Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary

Shadi Baig











13 February 2001



Section 1
I came to the house of Uncle Shadi Baig in Aminabad to interview him. His house is located to the west of Aminabad village. There were children in the house as well who disturbed us a lot. Uncle Shadi Baig is fond of singing songs and he also knows interesting tales; he sang a couple of songs and also narrated a tale. He is a very simple, honest and hardworking man and possesses very small knowledge of modern things. He told me all about his life and about the fatal accident from which he escaped and is living a new life. He was born after the death of his father and has lived a very hard life since his childhood. In response to my questions he replied as follows.

Where were you born?
Sadar sahib (Mr. President: interviewer was president of local council)! The house situated in Saroodi, central Shimshal is my birthplace. I was born three months after the death of my father.

It would be nice if you tell me something about your life?
Okay sadar sahib! I will try my best to tell you. I spent my life with my mother. She brought me up. For eight years my uncle Chechen, cousin Qurban Khan and Ali Sher assisted me in my works, they managed my house. Some years later my 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. My uncle Farzar Khan gave this advice to me. In this way I was detached from my maternal grandfather’s family. My land was also separated from them. Ali Nazar was my brother in-law, my sister’s husband: and he also refrained from assisting me. When my belongings’ including my land was separated from them then I was left helpless. Then uncle Farzar Khan suggested that each one from the clan (father’s family) would work for me for two or three years turn by turn. So for the first three years uncle Farzar Khan managed my works, then Uncle Muhammad Fida assisted me the next three years, followed by uncle Qalandar for another three years. Then I became matured and was married. My cousin Abdullah and his family assisted me for about eight years. Due to a lack of understanding I divorced my wife. I married for the second time and had children. When my children grew up I got a little bit of comfort, otherwise my life was full of miseries. No one would have ever lived as miserable and sorrowful life as I have lived. I begged for cloth, shoes and sometimes for a piece of leather to mend my shoes. In this way I lived my life.
Thanks God! Now my children are grown up and are earning their subsistence and now my economic condition is improving. But 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.
Once again I thank God that my children are matured now, they have their children and they are earning quite sufficient which has increased my income and I am getting richer. I am not only thankful to those from my father’s family but to those from my mother’s family that helped me throughout my life and until now. Now my children are capable and I hope they will look after me during the rest of my life.
Section 2
Correct. It is the responsibility of everyone to take care of their kin and the orphans. You thanked your maternal grandfather’s family - it is nothing like that - it was our responsibility and duty to help you. One can very well realise the extent of sorrows you sustained due to the sudden death of your young son and wife. This might be a distressing incident for you. Would you like to tell us, what other changes you observed in your lifetime?
Sadar sahib! Perhaps I may not be able to tell you all about my life. I experienced a lot of miseries in my lifetime. Ghulam Nasir was my uncle and he looked after me. He helped me a lot. At the beginning of the grinding season he would tell my mother to get the food grain cleaned and make it ready for grinding so that he could grind it before his water mill gets crowded. Though I being an orphan would possess only a small quantity of food grain but he would grind this on his first priority. Now I am on the way to progress and prosperity.
Now I will tell you about my special sufferings caused by an accident. We were constructing the road at Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures), on the way back to Shimshal we had to cross the Shimshal River with the help of a cableway. Most of our colleagues had crossed the river and few were left on the other side of the river. On our turn, Itebar Shah janab (Mr, sir), Zaman Baig and me, we three sat together in the box, hanging over the cableway. When it was pulled it didn’t move. Our colleagues who had already crossed, warned us not to sit together in the box, but my co-fellows sitting in the box ignored their warning by the simple argument that our combined weight was not more than that of an ox’s weight - as several times oxen had been crossed via this cable way. Then my co-fellows told Rahimullah (the strongest man) to pull the rope with all his energy to get us crossed to the other side. They were pulling the box with all their force but the box remained stationery. Suddenly we heard a sound like an explosion, the iron rope had broken and we had fallen into the river with the box. When the rope broke we all shouted unanimously as “Ya Allah” (Oh Allah/help us Allah) then I lost my senses. With the breaking of the rope the idea of gripping the wire holding the box sparked in my mind and I hold a firm grip on the rope so that I may be taken out alive or dead with the help of the box. My two colleagues had jumped out of the box in an effort to swim but could not manage to swim as the river was very chilly cold and the velocity was very high. They drowned.
The moment I fell and before losing my sense, I requested God that I had to return the loan to Jamat khana (religious community centre of Ismaili Muslims), which I had borrowed. Mukhi (local religious leader) Nazar Muhammad had loaned me one kilogram of tea from the community centre on the conditions that I would transport two Jeri-canes (2 x 22.5 litre) of kerosene for the community centre. One can I had already transported but the second can was due. The second idea, which clicked my mind, was the feeling that I had deliberately orphaned my children by my act of carelessness.
Perhaps after about half an hour or so, I was taken out of the river but I was not in my senses. When I came to consciousness I heard the sound of people amid the roaring noise of the river, they were telling me hosh sanbaloo (recover your senses). They were holding me up side down so that the water in my stomach is drained (resuscitation) and were shaking my head. Due to the hammering of the cold water my body was paralysed and I could not even move my body. After half an hour I sensed the touching of my body then my fingers started movement. The people were telling me to move my body parts and were insisting to say something to them but my throat had gone dry and with all my efforts I couldn’t speak or move my body.
Section 3
Yes you got a new life.
Sadar sahab! In this way I laid down for quite some time until I consolidated my energy and started speaking. First of all I asked about my colleagues, the people congratulated me for being rescued. They told me that I was lucky and it was also the good luck of my children and my family that I escaped alive whereas my two colleagues were still missing. They undressed me and left me at the riverbank and went up to fetch a rope to pull me up to a safe place. When they dropped the rope I put my woollen trouser and shirt on my arms and held the rope and they pulled me up and laid me down to take rest. They rolled me in a yak’s loading pad (cloth used to safeguard yak’s back from load) and instructed me not to move lest I roll down to the river, as the resting-place was quite narrow. I thought if I turn over I may lose the control and roll down to the river but I was tired resting on my back so I gripped the rock and very cautiously I turned my side and stretched my legs and moved my legs and body. In this way I became capable to sit in an upright position. Then I looked across the river and saw people rushing towards the cableway. Among them two persons were running, one of them was stumbling and rushing to the riverbank, they were Haji Baig and my son Nigaban Shah. Due to confusion and worries he was not taking steps properly hence [he was] stumbling.
When they approached closer to the bank I stood on my knees and told them not to worry I was all right. Then I told my son from across the river that I would probably make an overnight stay at Band Sar (top of trek; place) and not join them the same day. But he requested me to manage to get across the river and join the family, as the entire family was worried and desperate to join me. Fazil Baig and Ali Sher were with me on the other side of the river. Both of them went in search of my two colleagues as far as your forest across the river. When they failed to find my colleagues: Itebar Shah and Zaman Baig, returned to me. Ali Sher advised me to stay at Band Sar and told me that if his uncle was not available there then I must break the lock and enter the house for an overnight stay. At first I agreed to stay there but I thought I must go to my home so I requested them to take me with them to the village. They agreed and started walking along the riverbank and I walked along the trek, as I was not able to follow them.
From the village my brother in-law and Akram Baig was coming to the cableway. This second cableway was near the waterfall. My brother in-law was not sure of my rescue from the accident as he had not seen me on the other side and he thought that people may have mis-informed him. When Akram saw me walking on the trek and had told my brother in-law, then he sighed a breath of relief. When I reached the riverbank near the cableway, Akram crossed the cableway and came to me he embraced me and congratulated me. Then he fastened me with the cableway and got me across the river and then he himself crossed the river. When I crossed the river and came to the village side I met Abdul Rehman and Muhammad Qaba, they expressed their sorrow over the sudden death of Itebar Shah. My brother in-law accompanied the two gentlemen for the search mission and advised me to go with my son straight to my house.
I met Muhammad Ullah Baig and Tula Baz near the spring and when I reached the Chukart trek I came across the wife of Itebar Shah. She was informed of the accident of her husband. Then we headed towards the Jamat khana and found nobody except mukhi Muhammad Nayab there. There were only women there; these mothers and sisters (women) congratulated me. My cousin Bakhtyari was also present there, mukhi then ordered him to take me to my house. Therefore cousin Bakhtyari came with me to my house then I entered my house with pathok (offering; wheat flour thrown at the entrance as a gesture of good luck). Then I took rest in bed and was offered the popular drink of shrooghan (milk mixed with butter). I took it and lay down in bed. I could not relax, as I was worried about my colleagues, because all of the villagers had gone in search of their dead bodies.
Sadar sahib! In such a way 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.
Section 4
Yes you were lucky to escape it was the good luck of your children. As you defeated the death and got a new life, neither you sustained physical harm nor any disability. What changes did the accident bring in your thoughts and actions?
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 performed prayers, I can’t do any thing except to thank God.

Furthermore, I am uneducated therefore I cannot render any intellectual services. The second thing is that the loan granted to me by Nazar Muhammad janab from the community centre i.e. one kilogram tea in lieu of transportation of one can kerosene. With the grace of God, when I recovered from the accident, first of all I discharged this duty.
Section 5
Yes it was an act of honesty.
Secondly mukhi Muhammad Amin had told me to ask my children to transport the glasses for community centre but I preferred to bring it myself instead of asking my children, as God had granted me with a new life. Despite the illness of my brother Mirza Jan I went to Passu and transported the glasses for the community centre because God had saved my life and I was capable to perform this task.

Culture, which is also, called customs and traditions. Do you think our culture has changed if yes please tell us which custom and tradition has changed more?
Sadder Sahib! Briefly I will tell you about the customs and tradition. In olden times we would celebrate the customs enthusiastically; on the occasion of Nauroz (New Year festival celebrated on 21 March), Kethedith (Spring festival) and Tagam (sowing festival), [we would celebrate] with great joy and happiness. But today our interaction with outside people has increased and I feel that this has caused a decline in enjoyment and happiness. In former times we would formally commence the fertiliser delivery to the fields with the celebration of Kethedith. This would last for about thirteen days and we would remain busy with these projects.

After that we would celebrate Nauroz with traditional enthusiasm and would also arrange a firing contest on this occasion, because it was such an era. But the happiness has declined. It is probably for the reason that our youth today are busier with development projects of the village.

It is correct that people are busier with development works today and it has lessened the enthusiasm, and people today celebrate the festivals in [only] a symbolic way (without enthusiasm and true spirit). Do you feel that the present era is better than the former times?
Sadar sahib! In ancient times people had less knowledge and information. They were ignorant but they had plenty of time and had nothing to do. The present era is good, people are knowledgeable, but they do not accept each other.

Correct, you mean that the former times were good, there was unity among the people but today there is injustice.
Yes it is true that people have more interactions with outside communities and each one according to their perception tries to impose their decisions on the community.

Among these customs which one do you like more?
Out of our customs I like Tagam and Nauroz very much. These are big festivals; whereas the rest of festivals are small (less important).

Now a good era has come, things are changing rapidly and the earning has also increased substantially. People trek with engrez (western tourist) and earn more but in my opinion, they do not thank God.
Section 6
Correct, you mentioned correctly that people earn more and more but do not thank God for what God has granted them. Are there any more festivals?
Sadar sahib! We have one more custom that is the marriage custom.

In your opinion, is the marriage customs today better than that in the past?
The marriage customs are much better today then it was in the past.

Correct. What was wrong with the old customs?
It was the era of illiteracy. There were lots of expenses on marriage banquets, which was extravagancy. In fact it is for that reason that the era was not good but the present era is quite favourable.

What type/style of dresses were used on marriage occasions?
Dresses were not abundantly available except raghz (long woollen shirts) at that time. There was another variety of cloth known as shah towor (raw silk), a few people would make shirts out of it. Then afterwards as I remember, a few people also purchased modern coats from the down country markets. Those coats were borrowed from one another in order to dress up for the marriage banquet but everyone had a chugha (long woollen overcoat). There was a lot of joy and happiness.

When everyone would dress up with the same borrowed coat for dancing, would the people not get bored?
They would certainly notice that everyone dressed with the same coat for dancing but they would not get annoyed because there was poverty everyone could not afford such dresses therefore they would borrow it from each other.

Correct. You mean that the modern dresses are excellent?
Yes, but chugha was also a luxurious dress, it would cover the body down to the knees and would safeguard us from extreme cold. At that time there were no sleeping bags available we would use the chugha as a sleeping bag during trekking. We would light a fire on the soil of the camping site to warm it up and would use chugha as bedding. The old people would sleep on the warm soil whereas the young would sleep elsewhere.
At that time food was not abundantly available. Thick bread from peas floor was used during the journey. But after quite a long time Uncle Muhammad Baqi proposed that people should use the peas bread at home but must use wheat bread during trekking. After that people started using wheat bread during trekking1.

Excellent: he suggested an excellent idea.
There were no drinks like tea etc available, wherever we would find water we would take the thick crispy and hard bread with water. Some people would keep part of their food (bread) in their pocket and would chew it all along the way. While going to the down valley (Hunza and Gojal) 25 or 30 times the river was forded. We were really tough to cross the icy water and would bear the penetrating coldness. The life today is very comfortable as compared to that in the past. What our parents would earn from the agriculture we would live within those meagre resources. 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 would offer part of their food to the young for their help.
Section 7
Similarly, when we would reach the Mir’s (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974) palace, he would issue us ration that we would take to some one's house for cooking. In the down valley there was also shortage of food stuff; daw daw from dried apricots was frequently used. 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. After a few days when the Mir would allow us to disperse and we would move back to Shimshal gorge by crossing the Passu river, everyone would ask each other whether he had some food stuff for the return journey. Some would report that they had bread from Baqla (bean’s flour) and some would mention that they had dried apricots. So in this way we would make both ends met till we reached Shimshal.

You told us about the conditions of that time. Now would you like to tell us a story if you know?
Yes please! I will narrate you a tale, the story of a man named Tosh Baig. There was a man; his name was Tosh Baig. He wanted to marry a fairy. Tosh Baig had a luxurious house and loving parents. His parents loved him too much, but he left his parents and set out in search of the girl fairy. On the way to the desert he saw smoke emanating from a house situated in the middle of the desert. He entered the house and offered salam (greetings). The owners of the house also greeted him with great respect. Then he told them that he was in search of the pari zaad (beautiful princess) and requested them to help him and guide him locating the fairy. He (the owner of the hose) told him that his elder brother was living further ahead and he would tell him about the fairy and would guide him.
When he (Tosh Baig) reached there and entered his house he told them that he was in search of a wife and requested them to guide him where he could find the fairy. The man also told him that he does not know about her but his elder brother was living ahead of him and that he would tell him and would also guide him. When Tosh Baig entered the house of the eldest brother with salam, he found him to be very young. Then Tosh Baig told him that “when I saw your younger brother he looked too old and his hair had turned white, where as your middle brother looked a little bit younger then your youngest brother, his hair had turned a little bit white. But when I came to you and found you very young and your hair is still black so what is the reason behind it?” Then he told Tosh Baig that his younger brother had a lot of worries as he was very poor and the middle (second) brother was also poor but is rich as compared to the younger brother. But I am free of worries I don’t have any kind of problem because I am rich and I don’t have any kind of worries that is why I look younger.
Tosh Baig told him that he was in search of the pari zaad and if he knows anything about her could he guide him in locating the fairy. Then he advised Tosh Baig to go straight ahead and there would appear a gateway, on one side of the gate there was a spring from where the servants of the king come to fetch water. He advised Tosh Baig to sit near the spring and observe. When he reached near the spring he wore pooshak (dress) of leopard’s skin and held a wooden sword in his hands and kept waiting for the servants. As the servants came to the spring they saw an amazing strange man (Tosh Baig). They were so astonished that they kept on looking at him for so long that they forgot to return so they reached the palace in the night. The king and the ministers were discontented. When they inquired for the reason for late coming the servants told the king that they saw a strange man who had worn poosteen (overcoat made of animal hide) and is such a beautiful man that one side of his face is as shining as the sun and the other as the moon.
Section 8
And the man says that he would marry the king’s daughter (princess), he had worn poosteen made of leopard’s skin and held a wooden sword in his hands. Tosh Baig spent the night there and the next day he crossed the gate to the other side and saw a big house. He climbed onto the roof of the building and saw a lot of prisoners holding cigarettes and hooqas (smoking pipes) in their hands waiting for a fire. Tosh Baig lit a fire with the help of chiqmaq (flint) and threw it down to them and they lit their cigarettes and prayed for him that whoever he was and whatever he wished God would help him in fulfilling his wishes.
The king sent his servants to the man (Tosh Baig) to ask as to who he was and what was the purpose of his visit. When the servants came to Tosh Baig and enquired about him. He told them that he was Tosh Baig and he wants to marry the princess he also asked the servants to convey his message to the king. The servants told him that so many princes and sons of saints have so far sought the hand of the princess but all of them had failed and are now living in prison. They advised Tosh Baig to forget about her as he seemed a poor man and he had worn poosteen made from leopard’s skin and has a wooden sword in his hands. In turn Tosh Baig insisted that he would face the consequences for which he had come. The servant went to the king and reported him that a man named Tosh Baig wanted to marry his daughter.
The king summoned Tosh Baig and asked him how could he fight with the wooden sword and poosteen against the powerful enemy of the king. Because he and his companions would be massacred by the enemy as he would have to first face and defeat the enemy of the king before getting married with the princess .In this way many princes and sons of the saints have tried so far to battle with the enemy of the king but been defeated and became prisoner of the king. Tosh Baig reiterated that he had left his parents and home for the sake of the princess and he would fight with the enemy even at the cost and risk of his life. Then the ministers of the king allowed him to go ahead to fight with the enemy and told him that if he returned successfully he would get the princess.
Tosh Baig told them to come to see his act of bravery the next morning before the sunrise when he would start fighting with the enemy soldiers. So the next morning everyone came out of their houses to see the combat. He had a tough battle and killed all the enemies and cut their heads and filled his pockets with their heads. The servants informed the king that Tosh Baig had defeated the enemy. The king was surprised to hear as to how he defeated the enemy with a wooden sword. When Tosh Baig went to greet the king he asked him whether he had defeated the king’s enemy he repeated his question three time and each time Tosh Baig replied positively. Then the king asked for the proof and Tosh Baig took out of his pocket the heads of the enemies he had cut after defeating the enemy and put them before the king and showed him the heads of the minister, soldiers and other responsible members of the enemy. Then the king became very happy and married his daughter with Tosh Baig.
Tosh Baig lived with the king for some days. One day he heaved a long sigh and the princess noticed and asked him as to why he was worried and had heaved a sigh lest she had done anything wrong. Then Tosh Baig said that he had stayed away from his parents for quite a long time and was feeling homesick and he desperately wanted to see his parents as he had seen a black cloud over his village and that indicates that his parents may be in trouble. So he asked his wife (princess) to obtain permission from the king so that they could move towards his village.
The princess suggested that he stands near the gateway and wait for her and she would come in a convoy of about hundred horsemen and she would be in the middle and she would wear a silver ring on one of her right hand fingers; he should hold the bridle of the horse and all the horsemen will go away. Tosh Baig according to the plan kept on waiting for the princess at the gate way for one week but she did not return. At last he went to the palace to meet his wife where the princess told him that the king has not allowed her to go with him.
Tosh Baig lived in the palace for one week more and one day he again heaved a sigh then the pari zaad (daughter of fairy or princess) asked him as to what wrong she had committed that annoyed him, but he said that she has done nothing wrong but he desperately wants to meet his parents and he is worried about them. He again insisted the princess to get permission from his father so that they could go to his village.
The princess went to the king and requested him to allow her to company her husband, the king granted her the permission. Then Tosh Baig went to stand at the gateway and the horsemen came and he griped the bridle of the horse rode by the princess and all the horsemen went away.
Both Tosh Baig and his wife went on and on, they passed by the houses and visited some of the houses where he had stayed earlier; the hosts welcomed them and offered them good food. When he reached his village he left his wife waiting in some other house and he himself went to his house to inquire the condition of his parents. As soon as he entered the house his servant said “Ha.Ha! I smell the fragrance of Tosh Baig” but his parents said “forget about Tosh Baig, from where will he come? He might have died by now” but soon after Tosh Baig entered the house and cleaned the face and eyes of his servant his visions restored and when he saw Tosh Baig, he shouted with joy “Tosh Baig has come” but his parents said “we are repeatedly told a lie that Tosh Baig will come, but he will come from no where. Then Tosh Baig came forward and cleaned the faces and eyes of his parents. they too got back the vision and when they saw Tosh Baig they became every happy.
First of all Tosh Baig visited his fields and gardens and found that all the plants had dried so he watered them and returned to his house. He told his parents that he had brought with him a pari zaad and he brought his wife home and all the villagers also came to his house with great happiness and joy. Then he prepared food and fed all the villagers. He with his wife lived in the village with joy and happiness.
Section 10
You said that his fields/habitat had gone dry, was there nobody in the village to water his fields?
No in fact there were people in the village but nobody had watered the fields of Tosh Baig, so it had gone dry. So this was the story. The theme of this story is that perseverance is the key for obtaining an objective.

Well uncle! You narrated an interesting tale. Do you know the ancient singers and Do you like songs?
Yes sadar sahib! In earlier times my uncle Muhammad Baqi my maternal uncle Ali Sher were famous poets. Thereafter brother Shireen Shah, Qurban Khan and Daud Baig were also very good poets.

Do you remember a song? Would you (like to) sing a song?
Yes I will sing a song for you.
[Translator’s note; The original songs are not available instead the interviewer has translated the theme of the songs which is neither in order nor giving the idea of the songs so the summary of songs interpreted by the interviewer has been left out
of this transcript. I have already requested for the audiocassette of this interview, if I got the audiocassette the songs will be added to the interview.]

You sang the songs very nicely. Do you like the modern songs and would you also like to sing (modern song)?
Yes I like the modern songs very much but I don’t recall (the modern songs) that I could sing for you.

Would you like to tell, as to who in your view is the best singer/ poet at the moment?
In my opinion Azizullah is the best singer and poet.
Section 11
Well poopy (name of narrator’s deceased grandfather)! Would you like to explain / translate the songs you sang for me?
No I don’t know the translation (I can’t explain the meanings of the song)

If you don’t know (translation), then it would be quite difficult for me to translate it correctly, however I will try my best to briefly explain the songs. But if at any stage I couldn’t then I will contact you again. Uncle! Thank you very much for the very nice songs and the interesting tales you narrated and also for giving me the opportunity to record your life experiences. We undertake this work on behalf of the PANOS and SNT, Insha-allah (God willing) we will photograph you and your photograph and your name will be published if you are willing to do so.
Once again I would like to thank you all that you spared time, and also my sisters who, cared for the children and enabled me to record the interview.

1 Wheat bread is preferred for its taste and quality. Meals served on ceremonies and to guests are always made of wheat flour, whereas bread made of barley and green peas are taken as inferior and not served on such occasions.