A Justified Bastinado

a justified bastinado

An example of the caning of feet as punishment (variously called bastinado or falaka) is recounted by the deserving recipient in The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan (1895), which is the account of a traveler in Persia in the early part of the 1800s. Taking up the trade of selling tobacco adulterated with dung turns out to have been a risky enterprise:

As I was myself devotedly fond of smoking, I determined to become an itinerant seller of smoke. Accordingly, I bought pipes of various sizes, a wooden tray, containing the pipe-heads, which
was strapped round my waist, an iron pot for fire, which I carried in my hand, a pair of iron pincers, a copper jug for water, that was suspended by a hook behind my back, and some long bags for my tobacco. All these commodities were fastened about my body, and when I was fully equipped, I might be said to look like a porcupine with all its quills erect.

My tobacco was of various sorts — Tabas, Shiraz, Susa, and Damascus. It is true that I was not very scrupulous about giving it pure; for with a very small quantity of the genuine leaf I managed to make a large store, with the assistance of different sorts of dungs. I had a great tact in discovering
amongst my customers the real connoisseur, and to him I gave it almost genuine. My whole profits, in fact, depended upon my discrimination of characters. To those of the middling ranks, I gave it half mixed; to the lower sort, three-quarters; and to the lowest, almost without any tobacco at all.

I continued to sell my tobacco and my pipes ; but owing to my intimacy with the dervishes, who smoked away all my profits, I was obliged to adulterate the tobacco of my other customers considerably more than usual; so that, in fact, they enjoyed little less than the fumes of dung, straw, and decayed leaves.

One evening, when it was dusk, and about the time of closing the bazars, an old woman in rags, apparently bent double with age, stopped me, and requested me to dress a pipe for her to smoke. She was closely veiled, and scarcely uttered a word beyond her want. I filled her one of my very worst mixture: she put it to her mouth; and at her spitting, coughing, and exclamations, half-a-dozen stout fellows, with long twigs in their hands, immediately came up, seized me, and threw me on my back. The supposed old woman then cast off her veil, and I beheld the Motesib in person. (The Motesib is an officer who perambulates the city, and examines weights and measures, and qualities of provisions.)

“At length, wretch of an Ispahani,” said he, “I have caught you — you, that have so long been poisoning the people of Meshed with your abominable mixtures. You shall receive as many strokes on your feet as you have received shakies for your pipes. Bring the felek,” said he to his officers, “and lay on till his nails drop off.”

The felek is long pole, with a noose in the middle, through which the feet of him who is to be bastinadoed are passed, whilst its extremities are held up by two men for the two others who strike. My feet were instantly inserted into the dreaded noose, and the blows fell upon them so thick, that I soon saw the images of ten thousand Mohtesibs, intermixed with ten thousand old women, dancing before my eyes, apparently enjoying my torture, and laughing at my writhing and contortions. I implored the mercy of my tormentor by the souls of his father, mother, and grandfather — by his own head — by that of his child — and by that of his prince; by the Prophet — by Ali — and by all the Imams. I cursed tobacco. I renounced smoking. I appealed to the feelings of the surrounding spectators, to my friends the three dervishes, who stood there stirring neither limb nor muscle for me; in short, I bawled, cried, entreated, until I entirely lost all sensation and all recollection.

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