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Lupghar pasture, Shimshal


5 August 2000


This interview isn’t long but the narrator is articulate and provides full responses to the questions. It took place in Lupghar pasture where Qandoon was spending the summer months with the family’s livestock. The interviewer’s introduction is passionate about the environment: “…its scenic beauty is beyond my words. The lush green valley, the snow-covered towering peaks and the long glaciers, in short each one is unique in beauty.” The narrator begins by talking about life and work in the pastures in the past: “Despite extreme poverty, there was tremendous cooperation and sympathy among the people. The cooperation in Lupghar was more than that in Pamir. We would take food together; each household would prepare and bring food from their houses to a common place where everyone would share the food.”

Qandoon is originally from Passu and married into a large family in Shimshal. She describes her thoughts and feelings as she first entered Shimshal on the day of her marriage. She explains how she was “...unfamiliar with the people and the customs of the village... My father had advised me to behave with the people with respect and politeness, as Shimshal was a sacred place because Shams (a saint) had passed through this village.”

Alongside her talk of pastures, livestock and the management of a large family she tells an interesting story of how she managed to persuade her father-in-law to let her grow potatoes in Shimshal. At the time only one other woman was doing this as there was a belief that growing potatoes could bring about the death of livestock.

She talks about the education of one of her sons, who went on to study and work in Karachi. She visited him and describes the time she spent in the city: “Though I lived in Karachi for about one and half years, my thoughts were dominated by the household affairs of Shimshal. Farman would always feed me the best food he could afford... but I deemed it not better than the dry crispy bread of my village. The mental peace that we have in the village is extinct in the city.”

The interview also comments on hunting, collective work, the benefits of keeping livestock and the traditional system of philanthropy that exists in Shimshal known as nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative).

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Qandoon was married into a large family. They had a lot of livestock and she explains “I would normally go to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) with my mother-in-law.” Hunting was common in those days and “we would mainly depend on hunting meat for our food; other foodstuff was insufficient.” For the last 22 years she has been going to Lupghar; rather than the main pasture at Pamir. She describes the process of grazing livestock, milking them and churning butter long into the night. She makes an aside about the ease and comfort of life today compared to the past and says, “Our children have no feeling for what they possess because they have not experienced those hardships.” Livestock were at risk from wild predators so they had to be vigilant throughout the day. More people pass through the Lupghar area now than before.
Section 3  Feels “our gratitude for God has decreased”. Describes her marriage in detail and her feelings when she arrived in Shimshal: “When we arrived at Shanap (marshland), people including elders and the lopan (those holding the Mir’s positions in the village) of the village warmly welcomed us. Old people had worn their white bett (woollen overcoat) and white woollen caps on their head, which impressed me too much. I realised that the people of Shimshal were decent and polite… with the passage of time I got familiarised with the norms and traditions of Shimshal.”
Section 4-5  Her father-in-law was a famous hunter and used to share his meat amongst the villagers. Compares community decision-making in the past and today: “Whenever they had to discuss certain community issues they would extensively discuss it among the masses. The young would calmly and carefully listen to the elders and would respect the decisions of the elders. Today meetings conclude without decision and with dispute.” Her father sent her some potato and vegetable seeds from Passu but her father-in-law refused to let her cultivate these. She explains that “There was a superstitious belief that the cattle would die if they grow potato. I was surprised to hear this and I argued with my father-in-law that Aunt Rehan grows potatoes and yet she possesses a lot of cattle; my father also grows potatoes and his cattle don’t die.” Eventually she persuaded her father-in-law and planted them on a trial basis. Everyone in the family enjoyed them and so she increased production the next year.
Section 5  Her responsibility for household work for the family of 25. She explains: “In those days it was quite difficult to manage and prepare food for such a large family, particularly on the occasions of collective work such as harvesting of barley, wheat and fodder fields... When people from the village would come to assist us in work I would get up early in the morning and prepare food for them... and carry it to the field.” She believes the health of people today is worse than in the past. Education of her son Farman outside Shimshal in Passu, Gulmit and then Karachi.
Section 6-7  She describes her feelings about the time she spent in Karachi with her son: “I was taken around the famous places … but it neither inspired me nor provided me with mental peace and satisfaction. I would always think about my home (Shimshal) and the pending works that I had to do at village. Despite living a comfortable life in Karachi, I never obtained peace of mind.” Benefits from their livestock: milk products, wool for clothes and carpets which they can sell. She concludes: “So almost all the necessities of life we obtain from the livestock and those who posses more livestock would offer part of their livestock and butter to nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative) which facilitates development in the village.” She lists the different nomus their family has performed, for example: “The fourth and the last nomus we performed recently. This nomus was in the name of both my mothers-in-law and my brother. Through this nomus we constructed an irrigation channel to irrigate Rech (barren land). We offered more than twenty goats, yaks and 6 maunds (1 maund=37.5 kg) of butter and many more things.” More about the education of her children and how difficult it was to support them all.
Section 7-8  Describes the sad events in her life – the deaths of those close to her. Her happiest moments were the birth of her first son and her “ two sons are married and they have children, which is a source of immense pleasure for me.” She is grateful to her in-laws and the joint family: “It is because of their blessings that today I am living a happy life.” The interview ends with the interviewer expressing his respect for “Aunt Qandoon” and the excellent way she has managed her large family.