More important than travel is one’s testimony of their travels. In testimony, by reflecting, by recounting, or by personally developing perforce of an experience, one’s travels become once again living, present things. Like in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” or Agha Shahid Ali’s “Postcard from Kashmir,” testimonies revive past travels, recreate and reevaluate experiences under newfound circumstances and audiences. Ali, for instance, is reacquainted with Kashmir, this time scaled down to postcard-size. He is instantly faced with his memory of Kashmir and, simultaneously, with this print image of Kashmir. Reflexively, Ali regards his testimony of memory and he sees, quite patently, that memory and print image do not correspond. The collation of the two, memory and print image, yields to jarring dissonance; at hand is both truth (memory) and half-truth (print image), and in response Ali desponds, knowing the hopelessness of admitting to a falsity of difference.
Contrarily, Robert Frost obfuscates the difference between truth and half-truth when, in his poem “The Road Not Taken,” he recounts unfaithfully his travels. With the poem, Frost levies a testimony anchored in admitting to a falsity of difference, in which the poet both acknowledges the truth and disregards it. As such, Frost’s poem, his testimony, proves self-defeating, and thus “The Road Not Taken” falls gracefully in rank with a form of testimony known the world-over, a malignant form of common contradiction seen by Ali in his Kashmir postcard and heralded fondly by the habitues of Tiko as a dear “half-truth” (Hau’ofa 7).
Truth is a living, present thing in Tiko. It is a concrete, tangible thing that “can be bent this way so and that way so; it can be stood on its head, be hidden in a box, and be sat upon” (8). And then this concrete, tangible thing can be subdivided into three, variable entities: “half-truths, quarter-truths and one-percent truths” (7). Then, truth-bearer willing, this living, present, concrete, tangible thing may be sold through the spoken word, a golden mean for bridging experience to testimony. Or, like in Manu’s case, the truth can be harbored, detained in the mind, archive to an unliving truth and testimony “followed by no one because that path exists entirely in his head” (8). In this manner, truth and testimony can be desynchronized. And, for the unindulged audience, there will be neither truth nor testimony, neither life nor presence, neither the straight nor the narrow. Rather, as there is rambling throughout Tiko, there will be paths “very crooked, and full of pot holes” (8).
Tiko is like this: a base, undeveloped bastion of crude, unmarred living. The roads are riddled with pot holes. The people wander along them with an apathy, acting half-truthful, incurious of progressing or, as Hau’ofa takes pains to develop in metaphor, following the pathways from truth to testimony to development. And Tiko is like this because it’s the people’s will to defy edifying truths, to remain primitive, and, once again employing the pathway/travel metaphor, to “find out first in which the direction the Good Lord moves and then think of the opposite of that movement” (1). Thus, Tiko, like Frost’s poem, is self-defeating. It spies both truth (divine truth, in fact) and falsity and settles for half-truth. As such, as Manu asserts, “Tiko can’t be developed” (18). The denizens of Tiko are far too cloyed to their ancient ways and ancient gods. They like telling their half-truths, they are contented with their crooked roads and tongues, and they ought, lest they construct their own Tower of Babel and consequently have their tongues changed and their roads opened to new, potentially hellacious directions.