Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary












June 2001



Section 1
First of all I would like to ask you what kind of activities does the livestock herding involve? Would you like to tell us about that?
All the activities related to livestock were carried out by my mother-in-law but after her death I took over this work. We would visit the animal shelter four times a day, we would clean [away] the fodder waste and then feed the livestock with fresh fodder and also give them water. In the evening we would bring fodder from the store and place it in the animal shelter for feeding the animals early in the morning. Besides the fodder we would also feed the sheep, goat and cows that would give milk, with wasted bread /grain and would also give them warm water for drinking so that they could give more milk and we got more benefits. After milking the livestock we would take the milk to the house and would boil the milk and feed our children. The rest of the milk was used to produce butter to meet our everyday needs, because at that time guests from Hunza were frequently visiting the village and we would prepare food for them out of this butter
Another benefit from the livestock was the fertiliser that was prepared from the dung/waste of animals for our fields in order to get more agricultural production and earn our subsistence. The third benefit from the livestock was the wool. In October when the animals were driven back to the village then the wool was collected from the sheep and this wool was then mixed with white silt and was carded with sticks until it became soft and clean. Then yarn was made out of the woollen flakes, which was then taken to the weaver for making woollen cloth. This woollen cloth was used to make clothes for the family members.

Amee jan (term of endearment/respect for older women)! At that time to meet your daily needs such as to entertain the guest coming from the Mir (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974) of Hunza and to feed those who come to assist you in agricultural works like delivering fertiliser to the field, would you transport daily use commodities from Gilgit or were they met through local means?
No, dhegd (daughter; respectable word for young women), nothing except dried apricots were transported from the down valley (refers to Hunza and Gojal). The dried apricots were used to prepare local soup. Except this nothing was brought from down country. Our everyday needs were met through local products such as flour, butter, qurut (local dried cheese) etc. We would use these resources with great caution and planning, because of the scarcity of resources we carefully planned our expenses within our resources. We would prepare food for the people who would come to assist us in cultivation of the fields. On the occasion of marriages beth (local dish, wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton) was distributed among the households and this beth was frozen and stored and was then consumed in the spring season.
Section 2
Beth which was distributed among the households - would you please tell us at what occasion it was prepared?
This was prepared on the occasion of marriage and dard sar (headache, refers to nomus: donation towards community project in the name of a relative)1. On such occasions about 22 to 30 deg (cast iron cooking pot; 100 litre capacity) beth was prepared and 20 to 22 sheep or goats were slaughtered, sometimes yaks were also slaughtered to carry out nomus. Then beth was distributed among the households. The expense of dard sar was part of Wakhi culture. This beth was frozen and stored and was used in the spring season. In former times there were tremendous difficulties and hardships but today every facility is available to us.

Amee jan! The fertiliser prepared from the animals’ waste was used in the agricultural fields. What kind of benefits would you get from it?
The major benefit from this was a good yield per area of food grain. We would clean this grain and then grind it to get flour, which was used to make bread, because we would not import anything from down country. We were dependent on our local production. Those who would apply more fertiliser and would properly look after the crops would get more production and would earn more.

Amee jan! You talked about agricultural activities particularly about poor and good quality fertilisers. Would you please tell us the difference between the poor and good quality fertilisers?
Yes dhegd! The difference was such that those who would use good quality fertiliser and would care for the crops would get more food grain and those who would use poor quality fertiliser and not care for their crops properly they would get insufficient grain to meet their needs. Such people would borrow food grain from the dambore (grain store) of the Mir of Hunza to fulfil their needs. The [same amount of] food grain was then deposited in to the dambore when [these people’s] new crops were ready.

I would also like to ask you about irrigating the agricultural fields. Would you like to tell us something about it?
Regarding the irrigation of fields I would like to tell you that different methods are applied to irrigate the fertile and infertile lands. For infertile lands more fertilisers and frequent watering was required because the plants/crops in infertile land dies for insufficient water and results in poor yielding. Therefore great vigilance is required for frequent and timely watering of the fields.
The fertile land also need proper watering in proportion to the fertilisers but more/frequent watering is not good for the crops because there already exists soft fertile soil and the crops grow to a significant height. When the grain starts maturing, the high wind causes collapse of the high grown crops, which results in an unhealthy grain size hence reducing the yield.
Section 3
Amee jan! You just told that the wools were collected from the animals and were mixed with soft silt and were carded with sticks. For what purpose was this activity done?
It was mixed with soft soil in order to separate the impurities and to make it white. This would also facilitate making good quality yarn.

Amee jan! What methods were used for stitching the clothes?
Stitching was done manually with the help of needles. There were two methods of stitching. We would stitch the dress from the reverse side and then double stitching was made on the dress. The bridal dresses were provided with impressive stitching/design on the collar and on the boundaries with colourful threads. This stitching was known as chashmi bulbul (nightingale’s eye).

What kind of yarn was used for stitching of cloths?
We made the yarn for our use. We would make fine yarn from wool and then make it double for stitching purposes. The women who were not capable of stitching would get the help of others. Women would help each other in such works.

Besides stitching cloths were there also knitted sweaters?
No one at that time would either knit sweaters or wear sweaters. They were introduced later on. At that time hand gloves and woollen socks were made locally. I myself was capable of stitching cloths, knitting hand gloves, sweater and socks, when sweaters were introduced I also learnt them and started knitting them.

Amee jan! It is said that at that time washing soap was not available here, then what was used for washing clothes?
We would use the barley flour for this purpose. Another method of making soap was such that animal fat was mixed with ash and was put in a basket and water was added to the ash. A pot was placed beneath the basket so that the water seeped through the hot ash and fat was collected in the pot. This filtered water was then boiled stirring with wooden spoon continuously till it was converted to a paste form. Then it was dried in the form of cubes and was used to wash the woollen cloths. There was no other means except the above.

Was there an individual expert for making the local soap or would everyone make it?
First of all the technique was not known to everyone but later on people started to make it in every house. This soap was also used in my father’s house. Those who did not possess animal fat would borrow it from others but everyone would make the local soap.
Section 4
Amee jan! You told that you were an expert of weaving socks and hand gloves and were also capable of stitching chugha (long woollen overcoat). Did you learn it from your mother or from whom did you learn it?
I learnt the stitching of chugha from my cousin Bibi Nasab, weaving socks from one of my friends and weaving sweaters from brother Mohabat Shah. I learnt to knit gloves through observation of others not from one particular person. Prior to my marriage I could not do any thing, as I was too young, that is why I could not learn any thing from my mother.

The skills you learnt from others. Did you transfer these skills to others?
I trained one of my friends and she learnt very well and started weaving socks but later on I think she quit the work.

Amee jan! At that time would the women exclusively perform the weaving/ embroidery works or men would also perform the work?
First of all Mrs Khuzaic who was married to Shimshal from Gircha (place) introduced the knitting of hand gloves in the village but I don’t know about the men, who else could perform the work at that time.

In your house can any of your daughters-in-law perform this (embroidery) work?
I have three daughters-in-law and all of the three are very well skilled in this work. My elder daughter-in-law can stitch clothes as well as being able to knit socks, hand gloves and sweaters very well. Both the younger daughters-in-law can stitch clothes only. Whatever skills I possessed, my daughters-in-law learnt it from me and now practice it very well.

What is your opinion about embroidery work? Should it be continued or not?
I would say that embroidery work is very important and is profitable too. If they (women) take their cloths to some body else for stitching they will have to pay for it, which is a loss to them. If they stitch their own cloths they can save the amount. If they knit socks and sweaters for their children, they will not need to buy them from the market and the amount saved in such a way can be spent on the education of their children. They can also sell these things in the market and earn money to meet their daily needs. It is therefore necessary to continue this work.

Amee jan! Now would you like to tell me some thing about education? When you were married to Shimshal, was there any school in the village and what was the education system?
As far as I remember, when I came to Shimshal tat (father; respectable word for senior male member of the community) Shaheen Baig had sent his son Daulat Amin to Hunza for education. At that time the Shimshal trek was extremely difficult. One had to bear lots of difficulties in travelling through this trek. At that time the route was via Qaroon pass (a very steep pass over 5000 meter high). The father and uncles of Daulat Amin janab (Mr, sir) would take him to Shimshal and back via Qaroon on summer vacations. At Gulmit he was living with his maternal grandfather and living conditions at Gulmit were not so good at that time but he endured the hardships and received his education. Then he left for Gilgit from Gulmit. After passing his matriculation he returned to the village and laid down the foundation for education. Today our children (youth) who are in good positions were the students of Daulat Amin. I always used to tell my five sons that it was Daulat Amin who lit the light of education and led all towards education.
Section 5
Amee jan! You talked about uncle Daulat Amin. When you were married to Shimshal, at that time he was a student. Could you please tell us who else was educating people in Shimshal?
I had learnt that first of all brother Muhammad Nayab was teaching students in Shimshal. Then Ghulam Sultan janab came to Shimshal from Gulmit and he taught students here. But I did not remember I have just heard about it. Probably I remained very busy with my household works. My brother Ghulam Rasul had also acquired education from down country and he also educated the people here. He helped appointing my elder son as teacher in his place and he started teaching in Shimshal in his uncle’s place. His salary at that time was not sufficient but he financed the educational expenses of his brother but he could not continue his education and quit his education and joined military services. Then both of them assisted their brother to continue his education. My third son was educated at the university in Islamabad. Thereafter he joined service and now he is meeting the educational expenses of his younger brothers and sister.

Amee jan! By which school teacher was Aman educated?
His teacher Daulat Amin educated him in the village. Then he was sent to Gulmit for further study. He was staying at Hussani but would go to Gulmit for study every day. After completing his education he returned to the village and joined teaching. At that time my husband separated from his brothers and we were living with our children. He sold all the yaks in order to educate our children. He concentrated on agricultural activities and could not pay attention to the livestock, as there was no one to look after the yaks at Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures). So he only concentrated on educating his children. In such a way we sent our five sons out of the village just for the sake of education. Now all are busy with their jobs and education in Gilgit and Islamabad.

Is there any benefit from education? Would you like to comment on it?
Yes education is very important and it has several advantages but my children have left the family home due to education. Their father passed away and now there is nobody to look after our fields. One of my sons retired from the military service and now he alone is looking after the lands of my other sons but he has a lot of worries. I am living in Gilgit, I have no problem in terms of food and dress but when I visit my home (Shimshal) I get worried but I don’t recognise the causes of these worries.

Amee jan! It was all about your property (lands) that your children left their home for the sake of education and except one son nobody is available at home to look after the land (property). In your view what caused them to leave the home? Do you think education is more profitable for them than the property?
Yes, I say that education is more profitable for them, that is the reason that they went out [of the village]. Now they fulfil their family needs and can also educate their children in a much better way. Therefore they fulfil all their needs only through education. That is the reason to leave the village. I am also worried because I am not educated and I have to meet all my expenses/needs through my land and livestock. Now I am also living outside the village with my children. Now I observe that the development I made in my fields is being wasted and everything is getting spoiled. But my children get more advantage from their education. Therefore they concentrate on their education.
Section 6
Amee jan! You said that education is more profitable and you educated your children but when you look at the lands you get worried. It is clear that education is more important and profitable than property. It is for the reason that your children left the village. Now please tell us that, besides your sons, did you educate your daughter?
I educated my elder daughter up to matriculation. When she passed her matric examination (secondary school certificate) her father arranged her marriage without my consent. This was a great setback for us that we could not educate her further.

In addition to your elder daughter, did you educate your younger daughter?
Yes, she received her early education in the village, thereafter her brother moved her to Aga Khan Academy Karimabad. She passed her secondary school examination in grade-A and went to Islamabad for further study.

What message would you like to give to the people? Should they educate their children or not?
People must concentrate more on the education of their daughters [rather] than their sons. Men can work in any circumstance irrespective of their education, but women can only get a respectable job provided they are very well educated. This is also the pledge of my sons to educate their sister until she is able to get a good job but it is up to her to avail this chance.

Amee jan why is education so important for the daughter?
Education is important for the daughter in that after marriage they become queen of their house and if they are educated, the entire atmosphere of the house becomes education-oriented and the mother can very well educate their children at home. She can take care of the children’s health, their food and hygienic living. She can prepare hygienic food for them. She no longer remains dependent on her husband for the educational needs of her children. It is therefore very important that women must be educated. A husband can work and earn money but his educated wife can wisely spend/manage this money. I was not educated therefore I could not concentrate so much on their education but my brother Ghulam Rasool and my elder son educated my other sons and guided them towards education. Otherwise I was illiterate and how could I know the significance of education.

Amee jan would you like to tell us when you were married what was the condition of the Shimshal road at that time?
When I was married my father brought me on horseback as far as Shaskeen (a place). From there my foster father Tash Bai took me on his back and crossed Shimshal River as much as 52 times, travelling over the hill tops till we reached Shimshal. At that time the Shimshal trek was very dangerous. When I reached Shimshal I felt very strange that there was no sunshine in the village, when I got familiarised I came to know that in winter the sun passes beyond the high rock and there is no sunshine in the village for a few days. When after four years I went back to my parents I travelled on the track in the middle of the hill built by Uncle Ghulam Nasir. This track was comparatively in the lower elevations. I travelled through this track and reached Hussani. At that time the villagers built the track but still it was a narrow track.
Section 7
What improvement has taken place in the Shimshal road? Would you like to comment?
I thank God that our road has been improved. It was not so easy as it is today; there are bridges available at all river crossings and the road is available up to Ziarat and we can travel by jeep almost half the way. And if God willing the road will reach the village very soon and we will be more comfortable and our men will also be freed from carrying loads. But the only reservation is that today we move around the village freely and can go to work alone. But after the linkage of the road free movement for the women and working in the fields would be difficult because so many people will come to the village. Then it will be essential for the men to remain present in the house [[for the family’s safety].

What changes have taken place in the society since the ancient time?
As compared to the earlier time tremendous changes have taken place; people in the village use expensive dresses. Despite the unavailability of road there is proper [arrangement of food and dress in every house] but in our time there was a lot of hardships but we have not forgotten them. When we talk about these hardships our children make jokes of it but [we should] thank God before forgetting our hard ships. We embraced these changes and are living a luxurious life. We enjoy all the available facilities. Your (interviewer) Grandmother Zainul would possess more information because she was married to this village much earlier than us. She would better tell about the earlier time.

Amee jan! You said that there were lots of hardships in earlier times and a lot of changes have occurred since then. In your opinion when the jeep road links the village what changes will take place?
Changes will take place in the sense that hotels will be built in the village, new shops will be opened and people will buy vehicles and earn from them. They will also transport their load (daily use commodity) to the village with the help of vehicles. From Shimshal they will trek to Pamir with tourists and will earn sufficient money to fulfil their needs.

Amee jan! As you talk about tourists. In your view what benefit would the people get from the tourists?
Tourism is the major source of income in Shimshal. Our people trek with tourists and earn money and they save the money in the bank and then spend it on their children’s education and also meet their household expenses. Tourism is not the sole source of income in Shimshal. People also go to Pamir with their yaks. They make livestock products and earn money and meet their needs. They also sell their yaks and earn money and the money is invested in the banks, but those who do not get the benefit from Pamir, they prepare butter in the village from the livestock this butter is consumed for building new houses for their children and providing boundary walls for their fields.
Section 8
In this connection what is your comment - should we continue livestock herding?
In my opinion, my daughter-in-law who is living in Gilgit and I also should go back to the village and assist my daughter-in-law in Shimshal in livestock herding as it is a profitable job and needs much less effort. For those who are not educated livestock herding could be the best job. They can entirely depend on livestock herding for their household needs. They can also earn money from livestock for their children’s education. It also needs hard work. There are no goats and sheep in my animals’ shelter, neither yaks nor cows. I always tell them (daughters-in-law) to keep animals and make fertiliser from them and grow more crops because presently we cannot transport foodstuff from here (Gilgit) till the road is linked to the village. After linking the village with a jeep road, then it is up to them (my children) whether to grow potatoes or grow crops on their fields.

You talk about making butter. You said that people go to Pamir and make butter. They get benefit from that and what is your comment on it?
It is such that the families who have migrated from the village to cities. They earn their subsistence through services and those who go to Pamir with their livestock, they have divine (means: earning without much efforts) earning and I feel that due to separation of my husband from his brothers I could not go to Pamir and avail this opportunity. But if I had taken my children to Pamir probably they would have not concentrated on their education because they would have assisted with the yaks and livestock herding. The livestock herding would have deprived them from getting education. People would admonish me for living in the village (ie not going to Pamir) but I think that was the better decision for my children’s education to stay in my village. This was the reason that I cannot go to Pamir and stay in the village.

Was there more unity among the people in olden days as compared to today, would you please tell us about it?
I would say that there was much more unity among the people (in olden days). People would sit together and would share their happiness with each other. In a family they would live with great unity and would share the household activities. They would not discriminate against each other on the basis of performance [rather they would collectively carry out the work] and would also care for each other’s food requirements. They were happy to participate in community activities. Today I see that when our children (youth) get married they leave their parents. They separate from their parents just to feed their own children.
I will quote a tale here. A certain person had two sons they separated from their parents. Their father died just after their separation. Their mother was left behind helpless. Then their sons and daughter-in-law deemed her as a burden and the two sons discussed among them as to how would they feed their mother after the death of their father in addition to the responsibilities of their own children, as they did not have enough means. One day their mother went to the house of her elder son. She stayed there for two days. On the third day her daughter-in-law told her that they have limited resources (land) and her husband has no service therefore they cannot afford her anymore as they had to look after their own children. She then went to her younger son’s house, her daughter-in-law refused to look her after for the reason that she had served more for her elder son. Therefore when she received a cold response from her daughter-in-law she went out of her house.
She roamed around and prayed to God to end her life. She thought that God might not accept her prayers so soon and give her death so she had to do something [to get rid of her miserable life]. So she went straight to her elder son’s house and she took her granddaughter into confidence and told her that she was going to take a nap on the roof. Her daughter-in-law and son had gone to work. She advised her granddaughter to bring her water after a certain time. She went on the roof of the house and took poison. When her granddaughter went on the roof to give her water after the scheduled time she tried to wake her up but her grandmother would not wake up. Then she called her parents and said that grandmother was not waking up. When his son came up and saw that she was already dead then after washing, they buried the dead body.
After the funeral when all the people dispersed, the two sons started praising their parents. They said that their mother served them with great devotion but they could not give her the rewards. All of a sudden there appeared a voice from a certain direction saying “oh my sons don’t praise me as I have experienced that you didn’t care for us when we were alive. So today don’t praise us, as for me it was the order of God (death)” Just after this voice, their mother’s voice appeared then the khalifa (religious representative) asked them to keep silence. Then their mother said “oh my sweet sons, oh the pieces of my jigar (literally “liver”; used for beloved ones) when I went to my younger son’s house they told me that I had served more my elder son. Then I went to my elder son’s house they told me that they had too little land to support me, as they had to support their children. So I went on the roof and asked my grand daughter to bring me water and I took poison” Just after this the voice of their mother disappeared and khalifa prayed for them and from that day onward they never praised their mother.
Section 9
1 It was almost compulsory for everyone to contribute to nomus. There was competition among the community members for more and more nomus so it was termed as headache.