leave you.
Away from you my moments stretch out forever
In my Andijon remains this soul of mine.

As Babur-mine beseeched
May I never lose my homeland
Away from you my moments stretch out forever
In my Andijon remains this soul of mine.

My burning heart, which has had the fortune
to visit Bog'ishamol, suffers bitterly,
I have been a friend to the learned,
And a havoc-raising enemy for my opponents.

Long life in my own land
My times antagonised
And a future of separation
Brought me to the Afghan
You treat your own son as a guest, but
In my Andijon remains this soul of mine.

by Babur:

Whatever course I resolve upon,
trouble travels at my side.
Whichever direction I turn
I run into heartache.
I have seen a hundred burdens
A thousand troubles and woes.
I have seen so little peace
Is there any other one like me?
Destiny's arrow has become my soul's calamity.
Putting my homeland behind me,
I turned my face toward Hind.
Oh, Lord, why did I do it? How many
Hundred black deeds have there been.

Thursday, February 10

Clouds Asleep On Silk

Ikat is a Malay-Indonesian term for cloth which is patterned by dyeing the threads before they have been woven. Ikat techniques seem to have evolved independently in Bali, India, Japan and Uzbekistan. Ancient Sogdians, Bactrians, and Khorezmians were already taking silk-worm-raising techniques from China and producing dyed cloth. Phyllis Ackerman, the doyenne of Persian Art (and founder, c. 1925, of the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology) had suggested, based on the Turkic word atacha for ikat in Iran, as well as the strong tradition of striped textiles in Central Asia, that this region is actually the point of origin for the ikat resist-dye kind of weaving. The Uzbek term for ikat is abrband, literally "cloud-tying". Fabric made using silk for warp and cotton thread for weft is called adras; but cloth that has pure silk for both warp and weft is called atlas.

Of the various kinds of ikat, the Japanese is the most restrained - often only indigo and white, in simple patterns. In India and Bali, the warp and weft can be both dyed; this results in exuberant floral patterns with two axes of symmetry, but the palettes typically consist of only two colors -- background and foreground. The Uzbek ikat uses dyed thread in only one direction, the weft being made of plain thread. This results in one axis of symmetry, i.e. the patterns are linear or arrow-shaped; but, compared to India, in Uzbek ikat many more colors are simultaneously used; the effect is that of a child's water-color box -- why leave any hue out?

One of the legends says the great Alexander came to the area in order to find the 120-year-old master who produced the silk atlas called hariri (gentle). In return, the master asked that Alexander's soldiers build a wall around his village; thus was founded Alexandria Eschate -- the farthest of towns named after the general -- now known as Khujand. Another legend (recounted by Timur with a belly-laugh) says that when he arrived, Alexander was given lunch by the quaking villagers. "What is the name of this place?" the general barked in Greek. The locals thought he was demanding the names of the dishes presented, so they promptly answered murgh i non (chicken and naan). Alexander scowled and wrote down Margilon on his map.

Under communism, all labor belonged to the State. Whatever people earned was defined as an entitlement to a share of the State’s productivity. No one was supposed to have personal property or his own income. Even simple skullcaps had to be bought from a State factory, they could not be made at home. After independence, people started looking for ways to be individuals again, and it became necessary to be more forcefully Uzbek. Ikat was part of this re-discovery.

We are going to the Yodgorlik (“Memento”) Silk Factory of Margilon. When Yusufjon Mamayusupov decided to buy the old Soviet silkworks, his friends were incredulous. Why did he want that creaking pile of labor-intensive un-equipment? Why not buy a modern mill for artificial rayon or viscose?

One of the ikat masters Fazlitdin Dadajonov says about the first years of trying to re-establish the industry: “... we went for six years without a single sale. Many people had mostly forgotten about ikat, and didn’t value the amount of work that went into it. But I started to give ikat, and clothing made from it, to dancers and musicians performing at weddings and parties. Tourists started to ask where the beautiful fabric came from, and business started. Before too long, the local customers came, too.”

Mamayusupov is too modest to say he is doing well, but there is a new 500-series Mercedes Benz parked in the compound. The factory is half-closed on this Saturday, he enquires after us to make sure guests are not inconvenienced.

The vats where the silkworm pupae are boiled alive (if they emerge as moths they will wreck the cocoon) are operated by women. Spinning the fiber into yarn is also womens' work. The chizmachi (pattern designer) is a man, and so is the kukchi (master dyer), who sits athwart a ledge between bubbling pots of dye. Three abrbandchis, who tie bunches of thread according to the design, are working to Uzbek pop belted out of a stereo with flashing lights. The women who weave are the youngest -- there are postcards of Shah Rukh Khan on several looms -- and the factory employs many relatives. We chat with Surayyo, who is taking a tea-break from weaving a blue-and-white khan-atlas -- the best atlas, suited for a king. Her aunt works in the sheening department; two cousins spin thread. Neighboring looms clack-clack on, a woman carrying a kettle comes in to pour a cup for Surayyo. It seems a low-stress atmosphere, no one is supervising these women or appearing to extract work -- they gossip and laugh and drink tea between snatches of focused treading on the looms. The ikat pattern appears inch by inch, clouds asleep on silk.

The businessmen and proto-capitalists of Ferghana have the look of people who have made their peace with authorities, and are indeed connected well to the government. Foreign cars are charged 100% import tax, and so a USD 150,000 vehicle represents several lifetimes' salary for the average Uzbek. In the USSR, you were supposed to be able to tell the nomenklatura from their propensity for Marlboro; and while status symbols are now more likely to be Italian shoes or Swiss watches, there is a red packet of American cigarettes poking out from Mamayusupov's leather-jacket pocket. He has the air of a paterfamilias; the women bob and simper as he walks past, but he seems to have no power over the dye-master, who looks vacantly at the mid-distance, unmoving from his ledge, not appearing to acknowledge the owner as he passes.

From a news story on the Uzbek silk industry:

For one month a year, from morning to night, Dilorom Nishanova grows silkworms, a painstaking and exhausting job. She has been doing it since she was 8.

Uzbekistan's authoritarian government insists child labor is banned, but Nishanova, now 15, hasn't heard about it. She and her siblings, aged 9 to 17, think it's perfectly natural to be helping their father grow silkworms, as well as cotton and wheat.

"We just help our parents," she said, her braided dark hair covered with a traditional Muslim scarf. "That's what children have to do, right?"

Her father, Adkham, a bony 42-year-old, farms four hectares (10 acres) of loamy land. In early May, he said, an officials from a state-owned nursery handed him two 30-gram (one-ounce) boxes of silkworm eggs to be nurtured into some 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocoons. Within four weeks of hatching, silkworms grow to 10,000 times their original, poppy-seed size. Their creamy stomachs turn greenish from their exclusive diet of mulberry leaves, and they need constant attention. "They're as helpless as newborn babies," Dilorom said. They feed seven times a day and die if their meal is an hour late. Dead ones must be removed promptly lest they infect the others swarming among the fresh mulberry twigs that Dilorom has risen at dawn to gather. Sensitive to light, noise and breeze, the silkworms grow up in a humid barn next to the family's dilapidated adobe house. Their munching sounds like the patter of raindrops.

Silk-growing nations such as South Korea and Japan have switched to less labor-intensive mulberry bushes and mechanized leaf harvest. But Uzbek authorities prefer to "follow the old school where big mulberry trees are utilized for feeding silkworms," says Hisham Greiss, a Chicago-based independent expert on silk farming.

Speaking of this year's season, Dilorom recalled: "We worked hard, had to miss some classes. Just like many other kids in school."

For the farmers and their children, "silk farming opens an annual cycle of forced labor and abuse by authorities," said Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, a rights activist who investigated numerous cases of abuse of Uzbek farmers. The risks these advocates run are considerable. Months after Mamatkhonov spoke to the AP in May, 2009, he was jailed for five years on bribery charges --one of dozens of government critics imprisoned in recent years. (Mamatkhonov's colleagues say he was framed.)

In 2009, the Uzbek Ipagi monopoly sold cocoons for about $6 a kilogram ($2.70 a pound)-- or almost eight times what it paid the farmers, and even that money isn't guaranteed, say the farmers, who complain that payment can be delayed for months, even years.

Uzbek Ipagi, the state-run monopoly, exports Uzbek silk to China, India, South Korea and Western Europe. Some stays in Uzbekistan to be woven into scarves or rugs at small factories and mainly sold to tourists. They rarely reach Western stores. "I never saw any silk garment with a tag 'Made in Uzbekistan'" in U.S. stores, silk expert Greiss said.

Ikat making in Central Asia was the most vibrant in the second half of the 19th century, tracking the growth of urban societies from Kabul to Bukhara and the growing purchasing power of the sarts. A couple of years ago, the Victoria and Albert museum held an exhibition of Uzbek ikats from this time. Practitioners of Margilon are struggling to recreate some of the colors and patterns.

Fazlitdin Dadajonov says: “There is a deep, serious color between blue and black that our ancestors used. I am still trying to make it.”

Tuesday, February 8


Near the old governor's mansion of Ferghana is a leafy park dedicated to Ahmad al-Ferghani (c. 830 CE), polymath philosopher (and lamentable engineer), known to Europe as Alfraganus.

Throughout the 'middle' ages, the lands across the Oxus had given birth to a significant number of men of ideas -- the various Als of Khwarizm, Birun, Bukhara, Chach, Ghujdawan, Ferghana and Margilon -- and they have been collectively called The Pleiades of Transoxiana. In the Indian system of astronomy, the seven sisters of the Pleiades are called the Krttika (Murugan, raised by the sisters, is thus Kartikeya); the Sanskrit word means 'The Cutters', and is the root for all things critical, i.e. those in the house of Krttika aim to penetrate underlying causes.

Like many of the 9th century philosophers of Mawarannahr (literally, the areas beyond the nahr Oxus or Amu Darya), al-Ferghani was a Tajik-speaker whose ancestors were likely forcibly converted from Zoroastrian, Hindu or Buddhist faiths after Arab conquest. He came to be one of the members of the team of astronomers at the court of Caliph al-Mamun of Baghdad who calculated the diameter of the Earth using measurements of the meridian arc length. His Kitab al-Fusul Ikhtisar al-Majisti (Book of Chapters Summarizing The Almagest), written c. 833, was a translation (and emendation) of Ptolemy's greatest work, updated from al-Ferghani's own calculations and enlarged in places with his own opinions where different from the Ptolemaic.

From a paper on al-Ferghani's works:

The Greeks divided the spherical earth into 360 degrees, but differing sources gave different information about the length of a degree. We know today that the correct measurement is about 111 kilometers per degree at the equator. In the third century BCE, the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes, the director of the library in Alexandria, came up with the remarkably accurate calculation of 110 kilometers (59.5 nautical miles) per degree; in the second century BCE, the great Alexandrian geographer, Ptolemy calculated the length of a degree to be 93 kilometers (50.3 nautical miles). Alfraganus calculated it and decided that the value should be 111 kilometers (56⅔ nautical miles). In this case, his value was more accurate than Ptolemy's.

Al-Ferghani's Kitab was translated into Latin in the 12th century and remained very popular in Europe till past the time of Dante (1265-1321). The Divine Comedy borrows in many places from Alfraganus, Dante had clearly studied it closely.

Alfraganus states that the heaven of fixed stars moves from west to east about one degree of arc every century. Dante says the stars had moved 1/12 of a degree between the time Beatrice was born to the time he first met her, and thus she would have been 100/12 or just over 8 years old at the time of their first acquaintance.

The constellation of the Southern Cross, as prominent in the Southern sky as Orion is in the Northern one, is circumpolar south of 34 degrees S latitude and visible thence every night of the year. April to June, viewers south of the Tropic of Cancer (currently 23.438 degrees N latitude) can glimpse the Southern Cross rising just barely above the southern horizon. Once the Cross had been easier to see from the Northern Hemisphere. The Ancient Greeks knew its four stars (they counted them among the constellation Centaurus), and the Cross certainly appeared in the sky of the Middle-East around the time of Jesus of Nazareth. The slow precession of the Earth’s axis has carried Cross southward, and its stars haven’t appeared north of the Tropic of Cancer for more than a thousand years. However, Ptolemy knew the constellation, as well as its drift in the heavens, and al-Ferghani updating Ptolemy figured that by his time in the 9th century CE, they would be somewhere over the South Western ocean, or over a terra incognita far, far beyond Africa. Dante the poet decided this unknown land was Purgatory, and there he placed the 4-starred Cruz described by al-Ferghani.

(When Dante and Beatrice finally ascend from Purgatory on the far side of the world, they see four brilliant stars which the Divine Comedy says represent the four principal virtues -- Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, and Temperance -- and which hold out the symbol of redemption to the sinner:

“To the right hand I turn’d and fix’d my mind
On the other pole attentive where I saw
Four stars ne’er seen before save by the ken
Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays
Seem’d joyous. Oh thou northern site, bereft
Indeed, and widow’d, since of these deprived ...”

From The Divine Comedy, Canto I in the Vision of Purgatory.)

During his last voyage to 'India' in 1501–1502, Amerigo Vespucci and Gonçalo Coelho sailed south along the coast of South America to the bay of Rio de Janeiro. If his own account is to be believed, Vespucci subsequently reached the latitude of Patagonia, though this seems doubtful since he does not mention the broad estuary of the Rio de la Plata. Anyway, Vespucci had gone far enough south to see the Southern Cross; when he saw the stars in the sky as described by al-Ferghani, he is said to have exclaimed "Ah! We've arrived at Dante's Purgatory!"

On his return to Lisbon, Vespucci wrote in a letter to the Medici that the land masses he had explored had been much larger than the India described by Ptolemy and Marco Polo, and therefore must be a new world.

Christopher Columbus also knew his al-Ferghani, and put forth arguments based on the circumference of the sphere that were derived from al-Ferghani's Kitab. In 1490, most scholars accepted Ptolemy's claim the terrestrial landmass (for Europeans of the time, comprising Eurasia and Africa) occupied 180 degrees of the sphere, leaving 180 degrees of water. Columbus, keen to attract funding for his voyages, went about finding a number that would support a lower distance. Petrus Cardinal Aliacensis, in his Imago Mundi and Cosmographiae Tractatus, following Marinus of Tyre (Ptolemy's guru), had put the landmass at 225 degrees, leaving 135 degrees of water. The good Cardinal (b. 1351) , however, had known nothing of Marco Polo's description of the enormous east-west span of Asia. Columbus subtracted 28 degrees to account for the breadth of Cathay, and another 30 degrees to allow for Cipangu (Japan) being, as reported, some distance off the coast of Cathay. A further 9 degrees could be deducted if one left from the Canary Islands -- this left 68 degrees to be traversed.

But how much to a degree? The good thing about standards, it is said, is that there are so many to choose from. Columbus declared one degree represented a shorter distance on the earth's surface than was commonly held -- he (mis)read the writings of al-Ferghani as if the distances had been calculated in Italian miles (1,238 meters). Accepting the length of a degree to be 56⅔ miles he therefore reckoned the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan was not as vast as feared:

According to a note in his own hand in his copy of "Imago Mundi," Columbus navigated by the erroneous calculations of the 9th century Arabian astronomer Alfraganus. Using Alfraganus' value of 56 and 2/3 land miles per equatorial degree, Columbus assumed that he had only to sail approximately 2,500 miles westward from the Canary Islands in order to reach the Orient. Columbus asserted that his voyages had confirmed the cosmography of "Imago Mundi" and the calculations of Alfraganus. Columbus himself thought that he was navigating according to Alfraganus' value and he wrote: "Observe that in sailing often from Lisbon southward to Guinea, I carefully measured the course ... and in agreement with Alfragan I found that each degree answered to 56 and 2/3 miles. So that we may rely upon this measure."

What Columbus had not realized was that al-Ferghani had used the much longer Arabic mile (about 1,830 meters); also, the correct longitudinal distance between the Canary Islands and Japan is 165 degrees. This makes the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan about 20,000 km -- no ship in the 15th century could carry enough food and fresh water for such a journey. Most European sailors and navigators had concluded, correctly, that sailors undertaking a westward voyage from Europe to Asia non-stop would die of thirst or starvation long before reaching their destination.

The monarchs of Spain, however, having settled an expensive war of succession with Portugal, and desperate for a competitive edge over other European countries in the trade with India, decided to gamble on Columbus' theory. Fortunately for Columbus and his crew, there was something in the middle; the span of the Caribbean islands from Puerto Rico to the Bahamas are 50-60 degrees away from Europe, more-or-less within the bounds of the 3500 miles his ships had been provisioned for! As the 16th century developed, a route to the Americas, rather than to Asia, gave Spain an overseas empire; Columbus, of course, died convinced that his calculations had been correct, and that he had indeed found India.

There were cases where wrong calculations were not so serendipitous. According to ibn Taghribirdi, that gossiper on 3000 people, the great Caliph Jafar al-Mutawakkil had entrusted two sons of Musa ibn Shakir with the digging of a canal to be named al-Ja'fari. The canal was to run through the new city al-Mutawakkil had built near Samarra on the Tigris (and named al-Ja'fariyya after himself.) The sons delegated the work to al-Ferghani, who was not much of an engineer, and miscalculated (or tried to take a shortcut, some of the terrain being rocky and hard to dig), making the beginning of the canal deeper than the rest. In the end, water could run through the length of the canal only when the Tigris was running high. News of this angered the Caliph, and the two brothers were saved from severe punishment only by the gracious acquiescence of Sind ibn Ali, the celebrated Indian colleague of al-Khwarizmi who had created the first star tables known to the Muslim world, to become a co-conspirator and vouch for the correctness of al-Ferghani's calculations (in the process risking his own neck.) However, another serendipitous event -- the estranged son of the Caliph got his father assassinated by a Turkish solider -- saved both al-Ferghani and ibn Ali from almost certain death.

The crater Alfraganus on the moon is named after al-Ferghani.

We get ready to leave Ferghana town, intending to head towards Andijon, synonymous in the last few years with the worst massacre since Tienanmen of a body of protesters by their own government. (A brief backgrounder below.) Our new driver is Timur. He was in Andijon the day prisoners were sprung from its notorious jail. "People were dancing and cooking plov on the streets," he recounts laconically, "they all thought Karimov was gone." The next night, he woke up at 2 am to the rumble of trucks. All night long, from behind the curtains of his apartment across the street from the government hospital of Fergana, he watched bodies wrapped in white sheets being carried in to the morgue by masked men. Tanks had sealed off his street.

Saturday, February 5


Ferghana town, the pastel-washed, chinara-lined administrative center of Ferghana Valley, started as a Russian colonial entity, founded in 1876 to garrison the Tsar's forces. At first it was called New Margilon, and only Russians (i.e. European subjects of the Tsar) were allowed to live within town, the natives of the Valley just permitted to approach the perimeter to sell produce. In 1910, as part of the paroxysms that followed Russia's defeat to Japan in the far-eastern krai, the town was renamed Skobelev, after old goz zanli (bloody-eyes), whose cannons and night-raids had secured the Valley for Russia. Prosperous sarts were eventually allowed to build houses in Skobelev; gradually a class of Armenian and Jewish merchants also moved in. After the Bolshevik re-conquest of the area in 1924, the name was changed to Ferghana (Farg'ona).

Two thousand years ago, this is where the first interactions between Indo-European and Chinese states had taken place, between the Bactrian descendants of Alexander and the Han empire. Sima Qian (130 BC), the Grand Historian of the Han empire, writes of the inhabitants of Ferghana-region as Da Yuan, or the Great Ionians. A local myth recounts how a king went to the lake (much of the valley was marshland before being drained for agriculture) and saw a mermaid; he built her a palace, hence Pari-khona (Far-ghona), or the Fairy's House. Many a passing soldier has since helped himself to a local pari.

We are staying at an odd place -- in what looks like a full-fledged resort with a dozen modern, semi-detached condo-style buildings surrounding a lavish pool, bar, and entertainment center (complete with 24-hour Russian pop on big-screen-TV.) All this gated, behind high walls, in the midst of acres of sculpted gardens of rosebush. We are the only guests, apart from a Malaysian-Indian gentleman and his Uzbek office-ladies.

I step out into the street. All roads lead radially to the center -- deliberately laid out so that the civilians could flee in to the garrison should the surrounding natives ever rise in rebellion. A little way down is an internet cafe. Sadeq, who is hanging out, gives me a quick briefing. There are two of these resort-hotels in town, both controlled (under the fronts of joint-ventures with the Uzbek government) by drug-mafia laundering their money through real-estate. The southern Valley has become the largest trans-shipment area for Afghan heroin on its way to Russia and Europe. The Kyrgyz officials from Osh, the Uzbek ones from Farg'ona, the Tajiks from Isfara are all either drug-lords themselves or in the pay of these people -- Sadeq even thinks the American military has elements who collude in escorting opium out of Afghanistan. He is getting excited: "Did you see today's story? Zia Massoud was caught in Dubai with 52 million US dollars in cash! In an Afghan Airlines plane! And the Americans let him go! Bakiev's brother passed 25 tons of heroin through Osh every year! People over there" he gestures over the hills to the south, "pay 10 million soum (i.e. about USD 5,000) to just be the transportation officer for the district! And you can make that back just passing one truck through your area." A friend comes out and speaks to Sadeq in Uzbek.

From a paper by Ramtanu Maitra:

Afghanistan’s opium production was 350 tons in 1986, and 4,581 tons by 1999. Following the occupation of Afghanistan by the US and NATO forces, opium production rose to 8,200 tons in 2007. The opium began to flow across the Tajik-Afghan border, and then along the mainly uncontrolled and mountainous Khorog-Osh-Andijan road (the “Opium Highway ”).

High-quality heroin can be purchased in Afghanistan for USD 500 a kilo. Its price increases to USD 2,000 in Tajikistan, USD $4,000 in Osh or Ferghana, and USD 8,000 in Bishkek. By the time it reaches Moscow, it is USD 50,000 a kilo. A suitcase full of heroin smuggled from Afghanistan to Russia thus carries a margin of a million dollars.

In the morning over breakfast, we chat to Jerome Fernandez, the Malaysian-Indian gentleman we saw last night. He was born in Kerala, but has spent most of life in Kelantan. After a career in secondary education culminating in head-mastership and union-leadership of provincial schools, he is currently affiliated with Education International, a global federation of national teachers' unions. He is in Ferghana to conduct a workshop to help local teachers' union bosses cope with the dislocations brought to the education system by the collapse of the USSR.

The 'market' for education in the valley is shifting to private schools. These, as everywhere else, teach what is valuable in the global economy -- Korean language, double-entry book-keeping, or digital multimedia editing. The state-education system of Soviet vintage knows no way of meeting the demands of the market. Between delivering students for cotton-harvesting every autumn, the teachers are mired in antiquated syllabi of national heroes and notional reckoning, the most common medium of instruction being a stick. Jerome's backers, who would like healthy unions in all countries, and whose members also give money for the liberal end of 'capability development' in this part of the world, want him to deliver a blunt message -- adapt or die. If they do not change, he is to tell them, the private sector will step in, and the way of life for unionized teachers will go the way of Ionian medicine. Jerome is finding the going tough -- the first day of the workshop, he says, degenerated into chaos, the union members venting their anger about 'democracy' and 'free-market'. In Ferghana, life under the Soviets was tolerable, you knew where you stood, bread and soup were abundant, and while you did not get electricity all the time, your power never got cut off for merely failing to pay the bill.

The 30-odd workshop attendees have gathered again today, continuing their 'off-site' at the resort conference center. They are all senior teachers, headmasters or union leaders in the state school-system, and dressed very formally. Their 3-piece-suits, watches on fob chains, and long overcoats make them look like sombre state-councillors. About one in five is a woman, and about a third look Russian to me. This morning, the education minister of Ferghana is to kick off the proceedings. The group stands in a circle, in the sun outside the breakfast lounge; the minister speaks gruffly in Uzbek, and shakes hands with Jerome. The day will start with group-therapy -- everyone will write down on a card what his/her biggest problems are; then they will break up in groups to discuss and consolidate. Jerome's Uzbek assistants, two girls in their 20's who are also sharply dressed in business suits, hand out cards, markers, rolls of chart paper. The groups set off looking like kindergartners given all the ingredients for a nice-morning of making mud-pies.

Jerome looks at them in despair. "A very tough situation here," he says. "I don't think these folks will make it. "

Jerome is in Uzbekistan after several years in Aceh, helping rebuild the education infrastructure there after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. He shakes his head recounting its horrors. "You would try talk to children, who had lost their families and houses, who would answer all your questions but never once look up at you. If you did look at the faces, the eyes were vacant, month after month. We tried everything -- fostering, presents, trips -- but those children never again smiled." He looks fondly at Mr. M rampaging around. "That is why, when I see a child laughing and playing, I am grateful to God."

From a Malaysian interview:

"DON’T trust anyone!" This is not Jerome Fernandez’s life’s motto but it has been his mantra for the past three years.

It is not a policy Fernandez is comfortable with. But this guiding principle, he said, is what has kept his head above water, so to speak, in Banda Aceh since 2005 when he was picked by an international body to spearhead a mega post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction project. As project coordinator for Brussels-based Education International (EI), Fernandez is tasked with rebuilding schools, providing livelihood programmes, training new teachers to replace the 700 who died in the Boxing Day 2004 disaster as well as re-train those who survived. On top of this, he is also involved in a trauma counselling programme for survivors.

In a country where corruption is high, many foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had closed shop, downsized their projects or passed on their programmes to local NGOs or government-linked agencies, frustrated by the bureaucracy and delaying tactics and instances of "under-table donations".

"When I landed there, the place was in total chaos. On top of that, everyone wanted to make money out of the tragedy," said the 61-year-old retired headmaster. "‘Can I trust him? Will he cheat me?’ were all I could think of," he said in a recent interview in Petaling Jaya. It was a surprise to the many who knew him when he got the job. This is because overseeing the construction of 35 schools was his main task – something alien to this educator from Kuala Krai, Kelantan, who admittedly can’t even hammer a nail without hurting himself. "But, my employers said they needed to be absolutely sure that they could have a trustworthy person handling the money from donors," said the father of three. He said it was EI Asia-Pacific Regional chief coordinator Aloysius Mathews, for whom Fernandez had conducted educational programmes in Thailand, Bangladesh and other Third World countries, who made him the offer. "I received a call one night and was shocked at being offered such a project. I was confused and spent some time staring at the map of Aceh," said Fernandez, who minored in Geography and majored in English at the Sultan Ismail Teachers Training College in Kota Baru. However, he was more fearful of what his wife would say. "I was least expecting her to give me the green light but she said: ‘If you think you can do it and you want to go, then go for it!’

"I went to Aceh on May 11, 2005. I had to look for about 30 schools which had been ravished, train 1,000 teachers, find 338 teachers to train them as trauma counsellors and 4,000 children to give scholarships to. "I thought, oh God! I am all alone here. How am I going to do it? I don’t speak the language, I am a foreigner … where am I going to get all these information from?" Fernandez said these are pertinent questions as there was no complete data available – attributed to poor filing practices and the tsunami itself which destroyed the documents. "However, after about two months, I managed to gather the information from the community and obtained some help from the rehabilitation and reconstruction body (BBR), a department set up by the government to oversee the reconstruction of Banda Aceh."

To compound his problems, there were "turf wars" between the various NGOs. "Each has millions of euros to spare and needed projects so they would be upset if I encroached on their turf." On top of all these, there were dubious characters barging into his office and demanding contracts to build schools. Some dropped names of powerful local politicians, while others used veiled threats by saying they were with GAM, the Free Aceh Movement rebels who laid down their arms after the tsunami. In times like these, Fernandez, who got by speaking Bahasa Malaysia, would refer them to the BRR or claim the decision was not his but the government’s.

As far as getting staff he could trust, he preferred to surround himself with the fairer sex. "I felt I could trust women more," said Fernandez, whose office staff are all women.

He also credits his survival in Banda Aceh to taking a no-nonsense approach to his work. "There are no second chances for those who try to cheat me or those who do sub-standard work. I sack them on the spot," he said, adding that in this way, word goes around and everyone pull up their socks and "hopefully diminish any sinister thoughts". "We advertised in the papers for contractors and 32 companies applied. But I did not approve even one of them. "I do not trust them! They come for the money and not to help," he said. Ultimately, he got in touch with Yayasan Kita Peduli, an NGO headed by former Indonesian ambassadors and recruited contractors from their database. "That way," he said, "they cannot cheat me, because if they do so, they will have to answer to the ambassadors and the government.

"Anyway the foundation needs a lot of foreign aid, so it will ensure that the contractors do their work," he said, adding that at the end of the day, he still supervises their work with the help of engineers and surveyors. Living alone next to a graveyard and without the comforts of home (hot water and irregular power supply) is a humbling experience for Fernandez, who regards himself as a good cook. Alas, his new electric cooker blew up after a power surge. "It just makes you appreciate what you have back home."

However, the cracks are beginning to show. From facing Indonesian rebels and receiving threatening calls from contractors who were passed for projects, deadline pressures, being home sick and even finding a snake in the bathroom, it was inevitable that the ophidiophobic (fear of snakes) Fernandez would pick up his smoking habit – 25 years after he quit!

He has since completed 30 schools. With 75% of the funds from Oxfam Netherlands, and the balance from EI, he has a lot to account for, but his backers are happy.

Thursday, February 3

Usmanov's Ustakhona

Natalya's grandfather was a Qajar-dynasty royal from Iran. When Reza Shah, a former gunnery-sergeant of the Persian Cossaks, embarked upon a coup in 1921, this Qajar named Ali had had to flee across the Murghab to Central Asia due to mysterious animosities with the nouvelle regime. (The emergence of Reza Shah 'Pahlavi' was assisted by the British government, which wished to halt the Bolsheviks' penetration of Iran due to the threat it posed to the British colonial possession of India.) Eventually, Ali settled in Ferghana, marrying a Siberian woman just after the time of Lenin, and thus obtaining Soviet subjecthood. His son became an Aliyev, in his turn marrying a girl born of German WWII prisoners of war. Natalya, then, is quarter Iranian, quarter Siberian-Russian, and half Austro-German. She talks about her Siberian granny who brought her up; as well as her Qajar grandpa, who would mysteriously disappear for months, apparently walking to Iran with the aid of Turcoman smugglers even to his 60s, as part of futile attempts to recover family properties. In Ferghana, they think of Natalya as the Russian girl who speaks Uzbek like a native; she knows not only all the basement dives for dancing and drinking in the conservative Valley, but also all the cosmopolitan, mixed-ethnic, 'cool' people in the towns. Talking nineteen-to-the-dozen, she is taking us to the usta-khona (i.e. workshop, usta in Uzbek is 'master' and khona is of course 'room') of a Tatar with a Tajik name -- Rustom (Rustam) Usmanov.

Rustom Usmanov was the formidable art director of the Soviet-era ceramic collective; since independence, he has set up his own workshop. His reputation as a "top guy" precedes him -- he is a member of the Art Academy of Uzbekistan (i.e. well-connected in Tashkent), and a winner of the UNESCO Award of Excellence for his blue Rishton ceramic work. Usmanov's work is displayed in the Hermitage, and much sought after in the ateliers of Santa Fe (a place he visits once every year.) In consequence, we are not sure what to expect: post-modern studio, or official-showcase? In the event, Abdul-Malek pulls up on a broad street lined with one-story brick-front row houses, all lace and chintz, wrought-iron gates with clumps of marigold loudly proclaiming an abundance of little old ladies. We step in through the front door, Usmanova comes bustling up, greeting Natalya with obvious warmth. We are taken past simple rooms into the backyard, where several kilns, overgrown potato-patches, and persimmon trees compete for space with racks of unfinished and semi-finished pottery. A pigeon coos from its crooked cote nailed to the neighbor's yard.

The usta is busy laying out a pattern over brown paper. It seems a lot of his work consists of custom orders -- here someone has asked for a design of leaping fishes from a fountain to be copied onto jars, the draughtsman's immediate problem lying in accounting for the differences in curvature and perspective. Usmanov gravely shows two alternatives on brown drafting paper to Mr. M -- one with fat fish that will look better when viewed from an angle, the other with slim fish that appear proportionate only if one is head on. He holds the pieces up, turns them this way and that. Mr. M, still at an age seduced by surfeit, chooses the fat fish. "I think so, too", says the master, happily, afterwards reaching into a drawer for the consultant's fee -- a little majolica bell for Mr. M.

The most striking part of the workshop is its feel, if not quite that of a library, at least that of a printing-press, or book-binder's. Designs and materials lie scattered, and racks of yet-to-be-fired pots stack up against the walls. Brushes and palettes of bright colors lie on the tables; cupboards overflow with apothecary-jars of minerals. Here a half-painted tile, there a glob of paint fired to see what it will look like. Usmanov's children got decent professional educations, and his grandchildren now can get any privilege this society can provide; but his real gift to them has been that of creation -- everyone in the household can turn clay on the wheel, or transfer a pattern from card to cup. The 10-year-old who turns out a fluted bowl for us also hangs around listening intently as the elders talk about design and manufacturability. His path may well be that of a teacher, accountant, doctor or geologist, but all his life he will be able to dream of soft clay taking shape under his fingers.

At the end of the 14th century, Timur gave orders to send a few Samarkand masters to Rishton. Their assignment was to steal the trade secrets of the traditional blue-and-white Chinese cobalt porcelain. Unfortunately, there were no kaolin clay deposits in Ferghana, so the potters had to come up with an alternative that would please Timur.

Fortunately, a workaround to kaolin had been known in Iran and Arabia for centuries -- the invention of a white pottery glaze suitable for painted decoration, by the addition of an oxide of tin to the slip of a lead glaze, had enabled Middle-Eastern potters (who had no kaolin) to produce ceramics with the look-and-feel of Chinese porcelain at a fraction of the price.

The Moors took this technique of tin-glazed earthenware to Al-Andalus, where the art of metallic glazes was, well, tinkered with, and developed further. The name majolica for this kind of tin-glazed pottery comes from a garbled version of the island of Majorca, which was a trans-shipment point for earthenware sent to Italy from Aragon in Spain.

The techniques took further hold in Italy; the name faience or faïence in English – for tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff body – comes from Faenza in Italy. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, similar techniques would spread to Holland (delft) and Germany (dresden or meissen), where alternative clay-mixtures were also engineered.

The Uzbeks in the time of Timur developed techniques to use local reddish clays to produce a faience covered with white glaze and dark blue painting, beguilingly called chini in Uzbekistan, though technically it is majolica rather than (Chinese) porcelain.

In Ferghana, the glazes developed into something really peculiar. In the foothills of the Tien Shan there grows a plant named gulyob. It lookes somewhat like sagebrush. In autumn the plant is picked and burnt. From potash-containing ashes of the herb, dye-makers extract the main component of glazes, ishkor (a resonance with the subcontinental term kshar, alkali.)

The clay of Rishton is a brownish-red khoki surkh. The local potters consider their clay to be so good as not to require any preparation or processing. Other clays come from various nearby places: red from Chimion, yellow from Uchkurgan, a fire-resistant white friable clay from Angren. The necessary components for glazes are also abundant in the mountains or by the streams: quartz or ok gosh from Soh or Gurumsaray, white sand or ok kum from Shibrona. A dark-blue glaze results from adding lead (obtained from traders in Kokand) into ishkor, while adding copper imparts a light-blue color. From the slopes of the Pamir Alay range they extract manganese, or magl, necessary for the dark lilac and brown colors. Ferruterous clay -- jusha or malgash -- rich with ferrous and chrome oxides, make up yellow glazes. The most common colors of the Rishton palette - turquoise and ultramarine - come from lojuvard, the rock lapis extracted in the mountains of Badakhshan. You have to wonder about eating off this stuff. The earthernware of Central Asia was classified into platters (or lagaan, for the plov), bowls (or kosa for the shorpa), and jugs (or kuza, for liquids; this last similar phonetically to the kuja water-jugs of Bengal; the study of languages is filled with surprises.) Rishton pottery developed a distinctive vocabulary of color and decoration around these staple consumables.

The Soviet era nearly destroyed the traditional crafts of Ferghana; the policy of forcing craftsmen to work in collective factories churning out large batches of cheap or imitative works, and prohibition from producing individual works, had the effect of making many of the masters quit. After construction in the 1960s of Rishtan Collective Ceramic Factory, which applied modern mass-production technologies and factory-made glazes, the ancient techniques of ishkor majolica started to disappear.

After Uzbek independence, those of the craftsmen still left in collectivized factories started small workshops. There are over 150 such establishments in Rishton today -- some churn out batches of factory-imitation cheaply for everyday consumption by Uzbeks, and others produce more expensive, complex designs for consumption by tourists, private collections, and museums. The cheaper workshops cannot afford to use the traditional glazes, so they daub on industrial paints (produced from heavy metals) bought by the drumload. At the same time, the high-end workshops find their overseas customers demand the intricacy and novelty associated with 'designer' items and so, sadly, what is created with 'authentic' glazes represents the least traditional of designs (it is not clear that Timur needed owl-shaped spoon-rests.) One can only take consolation in arguing that some of this stuff might become tomorrow's tradition.

Meanwhile, Usmanov experiments on with transferring interlocking stars from plane paper to fluted necks. Mahmud Azizov, the kuzagar, turns the wheels. Apprentice (and nephew) Elnur Mursakayev practices a vocabulary of chorbarg (quatrefoil) and bodomgul (almond flower). The children paint tiles, sometimes discussing orders with their elders. One customer asks if a small missing bung from an antique bottle might be re-created; another wants a giant conversation-stopper adorning her new entryway. A letter from an "area-studies" faculty asks if an exhibition of Central Asian pottery might be arranged in New York, to highlight, for a change, some 'positive messages' from the region (the director of the Met has promised to take a personal interest)? Usmanov says getting the pottery out of Rishton intact is still a problem; the local carriers cannot insure expensive pieces, and there is a limit to what can be hand-carried out of Ferghana valley.

At the end of the day's long firing, it is time to open the kiln. Everyone is excited, and gathers to see how the pieces turned out; they emerge one by one, still hot to touch.