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30 June 2000


Although born in Passu, Roshan explains that now “Shimshal is our mulk (literally, country; refers to village) and our sar zameen (homeland) and all our happiness is now with Shimshal.” She spent 18 years living in Karachi with her family, in order to educate her sons. Education is something she feels strongly about and is one of her main topics. She believes it to be crucial in the modern age: “education is the only thing that would brighten their future, that they might not face any problems like us …In our village people have no source of income except agriculture, they have livestock but are not able to fulfil all their needs from livestock – that is why my husband is living in Karachi to educate our children.”

Her experience of life in Karachi means she is able to compare city and village life, and, in particular, the different activities carried out by women. She notes that although many city women are educated (unlike herself), their primary responsibility is still “running a home” while their husbands are in jobs. Village women she says have similar responsibilities but “in a village you have to do everything with your own hands.” In addition, she says village women increasingly have to carry out work previously done by men, who are now working with tourists or in paid employment. Despite this hard work, she is adamant that she prefers village life, citing the difficulties associated with the expense of city life, and describing how in Shimshal you can depend on the help of neighbours: “here everyone is like our own brother and father. We are all blood relatives. So here it is an open and secure life. That is why I like this life, I mean village life, very much.”

Other topics discussed include the activities carried out in Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) and festivals both in Pamir and in the village. Although she hasn’t been to Pamir for 21 years she fondly recalls days spent there in her youth. She laments the fact that young people in Pamir no longer respect the elders: “I heard that the young are refusing to go to the grazing points, and that is why the older women and those who have small children are going to graze the livestock…”

She has a positive view of many changes in the community and talks enthusiastically about the improvements: “our journey [out of Shimshal] which took three days, now, by the grace of God, it is only a one-day journey. I also told you about city life – that in the backward areas of the city there is no availability of electricity – but here we have got our own power house, and by the grace of God we are having a tractor, thresher and ploughing machine here in our village.”

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Section 1  Narrator introduces herself: she was born in Passu “but today my own home is Shimshal and Shimshal is everything for me”. She is not educated but her four sons live with their father in Karachi in order to get an education: “I lived in Karachi for several years, because I am enthusiastic to give education to my sons…”
Section 2  She returned to Shimshal three years ago without her husband: “without a man you cannot do all the agricultural and other works here in Shimshal… I am fortunate enough that the villagers are helping me in each and every sphere of life… My husband will spend a year or two in Karachi with our sons and then he will come back to Shimshal... I am in favour that we should spend the rest of our lives in Shimshal together.” Life of women in Karachi: “running a home is the responsibility of woman whether she is highly educated [or not] because the man has to do jobs…” In the city you are dependent on money to get everything.
Section 3  More discussion of the expense of city life, including dowry and marriage. Language in Karachi: “when people used to talk with me I always use to look at their faces blankly, because I couldn’t understand them… later on I picked up some of the wording of the Urdu language to overcome my problem.” Importance of education. Life of village women: “Here a woman has the same role to play; that is to run her home, and she only needs tea, cooking oil and other small necessities of the daily life from her husband, which he brings from down country. And it is the responsibility of the wife to know for how long she has to use the materials brought by her husband from downside.”
Section 4  The difficulties associated with the lack of a road and shortage of money. Food and diet. Although city life is easier she prefers village life: “Life is closer and open here in a village. You can go alone to the mountains, to the desert or to bring fuelwood …there are no worries at all.”
Section 5  Changes in Shimshal: improved route to “down country”. Says “everything is available and life has become easy, but I am afraid we are not grateful to God for his blessings.” Increased workload for women because men are working “with tourists or doing some labour to make money.” Increased need for money: “People were wearing locally made woollen dress according to our culture, but now we are buying everything like clothing, shoes, socks etc from outside.”
Section 6-7  Traditional dress; the making of traditional caps. Compares generational relationships: “In the past we had to listen to our elders and obey them. We had to say yes to them.” Now “women have not the same respect for the elders”. Activities at Pamir: “We used to go with our mothers-in-law as a shepherd and they were responsible for milking the livestock and yaks, and were also responsible for producing butter and cheese from that milk.” Fond memories: “When grazing the livestock we used to go along with girls of the same age to make the grazing time more joyful for us… During the collection of fuel wood, we usually sang songs.” Mirgichig festival (purification custom which inaugurates the milking season on arrival at the pastures).
Section 8-9  Celebration of Saligirah (important Ismaili celebration) and Chaneer (harvest festival). Kooch (seasonal migration with livestock to and from pasture). Changes at Pamir: “I have not been to Pamir for the last 21 years…but we are hearing that in Pamir the youngsters are not obeying their elders. To us it looks bad.” More discussion of Chaneer activities.
Section 10  After Chaneer: “people were supposed to cut the grass… After finishing our own cutting, we were supposed to go and help other relatives, and that was called a kuryar (communal labour).” The arrival of potato seeds in Shimshal: “In the past people were of the thinking that if you produce potato then your sheep would die. As a result when I got married here till that time very few people were producing potato. But now everyone is growing potato and the production has also increased… I would say that the person was courageous who brought potato here from downside.” The improved route from Shimshal to Passu.
Section 11  Recalls making the journey through Qoroon. There used to be poverty in the down villages – now there are good things to eat but “the people in the past were so healthy and were spending a very long life, and they never felt ill like the people of today. Now life has become comfortable, but it has brought different diseases with itself.” Her children: “They must go forward, get their education and help their brothers.”
Section 12-13  Improvements that have taken place in Shimshal. The joy of having children: “children are always a source of happiness for their parents.” Suggestions for the younger generation – again emphasises the importance of education.