Sunday, May 11, 2008

Afghanistan's tallest man knows nothing about basketball

Photograph: It’s not a cut-out figure. It’s Afghanistan’s tallest man standing next to me.

From a distance I saw him entering the hospital and the other Afghans, whose average height approximates that of Americans, looking at him in amazement. Two physicians who had taken photographs of him with their cell phones looked at me, recognized that I, too, was shocked by the man’s height, and said “The tallest man in Afghanistan!”

I did what any reasonable person would do: I rushed into the hospital to get a photograph with him. I found him just off the main lobby waiting for the elevator; and when I asked Abdul Mutalib by voice and gesticulation if he would pose with me for a photograph, he smiled and said yes. (I know very little about the Afghans as a people, but I am sure of this: They will abort any activity to be subject of a photograph, no matter what their height.) While Abdul’s companion took photographs with my camera, two dozen other Afghans gathered in front of us to marvel at Abdul’s height and take snap shots of us with their cell phones cameras.

Although Abdul speaks very limited English, I asked him the question that I’m sure was forefront in the minds of everyone gathered there: Do you play basketball? He looked puzzled by my inquiry, but even more confused when I pantomimed a jump shot. (Two young boys present both giggled, clearly unimpressed with my limited vertical leap.) Abdul did understand my Dari when I asked him his name, and he then told me, in broken English, that he was at the hospital for his feet which give him all kinds of problems. He then ducked into the elevator, which has a ceiling height of about six feet -- which was at least 1 ½ feet too low for Abdul. (I should have photographed Abdul as he folded himself into the elevator car, but I was distracted again by the two young boys who now where not only giggling at me, but pantomiming jump shots themselves. I must say, their form showed promise.)

Abdul impressed me immediately for two reasons. First, although he was extraordinarily tall, he had a symmetric physique. Some “giants” suffer from acromegaly, which is a disease of increased growth hormone and usually leaves the hands and facial bones disproportionately large. Think of the motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. Other extremely tall people sometimes have a condition called Marfan Syndrome that produces abnormally long, thin limbs. Speculation holds that Abraham Lincoln was a victim; and some people believe that Osama bin Laden has Marfan Syndrome. (I’ll not be journeying to the Afghan-Pakistan border on a medical mission to confirm that diagnosis.)

The second observation of Abdul that impressed me tremendously was the fit of his suit. Even though he towered more than seven feet tall, he was a rare Afghan picture of sartorial splendor. I haven’t noticed any Big & Tall shops in Afghanistan, but even those odd-sized specialists wouldn’t have anything in stock for Abdul. I’m upset that I didn’t get the name of Abdul’s tailor, as a nice suit of clothing for my 5’ 10’’ frame would be a simple project for a man able to convert an acre of wool gabardine into an impeccable outfit for a seven-footer.

An Afghan interpreter, after seeing the photograph above, recalled a television interview of Abdul. He is a farmer from southern Afghanistan. I would like to see Abdul’s tools, as he surely possesses the world’s longest garden hoe and spade shovel. The television show also proclaimed him the world’s second-tallest man. I’m not sure where the world’s tallest man resides, but I recommend he come to Afghanistan and visit Abdul’s tailor when he needs a new suit.


Fat Robbie said...

Lookin' trim and short, Ronny. The NBA needs to broaden its' horizons.

Gloria said...

I was instantly intrigued by the good cut of his suit as well. Impressive!

Anonymous said...

OK, you do a whole blog about this "tallest man" and then don't give his height! Did anyone, uh, think to ask him how tall he is?

Anonymous said...

Yes he did. He said the elevator was 6ft and this guy was 1 1/2 feet taller at elast, i.e. 7ft 6 inches minimum.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

When were you in Afghanistan? and do you know how tall he is?

first things first i am also Afghan and i am interested in knowing facts and thanks for posting this pic of the tallest Afghan.

Anonymous said...

So just cause he is tall it is considered that he has a syndrome? Wow Americans know nothing. BTW I don't see why bin laden is even mentioned in this article when he is Not afghan.

Anonymous said...

why is the elevator 6ft lol