Amma and Baba had met several years before they were grudgingly allowed to marry. (Or at least that is what we had been told.) In 1978, Baba traveled with a group of friends from the coastal city of Karachi northwards by train and by bus to Swat where the moustachioed Imran, a fellow student, had his family home in Mingora. Imran, like Baba, was completing his B.Com that year and planned to return to Swat to manage the Pine Cone Inn, a ramshackle guesthouse that his father owned in nearby Kalam. Presenting it as a reconnoitering expedition, a ‘case study’ for his fellow classmates to solve, Imran persuaded his father to allow the six of them to spend a few weeks at the Inn and use their recently acquired knowledge of business models to turn it into a profitable enterprise.

All over the islands, breech babies grew up to become valuable members of any community—for their reputed skill in easing out fishbones stuck in one’s throat.

All her life, Purificacion was called upon to conduct the task, just because she was delivered feet first.

Occasionally, in the middle of the night, the caterwauling in Barrio Ejemplo in the town of Asingan would abruptly die down, and the folks knew the men had just declared a cessation of streetcorner intoxication because of a little accident.

Mang Kardo, a thin, wiry man with a squeaky but often loud voice, had done it again, orated while carelessly wolfing down roasted milkfish. Now he had to stop from his perorations, shake and quiver as he rose from a wooden bench, and attempt to harrumph in his screechy manner, again and again, until Big Boy Reynoso pulled up his bulk from the bench across, strode over and gave poor Kardo a mighty whack on the back.