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Shaheen Karim









Hill Park, Karachi



Shaheen Karim is his parent’s only son and the special affection and attention his parents gave him as a result is mentioned throughout the interview.

He describes his experience of education, from his first day at school up to the present – he is now completing his further education in Karachi. Initially Shaheen Karim was not interested in school and his poor achievements reflected this. A combination of his father’s advice, being teased by his friends, and being inspired by those who had gone outside Shimshal to study, led to him to take his studies more seriously. His efforts paid off and he came 1st in the 8th class: “My family members became so happy when I got 1st position. My father specially advised me and he gave the example of ustad (teacher) Daulat Amin: ‘he is having a good status in our society. We are also living in the same [society] but due to education he is having a different status. So you also work hard and try to be like him.’”

Soon after this triumph, Shaheen Karim’s father became ill and died. Shaheen Karim provides a long and moving account of his father’s death and his own feelings. He explains when he most felt this loss: “…my father had his own importance to me and no one can replace his place. But on the other hand my mother was alive and she was there for me to depend on. I got relaxation whenever my mother used to give me courage… whenever I saw my father’s friends going to attend meetings at the community level or seeing them somewhere else I felt his absence a lot. And secondly I miss him when it is time to celebrate different traditional occasions like Shegd Saal (New Year), Tagam (sowing festival), or Kethedith (spring festival) etc when all the family members used to gather at one place and go to each one’s home.”

Despite the family tragedy he decided to continue his studies in Gilgit. During study leave he returned to Shimshal to find his mother suffering from the same illness as his father. Two years to the day that his father had died, Shaheen Karim’s mother also passed away. He has received much support from his uncles and cousins, and is now supporting himself in Karachi whilst he continues with his education.

Overall this is a very personal testimony. There are few questions, as the narrator needs little prompting to talk about his life in considerable detail.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Interviewer’s introduction Family background: “As you know I am the only son of my parents, and I was born after my parents had many daughters and no son. That is why my family and my parents have brought me up with great care and love.” Detailed explanation of his favourite game from when he was growing up - pismoh.
Section 2-3  Recounts his first day at school: “I continued crying because I was separated from my mother for the first time. So my teacher called my mother back, she waited for me at the school gate until my teacher finished the lesson… Ustad Daulat Amin left me at that moment, and instructed me to go along with your mother today and tomorrow you should come to school without your mother.” “Generosity” of teacher in passing him in an exam so he could continue his studies: “I was very weak in my studies compared to my other class fellows. Some of my friends always used to remind me [of this], due to which I thought sometimes that I should discontinue my studies and participate in games…but slowly I started taking an interest in my studies.”
Section 3-4  Describes the circumstances which led him to take school seriously. His friends teased him: “Among my friends, Ghazi Karim, Ashraf Karim, and Afreen Shah were my closest friends, they told me that you are not regular in attending the classes and you are so weak in reading and writing. They also said that after getting their education they would fly airplanes, and when we will be here in Shimshal, we would see you giving water to your fields with a spade, wearing plastic shoes on your feet.” His teachers became more strict with him, and he was impressed by those who had passed their exams and left Shimshal to continue their studies. His role in the Environment Education Programme gave him an opportunity to improve. He eventually attained first position in class.
Section 4-5  His behaviour: says he was spoilt by his parents because of being the only son. In due course however, his father became more firm: “As I told you before my parents gave me extra care, and as a result I became careless, then my father became more strict with me.” His father talked to him about the importance of respect: “‘I am an illiterate person, but I always tried to be a respectable member of society, and I am thankful to God for his blessings - that nobody hates me in the village, and everybody is respecting me and I am having a status in this society. If you don’t concentrate on your studies and start doing bad things, then people start asking that whose son is this? And people will reply that he is the son of that respectful person, and I will be ashamed in return.’”
Section 5-7  Moving recollection of the death of his father and his feelings about this early loss. Ustad Daulat Amin and his mother persuaded Shaheen Karim to continue his studies in Gilgit. Received support from his uncle and his cousins.
Section 8-9  His experiences of studying and hostel life in Gilgit: “In the beginning it was too difficult for me to adjust myself to the totally different environment. The boys in our school were looking like fighters, while in the village I thought myself superior to the other boys due to ustad Daulat Amin, but in front of the boys of Gilgit I forgot myself, and I remained so worried for more than two weeks after my admission.” Important role played by older student in offering him guidance in different areas. He worked hard and attained second position.
Section 9-10  During the study leave for his matriculation exams, he returned to Shimshal. He found his mother suffering from the same illness as his father had: “My father died in 1995 and my mother on 25th January 1997 when I was doing my matric (10th grade in the high school). By chance my father and mother died on the same date, that is the 25th January. On the day of her death my mother specially advised me that I should complete my studies; she emphasised that I should get education and not waste the money spent on me by my cousins…that I must concentrate on my education to brighten my future, and to take care of my sisters.” How he felt the loss of his mother. He returned to Gilgit but failed the exam. However, he “passed the subject in the supplementary examination. The only reason behind my failure was my mother’s death which took place only one month before my exams.”
Section 10-11  Shaheen Karim recalls the happier moments of his life which are mainly related to his educational achievements. In particular he describes an award ceremony: “…at the annual prize distribution ceremony when some prominent personalities of Gojal, like Muzaffar ud Din of Shimshal, were present - on that occasion, I felt proud to get a prize in front of those well educated personalities… At the end of the function Ghulam Amin Baig, Muzaffar ud Din and some other officers of our Gojal gave me congratulations and gave me courage on the other hand. It gave me happiness, and I became more enthusiastic to make more efforts to get good marks. This was the happiest moment of my life which will never be forgotten.”
Section 11-12  Decision to continue his further education in Karachi. Although his cousins were against this and offered to support him financially elsewhere, Shaheen Karim was determined to support himself by getting a job alongside his studies: “I am grateful to Uncle Amjad Ali who played an important role to make me able to study on a self help basis while helping me to get a job to bear all my expenses to continue my education... My main aim was that not to be dependent on my cousins during my studies. I am successfully doing so now.”
Section 12  Importance of maintaining culture and tradition. Compares city and village life: “In a city people are living within one flat but we never tried to know about our neighbours who are living upstairs, or downstairs. We are not aware of each other’s pain and pleasure. But in our society the situation is totally different, we participate (share) in everyone’s sufferings and happiness.”