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Muhammad Baig











5 January 2001


Although the interview contains many short responses, the narrator does provide some interesting views on change. He is not nostalgic about the past and generally feels that things are better today. He is a weaver, who started when he was age 25 following advice from his father that “everyone should acquire at least one skill”. He explains that following the death of his parents the land and resources was divided between his brothers leaving him with “insufficient land and livestock to support my family”. There has been a decline in demand for the bett (coarse woollen cloth) he weaves, which has forced him to find alternative means of income. Poverty has made educating his children difficult.

Most of the testimony is spent discussing the changes that he has witnessed in the community over the years. He does not romanticise the past, but appears sad that festivals are no longer celebrated as they were: “they were celebrated in the past with zeal and enthusiasm. Now people celebrate them thoughtlessly in a cheap way.” However, he talks positively about the way in which marriage ceremonies have become simpler, allowing more money to be spent on village development activities: “Irrigation channels, trekking paths, huts and bridges have been constructed out of these savings.”

He is positive about the impact of improved transport, and believes the road will bring increased prosperity. He concedes that there could also be problems, explaining: “It will bring prosperity at the cost of disunity and destruction of moral values. It will facilitate multiple sources of income and then people will not care for each other.” This awareness of both positive and negative impacts of development activities is reflected in much of Muhammad Baig’s discussion of his changing community, and is particularly clear in his concluding comments. Increasing tourism, he explains, has drawn people away from agriculture as they have become “spellbound by money”. This, as well as the negative influences of western tourists, evidently concerns him. Yet he recognises the economic advantages that tourism has brought: “due to more earning from the tourists our economic condition has changed and now the difference between rich and poor is diminishing.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  His life: when his parents were alive the family was prosperous but when they died the land was split between brothers which “resulted in poverty and misery.” “I spent quite a long time in poverty…[but] we are in comparably good conditions today. I am no longer capable of travelling with tourists now; my children earn and support the whole family.” Learnt to weave from his brother. This year he received no orders for weaving. In the past people paid by providing him with food. Today he is paid in cash.
Section 3-4  Describes the two types of bett he weaves. His adjustment to the decrease in demand: “Now I have started making threads for the people, from yak and goat’s hair for making sharma (local woven carpet from yak or goat hair) and in this manner I earn money.” He visited Karachi for a medical check up after a bus accident. Prefers village life: “There are tremendous problems in the city for an uneducated person like me… here in the village I go out in the morning and return home in night without fear and worries.” Time spent as a shepherd. Herding “ is essential because it is part of our tradition and it is very profitable. Livestock is the reference of prestige and honour for us”.
Section 5-6  Role as the Shogoonpathok (person designated to inaugurate festivals, hereditary position). The job has been in the family for six generations. Explains the responsibilities: “we raise our hand and pray to almighty Allah for the betterment of the people. We carry the pathok (offering) and pray for the betterment, safety and prosperity of the people.” Describes various festivals including Vichhosh (outdoor soup festival): “After 40 days of shadow light covers the entire village…This indicates the decline of winter and brings happiness to the people. As tokens of thanks people prepare soup at their homes and bring it to the community centre and share it.” Declining celebration of festivals: “…they were celebrated in the past with zeal and enthusiasm. Now people celebrate them thoughtlessly …”
Section 7  Compares past and present marriage customs: “the old system was very expensive, excess food was prepared … but at present the expenses have drastically been reduced… The saving thus made is being spent on philanthropic activities.” Discusses nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative), carried out by his family. By carrying out nomus a person “earns good name and fame in society.” Changing dress – they used to make their own cloth, now it is bought.
Section 8  Village institutions: “these institutions are helping to mitigate the difficulties and hardships of the people” Resolution of disputes “is more ordered and impartial today. It takes place confidentially under the institution whereas in ancient times people would favour each other and would further exaggerate the dispute”. Differences in livestock ownership.
Section 9-10  The road: “When the road links the village it will bring with it prosperity, opportunities and earning sources.” But also concerned about possible loss of unity and the peace of village being disturbed by outsiders. Impact of the AKRSP: “It imparted the idea of plantation [of trees] to the people and provided us with the plants. Now AKRSP is constructing the road to our village.” Funeral customs: “funeral expenses were unjust for the poor. People would sell their agricultural land to meet the funeral expenses… With the kind guidance of Imami Zaman (leader of the time) the customs have become quite simple and affordable.”
Section 11  Health has improved: “Once many people died of diarrhoea. It was so severe that everyday we would bury two or three dead bodies… But today by the grace of Allah the birth rate dominates the death rate.” Modern treatments available.
Section 12  Education: “Education is very important, those who acquire education make more progress in life than the illiterates and are honoured by the society.” Poverty hinders the education of his own children: his older son had to leave school to take up work with tourists. Food today is better because “the construction of road has facilitated the importation of rice, pulses etc from the down country.”
Section 13-14  Relationship between number of livestock and agricultural production: more manure for fertiliser equals more crops. People now spend less time on agriculture preferring to work as porters with tourists: “Farm work is profitable but demands more labour. Therefore people don’t like it, they prefer to carry load in order to earn more money so that they can get tea and expensive clothes out of this money.” Positive and negative aspects of tourism.