Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary












22 July 2001



Section 1
I am here to have an interview with grandmother Mushk. We are sitting in front of her home and talking about her interview. The weather is beautiful. Today it is fine weather after three days rains. Cold winds are blowing and birds are singing in the garden around her home - summer in Shimshal! Apricots are ready. It is a very beautiful season in the village. Her (the interviewee’s) grandchildren are sitting around us observing the recorder and listening to what we are saying. I have requested them not to talk or disturb their grandmother.

In the name of Allah the most beneficent and merciful Assalam-o-Aliakum (peace be with you). Dear grandmother, I am here to have an interview with you part of a project of PANOS and SNT. We will record your voice and what you say. This would be sent abroad, translated and compiled in the form of a book. I am sure you will enjoy it and share your true feelings and knowledge with me.
Thank you

Sweet grandmother could you kindly tell me your name and where you were born?
My name is Mushk and I was born in Gulmit. I was married here in Shimshal.

When did you got married
I was married before you were born. It was the year uncle Ghulam Nasir died. It was the year he died. It is more then 20 years...27 years maybe. Yes, I think that much since I came here.

What was the condition here in Shimshal then (when you got married)?
Then it was like this… 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 (coarse woollen cloth). In everything we use to say Bismillah (in the name of God). Rizq (God’s gift) was in abundance, too much, and there was barkat (blessing). It was not less. We had everything.

What changes did you witness since?
Changes were like this, that when the Army (Pakistan 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. Before that buzurgisht (elderly people) wore bett (long woollen overcoat), sandal (long shoes made of animal skin) and miyoon (piece of cloth wrapped around the waist, like a belt). It is not like that now. In this time (nowadays) it is not like that. Bett and sandal have vanished. Miyoon has vanished and the woollen cap too has vanished. Those are no longer used.
Section 2
Were there any difficulties for you (women)?
Difficulties for us? There were no difficulties. Not of food, not of clothing. Whatever was available, we used to thank God for that. We were really thankful for that to God. Everything was in abundance, real abundance.

Are there any changes in the works? (In the nature of work for women)
There are changes in the nature of work. There are changes in the nature of work [repeating]. Our sons and daughters are making development. Some are studying, some are working on handicrafts. [Noises of children from the back ground.] Some are working for agriculture. These are the changes. Then it was not like that. People were busy with their farming. And stock farming and those sorts of things. Now these things are in, these things working… yes. Today’s young generation now no longer value qadeema aql (ancient wisdom). They tell us that this is crazy old mind. They call us like that.

Are there any changes in the habits of people too?
Khalgisht Buzurg (people were mature/civilised) too then! People were at peace [in the past]. People listened to each other and valued each other’s views. Now if I say anything you don’t obey it, you argue twice as much. I am talking of disrespect. The era is like this. Then we always listened, respected and did what the elders said. Now everyone thinks he knows better. Now those who hold pen, book, and pencil they have the say.
But I will say farming will never lose its importance. Farming will never loose its importance and whatever you do with your hands that benefits maximum. Stock farming too is very valuable, very, very valuable. 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.

What other benefits do you get from agriculture farming… other than grains…?
From zamindorig (farming) it is like this, grains to feed you, fodders for livestock. i.e. food for human, food for animals. It is all from orchards, from vegetable fields, from your plantations and your agriculture land, it is all beneficial. Once the road reaches the village, we can sell it (products) too. Even now too… the one like you sells vegetables and potatoes too and many other products too and earns benefits.

Sweet grandmother could you tell me that if we abandon agriculture works what the losses would be?
To my poor understanding, if we don’t do agriculture work we would not find anything (no food) in this village. How much could one carry on their back? [The village has no road and everything for daily necessities are transported carrying on their back]. It is because of this land that spo yem dasti tem dast zoor nast (our one hand is not dependent on the other- we are not dependent on each other). You see… if someone (a guest) comes, a moment of despair (someone dies), or a day of happiness (marriages and festivals etc) we go to our ranch slaughter an animal, go to our own store and get agriculture products [usually a guest in the village is invited to every household and an animal is slaughtered for their food]. We don’t borrow anything from each other… we have yaks, livestock (goat and seeps) livestock, butter, grains, fruits and vegetables all in stock. Today I am not able to go to the pasture but my khishqom (relatives) and villagers help me caring my livestock and bring back two yak loads of product. One load of butter and dry cheese and one load of yak and livestock hair. This is our rizq this is our hard work. These are blessings, we should be thankful to God. We should respect it… we do of course. We have thanked God for that and will do more. Our children… if they ska washta (owned something)… if they did not show gratitude to Allah and [did not] say Bismillah they will loose these rizq.
Section 3
Did you used to go to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures) before?
Yes I did. I did go to Pamir 24, 25 years ago, when my husband died then too I went. But when we divided [the family divided] since then I have not gone to Pamir. When I stopped breastfeeding my son his father died [son was two]. I am staying here for him. It was the same year when the Jamat khana (religious community centre of Ismaili Muslims) was built [it was built 31 years ago]. It was the same year when Daulat Amin got married. My husband died the same year. I myself made a wish and donated the plot for Jamat khana. I had a father and mother-in-law who were having no children. Their nephew (the narrator’s husband) came and told us that the villagers are searching a land (plot) for Jamat khana. My father-in-law told that I don’t have rights on it because for me my nephew had already [done] nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative) [and] donated for the construction of darwoza (gates) on Payeena Sar (name of place) my husband many times visited the Jamat khana and came back telling that the villagers are saying that whoever will donate the land will be given the plot of the old Jamat khana. Then I told that, Father! It is God’s land and if you give it donate it by the name of God. It is Gods land…my husband told my father-in-law! Isn’t your daughter-in-law saying right? He told that what ever you do I am going for eternal life. I have finished my life. Then my husband went to the community centre and announced to the villager that I am donating this plot by the name of my mother. There they prayed. Father Dilbar formally initiating work by cutting a tree for construction. The community shared the putuk (sacred dish of bread and milk for special occasions) then people started constructions. Now I pray day and night there for their souls. It is both for donyo at qiyoomat (this world and the life after).
Section 4
Could you tell me about the difficulties that you faced after the death of your husband?
With me… yes difficulties too come for a person. The difficulties were that when my husband died 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. I remember who owned me and who had spoken for me. Qurboon (Ourban Karim) and Aziz Din constructed a house for me [Crying]. Qurboon was carpenter; Aziz Din and Muhammad Falik helped him with preparing mud, stones for the construction. They made this house for me. My son was the same age of my grandson [pointing towards her grandson of five sitting next to us] when I separated with my family. I lived in a borrowed [no system of rented home in the village] house for six months when my home was completed. It was Qurboon, Daulat, Mohamad, Aziz Din and Falik. It was these people with whose help I passed through my difficult days and I am still living here. Yes I still remember that they completed this house and I shifted here during Salgirah (one of the religious festival celebrated on July 11th) when I moved to the new house from then on I have never gone to Pamir. I have performed all the agriculture related activities. I can’t forget it. I used to give water to my field and Aziz Din would help me clear the channels. I cannot forget those days. I could not do anything for him [crying], not even a cup of tea. These people were my kas (kin).

Can you tell me your feeling about your son today [her son is the group Scout leader of the village]?
My son is… [slowly and with pride] I as a mother brought him up with care (as a good man). [He was an orphan at two and his mother worked alone to bring him up.] But 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 has five children. Two of them died and three are there for me.
My son constructed a house in Furzeen. A nomus of my name [constructed a community summer hut by the name of his mother]. I donated eight [of my] livestock around 340 kg of flour and 60 kg fresh butter – not to mention the tea and milk etc. - for its construction. My son was an orphan and I arranged his marriage, constructed a home for him here and another summer house in Dasht (other land own by the family) constructed a border wall around the family forest in Shooth. I have performed both male and female responsibilities for him in the years of his orphanhood. My agriculture works were exemplary.

Any other nomus that you have done?
Other than this we donated for construction of a gate in the name of my father-in-law at Paryena Sar (name of a place on the way to Pamir). This gate was first constructed in Peryeen where it was damaged by a landslide. I told them to reconstruct it in its present place. Therefore we twice had to invest in it. My father-in-law spent yaks, livestock, grain and butter to construct it and again we did the same. It was the same time of the summer.
My father-in-law constructed a house by the name of grandmother Nobot, that too is situated in Paryeena sar. The plot for this Jamat khana’s [was donated by my grandfather]. In olden times too they did so, like a trail by the name of grandfather Qumbar, a canal in Sherlaksh and many such things they did in their time. I don’t know them all in very detail. This is limited information that I have heard from my father-in-Law.
Section 5
What benefit does the community get from nomus?
This provides pride for the family and happiness for the community. This exists nowhere else than in Shimshal. It solves a problem for the community.

What benefit do you (the donor) get from it?
What else for us. It is a good name and pride for the family. It is a historical record that this particular person has done this and that, and they have donated such assets for the community. People pray for the [donor’s] family. Yemi yi nomi-nik (it is a good name) when people use these properties they pray for the life, success of you and your family. That is very great.

Grandmother! What is your opinion of the generation who are studying (getting education)?
Learning comes through hard work. Those on whom God bestows get success. Your grandmother (herself) does not know much of learning. That is what we have listened, that those who work hard for that get success and the one’s who are gifted. The one’s like me are left behind. It is not every one who get success. Learning has a higher place. My son and grandchildren there (in Gulmit) got very successful. One is in the Army, one an engineer and the small girl is in Islamabad. They were all very successful.

What are your opinions of these grandchildren? Will you give them education?
Sure, why not? We will give them education. As much as we can afford we will educate them. We have a herd of animals, we will work hard moreover if we could spare some grains we will educate them… why not? Their grandfather strived for learning till the last age. He is Nazar Muhammad’s [the family is respected as khalifa learned for generations in the Quran and Islamic fiqa who performed rituals on the occasions like death and marriages] nephew. Their grandfather was a learned man. He knows much and did much in the village. We still keep a collection of his books.

How did he die (interviewee’s husband)?
He got a pain in the throat, that killed him.

Throat pain, throat pain killed him.

Now we change the topic a little. When the road approaches here what changes do you feel will come here?
It would be like this… like the same there is down valley (refers to the Hunza and Gojal). Here too they will make developments, like we will grow and sell potatoes like them, sell livestock like them, if there is a yak we will sell it like them. It would be more developed than them. Like, without a road there is much development it would be a lot more if the road reaches here. Then there would be more development. Right now there is development here already. Our children are not left behind. Yes.
Section 6
What would be the bad aspects of road? Could you tell me about them too?
The merits would be like this… it is this (gesturing with both hands) much a small village. I cannot understand if it is going to be very good or how it would be. I don’t know. One more thing I will tell you that we have not seen strangers here. We are very peaceful here in our village. We can freely move to our ghell (shelter for goats and sheep), widely move to our forests. Perform agriculture work widely. Independently we go for fetching firewood etc. we can stay alone at our homes. [I am afraid that] once the road reaches here we will not be able to stay alone at home nor go out for working. We would not be able to take a step outside [our homes]. We will remain bound inside our homes.
We are very peaceful now. We have a very buzurg mulk (peaceful village) our village is calm and at peace and we ourselves are at peace. All are like father, and brother, sister and mother, we can freely go to each others houses, we ask [about] one another (care for each other). Once the road reaches here we will not be able to enjoy all this (independence). Then it would be very difficult for us. Very difficult. Right now we feel no one is like us and we are always prominent where ever we go but then it would be very difficult for us.

Sweet grandmother you mentioned earlier that you used to go to Pamir. How it was then in Pamir?
In the olden time it was like this my daughter that, we used to eat chapatti made of green peas. A bowl full of cheese was our food. There we collected nilterk (wild mountain vegetable) cook it with cheese, and that was our diet. There was no tea. Now they go there and make tea… no one eats cheese I heard. No one eats yogurt. People prefer tea nowadays. We used to offer yogurt and peas with chapatti for shpuns (herders) now it is said to be like this… time changes.

What was the controlled grazing system then?
It was like this that everyone was together (joint family system) two (women) used to live in the village and two would go to the pasture. The two in Pamir one of them (usually the elder) called dughdor would stay at home and the other would go as shpunig (herding) [coughing]. The dughdor would stay at home and milk the animals, make cheese, yogurt butter, cut and manage the wool and hair. Shpuns would [rotationally] go with animals and care for them while they are grazing [responsibility of being shpuns rotationally moves around families but these young girls usually help other households who are alone there]. I heard that nowadays shpuns do not help others. If they are asked [to do anything] they say that “yes your children are studying and I will work for you why?” Now I heard that khoonadars (women in charge of food stocks and monitoring household expenses) themselves go as shpun. Then khoonadar only used to instruct them and shpun would obey.
Section 7
Grandmother could you tell me what benefits are there from yaks and livestock?
My mother and sister, benefits are like this that first of all we get butter, cheese, hair, meat, we make carpets and fabric out of wool and yak hair. They are expensive. Carpets are used for daily life and festivities and death occasion. They are given as gifts too and taken to Jamat khana. These are the benefits. We make fertiliser for our fields where it benefits us.

How to make butter and dried cheese?
Butter is made in saghoo (cylindrical wooden instrument used for abstracting butter) with pure milk. The remains are cooked and dried on the sunlight. Then we packed them and transport them to the village on the yaks.

What rituals are performed in Pamir?
When we reach there we perform Mirgichig (purification custom, to give thanks to God). Then the first product of the new season is sent to their families in the village which is consumed in a special festival with thanksgiving and prayers. Then comes Wulyo (riding excursion to Wulyo) where people go for offering and Chaneer (harvest festival).

When does the kooch (seasonal migration with livestock to and from pasture) come down?
Aaah… I don’t know the name of the month. I don’t know the name of that month. Now this month (August) started, not this month, not the next, next and next of that. What you call it? (the European calendar) I don’t know that calendar… kooch comes down [to the village].

Huummmm…[moving head in agreement]

What you do during kooch?
Kooch time… well it is the same… they come, what the rituals traditionally are performed. Like they bring with them the entire productivities home.

What would be the loss if we do not go to Pamir?
Well then… if we do not go to Pamir we would not be able to get butter and cheese. Our [traditional] food will finish. So…the loss would be like that. We have houses there and all equipment of daily necessities that would become worthless [with sadness]. Like I have two houses there; in both places they are abandoned. Because I am not going there [anymore].

Sweet grandmother! Could you tell me that what was the system of marriage in those days?
Before, this was the system of marriage that we use to make fifteen deg beth (deg is a cast iron cooking pot, 100 litre capacity, and beth is a local dish of wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton) and slaughter 12 goats. Then yurt (people, the villagers/community) will gather in the bride’s - and again the same in the bride groom’s - house and eat this food. Then the remaining would be divided to every household. In the morning they will start [the festivities] with miimoney (food served with beth and milk) then they will take the bridegroom out of the house take them to Jamat khana for nikah (Islamic matrimonial agreement). 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. Cloths were like this that the one who “could find” (well off) would have six or seven cloths for the bride and the one who could not find made three or four pairs too. Fabrics were of good quality, Chinese mostly. Shushk (long shoes made of animal hide) were specially made for the bride. So it was like that.
Section 8
How marriages are celebrated nowadays?
Now you know once it was room (main lineage groups) then it was [celebrated] in skuin (extended family group, sub-group of room), now it is the whole village again. Now it is two deg beth [they are served less food now]. Clothes for bride are many. Expenses for marriage are not much yet. In olden times women used to sing sunisai (special goodbye song for brides sung in a women’s only gathering in the bride’s house) that too has vanished. In the middle it was started again and then stopped

Why it was stopped?
During a marriage we sung sunisai. Someone in the village had died earlier [it is a custom that if someone dies in the village no music is played and celebrations are kept very simple for many days]. The deceased family’s feeling got hurt. That is why we stopped it. Though it is said that we should not finish our traditions but it was stopped.

To your view were marriages good in olden times or now. Expenses are higher now or then?
Ya… Expenses are like this that in the marriage process expenses are not higher now but after that expenses are high. Now. Like in our parents village they have more expenses in the process (marriage days) here expenses are later. Marriages were [good] in olden time. Now too it is better but not that much. In olden times they had rizq and unity. Now it is not that much.

What are the expenses after marriage?
Well like this… something parties are made. Something, this and that… many you know. People are invited. That is after marriage.
Section 9
What were the bride’s marriage clothes in those days?
It used to be the same shalwar-qameez (traditional trouser and shirt for men and women). Beautiful ones. Not these shoes but we wore beautiful shushk (long shoes made of animal hide). Now those have vanished and these [modern] clothes have started.

Who used to make shushk and sandal? Was it everyone or some special person?
The ones who were good at it, like brother Doyeem, Shreen Beg and Muhammad Noyob were very skilful. They could make anything: bett, coat and sandal. Everyone took their things to them and they would make it [in the village every one has an extra skill other than their own farming]. So it was like this who ever was ustad (teacher; master) things were taken to them. Like brother Paliwoon and Daulat Mohamad were ustad too. They were good hunters and ustad. It was like that.

Fabric was good in the olden time or now?
In olden times; then cloths were good. They were rare but good quality. Now it is plenty, showy and cheap but not good (quality). The value too has vanished then we really valued them.

Tell me about the diseases in olden times?
In olden times once there was a plague. Then there were these simple ailments nothing else.

What medicines were used for that in olden times?
For that [we used] dried relish: dried apricots; soup made of special mountain plants; onions etc. It was everywhere in the area not only here [in Shimshal] that these were used as medicine. There were no doctors.

How was this plague?
That was a terrible disease. 14 to 16 days were hard. Those who survived it recovered, otherwise many died. These were the diseases then. The rest of these diseases came now (later). We were using local medications.

What were the medicines for open wounds?
For wounds we used a special application of [the soft feather from a] dunglik (crane) and minderich (type of grass). Yes, these were medicine for wounds. Bitter apricots kernels were also used. [Either minderich or bitter apricot kernels were pasted on the wound and this was covered by the soft feather of a crane.]

Could you tell me about the local shogoon (festivals) [that we celebrate throughout the year]?
Well you know it yourself. Well it starts with Vichhosh (outdoor soup festival) celebrated in [January]. Kethedith (Spring festival), Nauroz (March 21), the New Year. Then Tagam (sowing festival) then Safza Sar, (crop sprouting festival), then Chaneer, then Shegd-tar-charaman (festival celebrating the moment when the new crop is taken to the threshing field) once we take all the products then comes the kooch; these are our cultural festivals.
Section 10
Which of these festivals do you like [personally]?
Well basically all of them because they bring happiness to the village but particularly I like Tagam and Nauroz.

Thank you so much for sharing all this with us.
Thank you, now lets take tea together.