Adamhani the Teeth

A rare image from the 1300's, this artist sketch of Adamhani the Great Bookkeeper is a treasured addition to the Afghan National Museum

I was talking with the Afghan workers yesterday, and we were telling jokes and laughing about a lot of different things. The topic came up about how they are all going to have to go through a re-interviewing process as we work through some changes here at camp. They were told that they would have an interview just to reaffirm the security situation at the camp and they would be asked a lot of questions. I then interjected that the torture wouldn’t be so bad, at least not any worse than they are already used to, working in an accounting office.


Okay, so maybe next time, don’t mention torture.

I joke – they thought it was really funny and we all had a good laugh.

I was asking them all if they’d visited Wahkan, the place I wrote about yesterday, and none of them had. They described it as the kind of place that you needed special equipment and vehicles to reach. They all reaffirmed the facts I’d worked through the day before, but they were very interested in the road that has been planned to be built through the corridor to China for years, but political battles between the United States and China have kept the Chinese side of the road from being developed.

But then, one of the guys started to tell me a story that he, and some of the other guys had wanted to tell me since I got here because of my name. There is a folk story that centers around a character named Adamhani (that’s a phonetic spelling, and not, like so many other phonetic spellings I throw out, a joke.) This story has been told for hundreds of years, and in a country that has a solid 6,000 years of historical record to tell stories about, this one has been around for as long as Kabul has been a city (over 5000 years.)

The crazy thing is how much this story resembles other stories that have been written since.

It’s central character is Adamhani, a Kabul resident, and his love, whose name I don’t remember. Turns out that Adamhani is not thinking straight, because his love is out of his reach, but never out of sight. Adamhani and his love live on opposite sides of the river that runs through Kabul. Though the river divides them, and her father doesn’t approve of her choice, they long to be together, and eventually are married.

Adamhani is no slouch – he’s a business person with appointments all over the ancient world – so he’s gone from home, and as a tradition, his wife’s brother comes to stay at the house, sleeping in a bed that is placed just outside the house, in the yard.

Adamhani is a hard worker, but also very romantic, and as his business trip comes to a close, he’s close enough to Kabul to push through the falling darkness, to get home a day early, and more importantly to Adamhani, a night early. He’s horny. That’s not part of the story, but I’m editorializing.

But instead of coming through the front door, Adamhani makes a strange decision, coming over the wall of the house, not like the owner of the house that he is, but like a thief. (At this point in the story, the guys didn’t know how to say the word ‘thief’ and it came out sounding like ‘teeth,’ so that took a little while to figure out.)

Adamhani – grateful for his services, but wanting to let him know he could himself go home – shakes his brother-in-law awake on the bed in the yard. Startled by this teeth shaking him at the middle hour of the night, the brother-in-law welcomes Adamhani home with a sword chop that takes our hero’s head off.

Now at this point I realized that this was not a happy story, and not really a tragedy, because everyone else lives at the end. It’s more of a story with a theme of . . . that’s right, stupidity.

So this is the way that my Afghan coworkers see me – as a guy who reminds them of a famously stupid folk hero.

It was at this point that I encouraged them to try and document the things that I do in the year that I am here, and it would be in the best interest of my name to make up a new story featuring Adam – the folk accountant hero – the white devil who brought down from heaven (Idaho) the magical AP Database, and the legendary Excel Add-In that turned the backbreaking labor of the people into a workweek where every day was like Thursday (the Afghani equivalent to Saturday.)

They also thought that was funny. I don’t think they’re going to write the story.

Another picture of Adamhani from the same photo shoot.

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8 Responses to Adamhani the Teeth

  1. nicole stern says:

    i was not expecting the sword chop. i was expecting something about the girl. hopefully when they rework the new story there is a happier ending:) btw…love the picture.

  2. Matt Lindley says:

    Great Story Adam.

  3. Mother says:

    I love both of the pictures. How did you do it? I want copies, please.

    • Adam says:

      You’ve not “yearbooked” yourself? Look that up online – it was all the rage about two years ago. And strangely enough, I’ve picked up some photoshop skills here and there . . .

      • Mother says:

        I’ve never done that, and even if I did it wouldn’t look as amazing as yours. Ileana and I think we should frame them and put them on an eastern wall – just in case.

  4. Layne says:

    This is my favorite post so far. And Adamhani…my new favorite pet name for you as it sounds like a combination of your name (Adam) and honey.

    You’re a brilliant writer and you make me laugh everyday.

  5. Natalie Jacobson says:

    This is the first post of yours that I’ve read in a while being a little pre-occupied here, but will have to go back and read the rest. This was frickin’ hilarious, Adam. Had me laughing out loud.

  6. John F says:

    Had a great time reading this. Keep it coming.