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Khayal Baig













The interview begins with Khayal Baig talking about his early life and family background. He recounts what he was told by his father, in his father’s own words. He tells the story of two brothers – one of whom was his grandfather – who went to fight the Chinese and brought back gold for the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974). He also describes how, when he was a young man, the army came to their village and they worked as porters for them: “we had to take their ration, ammunition from Passu to Quz (a pasture)… we took one ton of rations from Passu to Shimshal… they paid us 40 rupees (currency) at that time.” He says his life is not as hard as that of his parents, explaining how during Miri rule “each household was supposed to give tax in the form of butter, flour or local carpet to the Mir of Hunza. But due to extreme poverty we couldn’t pay that tax at all and we were so ashamed because of that.”

Khayal Baig was at one time the captain of the volunteer core in Shimshal. He recalls this period of his life fondly. Much of the testimony is taken up with discussion of the activities of the volunteers. He relates their achievements with pride. However, he is worried that despite the increase in volunteer numbers, “Presently the volunteers are not having the same emotions for giving services.” He blames this on the system of promotion that rewards some people but not others and the fact that people are more involved in their own activities.

During the testimony Khayal Baig also discusses the system of nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative). He tries to explain its origin but this is quite confusing. He then lists in considerable detail the location of various bridges and other community facilities that have been constructed as nomus over the years, remembering who was responsible and in whose name these were constructed. Like several other narrators, it appears that he remembers the locations going through a mental map of the Shimshal area. The interview ends with his thoughts on the future of nomus: “Till today it continues, and it is fruitful for the jamat (Ismaili community). Through this system the jamat have overcome many of their difficulties… I don’t know about the future. Maybe the government would provide more schemes to overcome our difficulties or maybe a courageous person like you will give a donation for some sort of constructive works like the previous ones.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Introduction by interviewer His parents had problems paying the Mir’s tax due to “extreme poverty”. Story of two brothers who fought against the Chinese – one was the narrator’s grandfather. They found some gold left by the Chinese in Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) and gave it to the Mir of Hunza. He explains, “When my grandfathers reached Shimshal, the villagers became so happy due to their bravery they both became so popular among the villagers.” During the war with China his grandfather brought people from China to develop their lands.
Section 3-4  When he was young the Pakistani army came to their area and the Shimshalis worked as porters carrying the army’s rations and ammunition from Passu up to Pamir. They were exploited by the contractors who “were not honest enough to pay our wages. Sometimes they gave us a piece of cloth instead of the amount and most of the time they paid nothing”. The history of the volunteer organisation which started in Shimshal in 1965. An army officer was opposed to its thinking that the leader was “trying to make another army in Shimshal against the Pakistan army”. Rotating leadership of the organisation; its achievements.
Section 4-5  He was for a time the captain of the volunteer corps, a time he cherishes: “When I started working all the members … fully cooperated with me and they never refused my command as an illiterate person.” During his leadership they got donations and contributed labour for the construction of the local council offices where the jamat could hold meetings. After six years as a captain he resigned: “I was well aware that there were youngsters whom must be given a chance, who were educated and more suitable to run this organisation.” Concern for lack of unity today: “I think it might be due to extra engagements of people in different types of work.” Feels people no longer engage in volunteer work with the same enthusiasm. The building of an ibadat gah (place for prayers) by volunteers.
Section 6-8  The tradition of nomus. Outlines in considerable detail the history and location of various facilities constructed through nomus. The future of nomus.