Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary










Lupghar pasture, Shimshal


5 August 2000



Section 1
Today, 5th August 2000 at Lupghar pasture and I am interviewing aunt Qandoon. Lupghar is a beautiful and impressive valley. The description of its scenic beauty is beyond my words. The lush green valley, the snow-covered towering peaks and the long glaciers, in short each one is unique in beauty. The beauty of this valley, which fascinates me, is its ideal location and the peaceful and natural environment. The serene moonlight makes the environment more fascinating and one wants to sit the whole night in the open atmosphere enjoying the valuable gift of nature. It is not known how many great personalities have enjoyed the blessing from nature. Perhaps we are amongst those luckiest human beings that have the opportunity to live a peaceful life in a pure natural environment.
I am sitting in Auntís house to interview her and I am enjoying the sight of the glittering peak of Lopghar sar. The sunset makes the peak touching. During the interview baby goats would enter the house and roam around making their typical sounds. In short all these things are part of the nature and we are sitting in a purely natural environment and I am interviewing aunt. She is telling me the ups and downs of her life. At the end of the interview she prepared chilpindok (large chapattis spread with qurut Ė local dried cheese - and butter stacked in piles), after taking this favourite dish I left the house and she also got busy in her household works. It was the time of milking the cattle so aunt left for milking.

Respectable Aunt, would you like to tell me some thing about your childhood?
Yes my son. Though I am not educated but I will try my best to tell you the background of my life. During my lifetime, I witnessed a lot of changes. When I got married, thereafter I lived with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. Whatever advice they would give me, I would obey the instruction in my everyday household affairs. When they would suggest us to go to Pamir (Shimshalís mountain pastures) we would go and when they advised us to stay at the village we would do so and would carry out our duties pleasantly. The family where I married, was quite a large family. It consisted of 25 persons in the house.
In our village it was a custom for people to keep more cattle, we did too. Therefore very often I would go to Pamir. I got my first child, six years after my marriage. I would normally go to Pamir with my mother-in-law. There was a lot of poverty in those days and an inadequate ration was provided for the use at Pamir. My mother-in-law was very cautious in using this meagre ration stock throughout our stay at Pamir, because she knew that guests would come from the village and it would be required to invite them for food, as it was our tradition. So she would manage the foodstuff very carefully. The arrangements in terms of foodstuffs that we make today for guests, were not available at that time. We would thank God for what we possessed and would try to live within that.
In early times hunting was very common, we would mainly depend on hunting meat for our food; other foodstuff was insufficient. I went to Pamir with my three children and later on we quit Pamir and we started going to Lupghar. For the last 22 years with an exceptional break of two or three years I have been coming regularly to Lupghar. The conditions in Lupghar in terms of foodstuff were the same as they were in Pamir. We would take minderich (type of grass) and chomorow (thyme) as part of our staple food in the pasture and sometimes we would take bread with qurut. There was no idea and knowledge of things like tea.
Despite extreme poverty, there was tremendous cooperation and sympathy among the people. The cooperation in Lupghar was more than that in Pamir. We would take food together; each household would prepare and bring food from their houses to a common place where everyone would share the food. We would also graze the cattle jointly from morning till evening.
There was no concept of taking lunch we would take dinner only when we got back home after grazing cattle the whole day, because it was the time of poverty and we had accustomed accordingly with the conditions. After milking the cattle we would take dinner and would get engaged in abstracting butter from curd. The curds were processed in a local machine and normally it would take 5 to 6 hours to get refined butter. This process would start just after dinner and would last until 1.a.m in the middle of the night. There were no arrangements of proper lighting. Firewood was the only source of light for working in the night. Nowadays modern lighting sources have been invented. Today the lighting arrangement is being made through kerosene or candles.
By the grace of God, the era has come for easiness and comfort. Those hardships we
experienced have vanished, every comfort and facilities are present today but we have given up the thanks and our humble submissions to God. Our children have no feeling for what they possess because they have not experienced those hardships. They have taken the facilities for granted so they do not value the facilities and comforts. We have also forgotten those hardships and we do not offer our gratitude for these things.
We would graze and look after the cattle throughout the day, because they were at high risk of predators such as wolves and foxes, which more often would inflict heavy losses on cattle. Occasionally falcons and eagles would pick out the young goat and sheep so we had to remain vigilant throughout the day and in the evening we would abstract butter. Our sole activities were to look after the cattle. Yaks and cattle were in such great numbers as today. Fetching water for domestic use was another problem and is still a problem at Lupghar. We fetch water down from the glacier, which is not so easy, but we do it.
In early days communication was not so frequent; very few people would cross through Avdegar pass on route to Shimshal. When some guest would pass through this area we would gather and would welcome the guest and would hear the news from him about the village. Nowadays communication has increased manifold and people come here frequently.
I cannot describe the facilities we possess today in comparison with the olden times, but our gratitude for God has decreased. We do not offer our thanks to God for what he bestowed upon us. God has granted us every comfort of life but in my view we do not offer our gratitude in return.
Section 3
Originally you belonged to Passu village, and married in Shimshal. What differences did you observe? Please tell us in detail.
I was very young at the time of my marriage but I was informed about the village and the people. When we arrived at Shanap (marshland), people including the elders and the lopan (those holding the Mirís positions in the village) of the village warmly welcomed us. Old people had worn their white bett (woollen overcoat) and white woollen caps on their head, which impressed me too much. I realised that the people of Shimshal were decent and polite. From Shanap, we went to my husbandís house where we were formally welcomed. Almost every household in Shimshal invited us. In those days marriages were more expensive than today. On the occasion of my marriage, 15 deg (cast iron cooking pot; 100 litre capacity) of beth (local dish, wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton), were prepared and 20 goats were slaughtered. Because people from two villages participated in the marriage ceremony, it was more expensive.
Next day all the women of the village were invited to a meal. I was unfamiliar with the people and the customs of the village. My father advised me to greet each one of them. Some of them were our relatives as my father introduced them to me. The women had put on their traditional caps with various designs. The caps were hands stitched with different colours and designs. Some were with green flowers stitched on it some were with red flowers and white background. All these things were unusual for me. Among these women, Dur Sultana, Bibi Khanda and Fatima were impressive in terms of their clothes. They had worn modern cloths and caps sewed and stitched on a modern machine. Other women had worn different styles of caps, some of them had worn menís caps, these were made of wool, and most of the old women had worn this cap.
The old women would also wear kerest (overcoat made from animal hide). I was extremely astonished to see women wearing kerest, but my father had already informed me about the conditions in Shimshal and had set guidelines for me to live in the village. My father had advised me to behave with the people with respect and politeness, as Shimshal was a sacred place because Shams (a saint) had passed through this village.
So I acted upon the advice of my father and with the passage of time I became familiar with the norms and traditions of Shimshal. I liked the submissive and respectful attitude of the youth with older people. In those days old people were more in number almost every household had one or two old people. Whenever there were social meetings everyone would participate and would patiently listen to the elders. The young honoured the decisions of the elders.
My father-in-law was a famous hunter and a very hospitable man. Whenever he hunted game, he would invite the villagers and would celebrate the party with the villagers. The population was not so much in those days, therefore such kinds of events were celebrated together.
Whenever they had to discuss certain community issues they would extensively discuss it among the masses. The young would calmly and carefully listen to the elders and would respect the decisions of the elders. Today meetings conclude without decision and with dispute. In those days people would wear very simple cloths, women would also wear woollen bett as it was part of their tradition. I gave a suit to my mother-in-law on the occasion of my wedding ceremony. Though the suit was not so expensive it looked impressive.
There was no idea of growing potatoes in Shimshal. My father sent me potato and vegetable seeds from Passu and advised me to grow potato and other vegetables. Aunt Rehan was the first to grow potatoes in Shimshal.
As my father-in-law was a hunter and would often hunt game (ibex and blue sheep) we would eat meat every day. Soon I became fed up and I wanted to eat vegetables. I asked my father-in-law, to borrow vegetables from someone but he told me that nobody grows potatoes and other vegetables in Shimshal. There was a superstitious belief that the cattle would die if they grow potatoes. I was surprised to hear this and I argued with my father-in-law that Aunt Rehan grows potatoes and yet she possesses a lot of cattle; my father also grows potatoes and his cattle donít die. It is all superstitious things.
So I tried to convince my father-in-law for the cultivation of potatoes but could not convince him. He said that there was no need of potato as they have plenty of meat from hunting as he would hunt game for four months and then migratory birds like duck etc. for three months every year. So they didnít need anything else. I told my father-in-law that the dish would be tastier if we added potato and other vegetables to it.
Ultimately I was able to convince my father-in-law for the cultivation of potatoes and we cultivated them and other vegetables in a small area just on a trial basis. The crop production was quite high and we started using the vegetables in our daily food, everyone in the house liked it. Over the year they also observed that nothing happened to the cattle, no cattle died due to the potato crop. So the next year we grew vegetables on a larger area. In this way we started cultivating potatoes and vegetables in Shimshal. Afterwards my brother Ghulam Mohammed sent me fresh potato seeds, which multiplied the production for several years.
Aunt Rehan was the first to grow potatoes in Shimshal but she would grow them in a small area and when she would harvest the crop, children would gather around her with curiosity to look at the unique crop grown under the soil. My husband Wali would also go and witness the unique product. Aunt Rehan would give one piece to each child and most of the children would start eating raw potato right on the spot, because they had never seen it before. Some would take the piece of potato to their houses and would eat it after cooking. She would distribute much of the potato crop among the children so her potato production never increased.
When I started growing potatoes, the production was quite high and it increased year by year. My father and my father-in-law encouraged me and advised me to grow other vegetables and plants too. My father was an educated person he studied various books. On his advice, I kept on growing potato and with the passage of time the production increased. Nowadays people are more advanced in terms of potato production than us, as I come to Lupghar every year and the family members who remain in the village are not so vigilant and they donít take initiative for cultivation of potato.
Section 5
How do you manage the preparation of food for such a big family consisting of 25 members?
After marriage when I joined the family, in the first two years I would rarely take part in the household affairs such as food preparations etc. But later on my father-in-law handed over the responsibility of household affairs to me and assigned the responsibility of looking after the cattle to other family members. Since than I am shouldering the responsibility.
In those days it was quite difficult to manage and prepare food for such a large family, particularly on the occasions of collective work such as harvesting of barley, wheat and fodder fields in Amienabad and Khizerabad (places). When people from the village would come to assist us in work I would get up early in the morning and prepare food for them. There was no tea in those days. I would prepare moch (soup), and bread and I would put the bread in the basket and carry it to the field.
When somebody would come to assist us in work, my father-in-law would advise me to prepare molida (local dish; bread mixed with qurut and butter) from pea flour. At that time molida was a luxury dish and was available to only a few families. But today all are on a par in terms of food. Allah has bestowed his blessings upon all and everyone possesses plenty of foodstuffs.
Despite using the best variety of food today, the health conditions are not as good as compared to the people in old times. Those people were very healthy and active, they lived a very long life as compared to todayís man.

Would you like to tell about the education of your children?
I sent my son, Farman Ali, to pardes (outside the area) at a minor age. He took his basic education in the village. When I noticed that his performance was no more satisfactory, I sent him to his grandfather at Passu as he also wished his grandson to be with him. He studied in Passu and then left for Gulmit to attend the higher classes. After completing his education in Gulmit, he went to Karachi for further study.
Farman was a very intelligent student he would always hold the first or second position in his class. When he went to Karachi and after completing his education, he wanted to marry his cousin, the daughter of my brother. But Ghulam (brother of the narrator) totally refused. So this incident had a very adverse impact on his life. He was very intelligent and would always win prizes in games. Anyhow, after completion of his education he obtained the position that he wanted and is living a happy life.
We did not meet the entire educational expenses of Farman. We financially supported him up to Gilgit (matriculation) thereafter he managed the expenses on his own and obtained the required qualification.
Section 6
You have been to Karachi, How did you feel about the city life? Please tell us in detail.
Yes I have been to Karachi. Karachi is a big city, the biggest city of Pakistan but it is not suitable for people like us. It is good for those who intend to acquire education not for those who sit idle and waste their time. I was taken around the famous places of Karachi but it neither inspired me nor provided me with mental peace and satisfaction. I would always think about my home (Shimshal) and the pending works that I had to do at the village. Despite living a comfortable life in Karachi, I never obtained peace of mind.
Though I lived in Karachi for about one and half years, my thoughts were dominated by the household affairs of Shimshal. Farman would always feed me the best food he could afford, he would purchase the expensive fruits from Quetta (a province of Pakistan, famous for fruit production) and would arrange the expensive food for me but I deemed it not better than the dry crispy bread of my village. The mental peace that we have in the village is extinct in the city. In the city we have the major problem of language. We cannot converse with the people in the city.
In Lupghar, grazing the livestock were quite difficult in olden times, your mother (mother of interviewer) and I would jointly graze the livestock. Nowadays we live a comfortable life, we have a lot of facilities we take good food and everyone takes the best food in their houses but in old times we would take the food together.

How do you benefit from the livestock?
We derive a lot of benefits from the livestock. I will tell you in detail. From the wool we fabricate socks, coat, trousers and bett. As I mentioned earlier, in olden times women used woollen clothes like bett, which we made from wool. Even today we make woollen bett and cap for the weddings of our children, which reflect the cultural heritage of this village. In our houses we use the carpets made out of yakís hair, which is very durable. We also sell these carpets in the market. We prepare butter and qurut which we use in our every day food. So almost all the necessities of life we obtain from the livestock and those who posses more livestock offer part of their livestock and butter to nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative) which facilitates development in the village.
Section 7
Have you also performed nomus? If so please tell us in detail.
Yes, we did. First of all we performed nomus in the name of my father-in-law, Muhammad Saeed. We constructed the building of D J School through this nomus, which took two years to complete. Muchi (religious chief) Muhammad Nayab was the architect of this building. The second nomus we performed in the name of my elder father-in-law, Daulat Baig. Through this nomus we built a bridge in Pamir, the bridge was washed away by the flood and twice we reconstructed the bridge. The third nomus was in the name of my father-in-law Abdullah, through this nomus we constructed part of Jamat khana (religious community centre of Ismaili Muslims) building. The fourth and the last nomus we performed recently. This nomus was in the name of both my mothers-in-law and my brother. Through this nomus we constructed an irrigation channel to irrigate Rech (barren land). We offered more than twenty goats, yaks and 6 maunds (1 maund=37.5 kg) of butter and many more things.

Would you please tell us in detail about the education of your children?
We did not make much effort for the education of our children. Our children acquired the education and reached this level on the strength of their own efforts. However, due to lack of financial support from our side, they could not complete their education. Though we had enough resources to support them but due to our joint family set up we could not spare many resources for them. We posses enough land, fruit trees and construction timbers but due to combined family system, we could not properly support our children.
More often I argue with my husband on this topic that at least we could have sold part of our land and timber to educate our children. Farman would not return to village because he and his wife have acquired good positions (job status) and are living a comfortable life, but for Abdullah (younger son) we didnít support financially in completing his education. Due to lack of resources, Abdullah could not complete his education. Moreover, we did not support Daulat Baig since he is in Karachi and Farman bears his educational expenses.

Did you experience any incident in your life, which caused sorrow and worries, if so what were those incidents.
I have had more happiness than sorrows in my life. The sorrows of my life were the death of my two children, a son and a daughter. My children who died were the same age of Ghulam Amin and Abbas. This was the sorrow I experienced in my life. The deaths of my father and mother-in-law were not so painful as they had lived quite long lives. The death of the younger brother of Wali Baig was distressing, as he was a young and very intelligent man. During the Mirís (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974) regime when Alam janab (an army officer; janab, Mr, sir) went to Pamir for boundary demarcation he took this young man with him to Pamir, there after he wanted to take him to Hunza, Karimabad. Therefore we made necessary arrangement for his visit to Hunza, we prepared bett and shushk (long shoes made of animal hide) etc. for him. He went with Alam but could not go beyond Ziarat, he fell ill and was brought back to the village, where he passed away after few days. This sudden death shocked the entire family.
Section 8
What is the pleasant incident of your life?
Iíve had a lot of happiness in my life but the happiest moment of my life was the birth of my first child, my son. My two sons are married and they have children, which is a source of immense pleasure for me. By the grace of God I accomplished the responsibility of marriage of my children. It is the blessing of almighty Allah, that I am married in a well-off family and am living a happy life. When I was married in this family it was a joint family but I always respected my in-laws. I served them with zeal, in turn they blessed me with good wishes and prayed for my successful life. It is because of their blessings that today I am living a happy life. I never disobeyed my in-laws and my sisters-in-law never annoyed me, instead we would live in a respectful environment. Despite the large family size and difference of opinion, we never exchanged harsh words and my sisters never talked to me in a high tone. All this was due to the blessing of God and the respect and regard of my sisters for me and for each other.

Comments from the Interviewer
I also appreciate the politeness and the excellent management of Aunt. It is quite difficult to manage such a large family in todayís society where father and son cannot afford to live together. The understanding and the unity among the members of this family was exemplary. It was the excellent management of Aunt which turned the home into a heaven. I also advise my sisters and mothers (women of the village) to follow the footsteps of Aunt Qandoon and make their homes as a true heaven.