The stone eater of Samangan
AIBAK (PAN):Sofi Abdul Razaq, 71, is somewhat of a local celebrity in Afghanistan’s northern Samangan province. He’s not an entertainer, neither is he a mass leader. He’s famous because he eats stones.
It’s been 19 years since Razaq, popularly known as ‘Baba Sangkhor’ (stone eater), took up this unusual diet. The resident of Asiaban village claims he eats a kilogram of limestone every day and has so far eaten more than seven tons of it.
He says he’s in perfect health and feels ill if he doesn’t get his “food”.
Though he also eats regular village food, the meals are meagre.
“I lost my wife 20 years ago. We had four children. I couldn't bear the emotional trauma and took to eating clod. Later, I got used to eating charcoal and, finally, stones,” says Baba Sangkhor, biting into a 200-gram piece of stone. “It helps me forget my grief.”
He says eating stones comforts him. “This is my food. God has given me this ability. Not everybody can do it,” he adds.
Baba Sangkhor breaks stones into small pieces and carries them around in his pocket, popping one into his mouth casually every time he feels hungry.
He keeps 40 kg to 50 kg of stones in his house, next to sacks of wheat so he’s never short of something to chomp on.
Though he appears weak and thin, sometimes losing control over his body and uttering odd sounds, his teeth appear fine.
Doctors, of course, are shocked
Ahmad Shah Samay, a paediatrician at the Samangan provincial hospital, says anyone who eats clod, charcoal or stone would face serious health problems. The digestive system, teeth, gullet, stomach and the intestine could be seriously damaged. It could even result in internal bleeding, says Samay.
It could even affect the liver, kidneys and bladder and cause kidney stone formation.
Samay says it could be that Baba Sangkhor started consuming stones in very small quantities, gradually making his digestive system used to it.
“Based on what I know, Baba Sangkhor was very poor. Since he could not afford food, he started eating clod, then charcoal and finally stones,” says Samay.
A doctor, who works at the Hazrat Sultan district clinic and has met Baba Sangkhor, called onSamay a while ago. He told Samay that eating the stones gives Baba Sangkhor a kind of spiritual calmness, but medically it can’t provide the body with any nourishment or energy.
Anaemia could be one of the side effects of eating the stones and Baba Sangkhor shows symptoms of it – his skin appears an unusual yellow – but he dismisses it, saying he feels fine.
He is more concerned, he says, with the lack of stones he likes in his neighbourhood. His brother-in-law, Hamidullah, 61, says Baba Sangkhor has to ride his donkey for up to 10 kilometres to find the stones.
If Baba Sangkhor doesn’t find the stones, says Hamidullah, he becomes brutish, speaks rudely and gets depressed.
“For the first few years, we tried hard to stop him from eating stones, but he brushed us off,” says Hamidullah.
Mohammad Zahir, a local elder, says he has known Baba Sangkhor for a 10 years. “I have never seen such a person; it’s amazing,” he says.
Baba Sangkhor lives with his three grandsons and his daughter-in-law in a humble dwelling. His son works in Iran.
Mohammad Hassan Ishaqzai, head of the Samangan Red Crescent, says he hasn’t met Baba Sangkhor, but is ready to help him. The Red Crescent is ready to supply flour, oil, tea and sugar to Baba Sangkhor’s family so that they don’t face hunger again, says Ishaqzai.
Incidentally, Baba Sangkhor isn’t the only such “celebrity”.
Mohammad Rasool, 62, a resident of Aibak city in northern Samangan province, is famous for eating live fish. Baba Rasool, as he’s better know, says he was digging a canal once when he spotted two fishes. On an impulse, he caught them and popped them into his mouth.
He says it soon became a habit.
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