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22 July 2001


Mushk came to Shimshal about 27 years ago when she married. Her husband died when her son was young, and so she brought him up alone, and describes a bitter separation from her husband’s family after his death. This testimony is quite short and occasionally slightly unclear. Nevertheless the material is valuable.

She talks about the changes she has witnessed in the years since her marriage, including changes in agriculture and marriage practices. She cites the presence of the Pakistan army in Shimshal’s territories as a force for change: “…when the army was posted here, bit by bit new things started coming in. Many learned the language (Urdu). A few learned development too. From then on this [modern] development started. She describes how when she came to Shimshal, “everything was in abundance, real abundance” and their work centred around farming. While stressing the continued importance of farming, she says that now “Our sons and daughters are making development. Some are studying, some working on handicrafts…some are working for agriculture.” She feels that development will increase once the road is built, but expresses concern that it will also disrupt their peace and security: “our village is calm and at peace and we ourselves are at peace…Once the road reaches here we will not be able to enjoy all this.”

The system of nomus (donation towards community project in the name of a relative) is also mentioned. Mushk explains that it is a source of “pride for the family and happiness for the community. This exists nowhere else than in Shimshal. It solves a problem for the community”, and she describes proudly how her son built a house in her name. Although she has not been to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) since her separation from her husband’s family, she discusses some of the activities and festivals that take place there, and concludes with a description of the festivals that take place throughout the year.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Interviewer’s brief introduction. Recalls Shimshal at the time of her marriage 27 years ago: “here in Shimshal [there was] a lot of wealth, lots of livestock, too much grain and butter. The land was more productive. We [women] used to make bett (course woollen cloth)… We had everything.” Changes since the Pakistan Army was posted in Shimshal.
Section 2  Changes in work: people are studying or making handicrafts; before “it was not like that. People were busy with their farming”. Social change: “Now if I say anything you don’t obey it, you argue twice as much. I am talking of disrespect. The age is like this.” The importance of farming: “Farming will never lose its importance… You work hard, make good [fertilisers] from your livestock and give it to the agricultural land. Then you get good yield, which feeds you, richly.”
Section 3-4  Pamir: has not been since her family divided. Her husband: donated a plot of land as nomus in the name of his mother before he died. Difficulties after his death: “my son was only two years old. Relations with the family got bad, they told me to leave their house and go to my father’s home. That was a difficult time for me.” Describes how she separated from his family. Her son: “I have never kept him hungry or deprived. He is not in debt. I worked [hard] to have a good yield, have plenty of livestock.” He constructed a house as nomus in her name. More discussion of the system of nomus. Education: “Learning comes through hard work. Those on whom God bestows get success.” She hopes to educate her grandchildren.
Section 5  The coming road: “without a road there is much development [but] it would be a lot more if the road reaches here.” Concerned it will disrupt the peace and security of the village: “once the road reaches here we will not be able to stay alone at home nor go out for working.” Recalls time spent in Pamir. Yaks and livestock: “we get butter, cheese, hair, meat, we make carpets and fabric out of wool and yak hair.”
Section 6  Customs/festivals performed in Pamir: Mirgichig, Wulyo and Chaneer . Marriage: describes the traditional marriage ceremony: “Outside the bride’s house the villagers would gather, wear their best costumes and dance. Everyone in the village gathers and enjoys it. Then the bride would be taken to the bridegroom’s house where everyone will again go through the same festivity and share food and so the day ends.”
Section 7-8  Relates the story of why sunisai (special goodbye song for brides sung in a women’s only gathering in the bride’s house) is no longer sung at marriage ceremonies. Compares marriages in the past and now. Marriage clothes: “It used to be the same shalwar-qameez (traditional trouser and shirt for men and women). Beautiful one. Not these shoes but we wore beautiful shushk (long shoes made of animal hide). Now those have vanished...” Traditional medicines. Recalls the time a plague hit the village: “That was a terrible disease… many died.” The different festivals that take place throughout the year.