General Trinh is delivering papers
by: Walter Guest
Ahmed was sent to England. After a few months of tutoring, he had learned the language well enough to enter a public school that catered to foreign students. Among other nationalities there were about two dozen Iranian students at the school. About half the students were English. Ahmed noticed that all the students stayed in groups of their own nationality. They even slept among their own.
Ahmed insisted that he be housed with the English students. Since the choice was his, he was allowed to do so. It was very difficult for him at first.
"It is one thing," he was told by the student in the next bed, 'to have to attend classes with the filthy wogs, but quite another to have a filthy wog in the next bed. You do see the distinction don't you, old boy?"
He was subjected to a great deal of physical as well as verbal abuse. Ahmed took it all in silence. Through it all he listened and observed.
One advantage of not having fellow countrymen that he could run to was that there was no group that his English classmates could identify him with. It's far more difficult to persecute on an individual basis than on a group basis. His classmates noticed that Ahmed didn't seem to be Arab or Iranian or anything else.
It all changed one day when Ahmed got into an altercation with a group of Iranians. A fight broke out just as some of Ahmed's English classmates were passing by. Several Iranians were fighting him at the same time. Ahmed was fighting back but getting the worst of it.
"My word," one of Ahmed's classmates said, "is that our wog those chaps are beating on?"
"Whatever for, I wonder." Another said.
"We can't have that," a third said. "There"ll be no one for us to beat on later."
So with cries of, "Save our wog," the English students joined the fight and scattered the Iranians.
From that day on, Ahmed became "our wog." If he wasn't treated as an equal by the English students, he was treated as being several steps above any other foreign students in the school, including the Australians and Americans.
Another advantage of not having fellow countrymen at the school was that there was no language Ahmed could speak except English. (He could speak Farsi and Turkish but he avoided the Iranians and there were no Turks at the school.) He listened very closely to the upper class English spoken by the students with whom he lived. He could hear the differences between that and the English spoken by the Australians, Americans and some lower class English who also attended the school.
Inside of a year he had lost his Kurdish accent completely. The only thing that distinguished "our wog" from his upper class English classmates was his dark complexion and his somewhat large, slightly hooked, nose.
By the time Ahmed entered oxford all traces of the Kurdish tribal prince were beneath the surface. He had acquired a smooth social veneer that made him welcome in almost any society. Even the days of being "our wog" were behind him. The few boys from his public school who had managed to enter the university were widely scattered and he seldom saw them.
But everything was for a purpose and he never lost sight of that purpose. Apparently idle questions gave him leads, the leads gave him prospects, and the prospects gave him solid sources. It was guns that he wanted and it was guns that he found. Nothing that he could use then but, having found them once, he knew that he could find them again when he could use them.
At the end of his second year at Oxford, word reached him that his father had died. He had become the Khan.