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Shadi Baig











13 February 2001


Shadi Baig was brought up by his widowed mother, his father having died three months before he was born. He has evidently had a sad and difficult life. Although his economic condition has improved since his children have grown up and can support him, he explains: “my happy and comfortable life lasted for a very short period. Then my wife passed away and after that my young son died, and once again I came across with a life full of sorrows and miseries. But the ups and downs are also part of life; one should not expect a smooth and happy life forever.”

Much of the testimony is devoted to describing an accident he was involved in and the narration of a story about a young man, Tosh Baig, who wanted to marry a fairy. Shadi Baig is an excellent storyteller and both the description of the accident and the story of Tosh Baig are clearly recounted and interesting to the read.

He also offers a few insights into life in Shimshal and how it has changed. He describes the journeys they had to make to the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974), and how the young used to help the old and weak. He also talks about the celebration of festivals, lamenting the decline in such activities: “we would celebrate Nauroz (New Year festival celebrated on 21 March) with traditional enthusiasm… But the happiness has declined. It is probably for the reason that our youth today are busier with development projects of the village… The present era is good, people are knowledgeable, but they do not accept each other.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Interviewer introduces the narrator. Narrator’s background: born in Shimshal and brought up by his widowed mother with the help of his uncle. After eight years his “clan (father’s family) advised me not to take the help of my maternal uncle and his family lest they divide my property (land) among themselves.” He was subsequently helped by his father’s family. He married and divorced but had children by his second wife: “When my children grew up I got a little bit of comfort otherwise my life was full of miseries.” The death of his wife and son. His surviving children: “I thank God that my children are matured now, they have their children and they are earning quite sufficient which has increased my income.”
Section 2-4  The accident: returning to Shimshal after working on road construction, two of his colleagues drowned in the river. The impact of the accident upon him: “I escaped and my two colleagues drowned in the river. It was not due to my skill or bravery that I escaped but it was the blessing of God…In my opinion the changes caused by the accident was the determination to became regular in my religious practices and submit my humble gratitude to Almighty Allah and day and night I perform prayers.” As soon as he recovered, he paid back a loan.
Section 5  Festivals: changes in celebrations: “In olden times we would celebrate the customs enthusiastically …today our interaction with outside people has increased and I feel that this has caused a decline in enjoyment and happiness.”
Section 6  Says marriage customs were too extravagant. Describes dresses worn. Describes how chugha (long woollen overcoats) were used as sleeping bags on treks. The young used to help the old: “The attitude of the young towards the seniors during a trek was such that whenever any of the senior members of the trek would become exhausted due to a heavy load, during the trek the young would share his load and sometimes would even take the old man on their back particularly during river crossing. In turn the elders/seniors would offer part of their food to the young for their help.”
Section 7  Describes the sharing of food: “Those who possessed relatives in the down valley, they would take with them dried apricot and would share it with those colleagues who had no relatives. When we would sit in the Mir’s palace more often our colleagues would complain that they were hungry and would request some dried apricots. In such a manner we would feed each other.”
Section 7-9  The story of Tosh Baig: “The theme of this story is that perseverance is the key for obtaining an objective.”
Section 10  Lists some of the ancient singers and sings a song (not transcribed).