Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
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introducing the area

community activities

 quotes about community activities
 key testimonies featuring community activities

men building in Shimshal, PakistanAs a geographically distinct community, there is much discussion of community activities, related to both work and leisure, throughout the testimonies.

The community regularly comes together to celebrate various festivals throughout the year. The roles people take on and their activities during these festivals are explained well in the testimonies. Community activities for agriculture are related to the festivals, in that the festivals signify the point to commence different collective agricultural tasks. Previously such agricultural work was undertaken by the three main rooms (clans) but with the increase in population it is now carried out according to skuins (sub-clans). Inayat explains, "…You can understand that working alone it's hard. So all the skuin they consist of 8 or 10 households - the immediate family which is divided into different households… so one skuin will work together, like today they will work on my fields, next day on someone else's fields… and okay the day they will work for me they will share food from my home and then the next day they will go to another, this is how they manage" (Pakistan 2).

men at work in Shimshal, PakistanCommunal labour or mutual assistance for agricultural tasks and house construction is called kuryar in Wakhi. Kuryar is similar to systems mentioned in other testimony collections in that the household requiring assistance in the form of labour, provides meal(s) to those who come to help. Kuryar is different to nomus, another tradition of collective effort. Kuryar is used to help households complete their heavy tasks, whereas nomus is the philanthropic system used to complete development projects of benefit to the whole community, for example bridge construction, track development, construction of school buildings.

People also help each other informally in Pamir in all sorts of ways. One woman (Pakistan 19) explains how her female relatives take care of her livestock in Pamir: "During summer my relatives help me, and they make butter and cheese for me when they go to the pasture. And the reason for giving me a hand is that, I am the only female at my home and it is our culture to help those who are alone, poor, and orphaned." In the past women also used to work together and help one another with the preparation of wool for spinning and weaving.

Johar (Pakistan 35) explains how the spirit of volunteerism is a key part of being Shimshali: "…people with a particular feeling become volunteers, and this tradition has very deep roots in our society - it has become almost part of our psyche and a basic element of our physical and mental development. Becoming a volunteer is as important as looking after his children, property, livestock and agricultural activities."

In a few of the testimonies there is reference to the responsibility of various institutions in Shimshal to help those in need: "…the women and men volunteers, boy scouts and girls guides etc. These institutions extend all possible help to the orphans, widows, poor and needy people of the society…" (Pakistan 17). Many narrators mourn a decline in unity, cooperation and "sympathy for one another". The increase in out-migration and a generally improved standard of living, which has reduced people's needs for assistance, are the key reasons given for this decline.

In contrast to these accounts describing the communal effort of the past, one narrator (Pakistan 28) provides an interesting insight into the unity of previous times, by explaining that people were effectively forced into collective work. He describes the penalty if they didn't participate: "There was a silver plate in which three to four juti (about 4kg wheat as a penalty) was to be deposited in the community store. Therefore, people in a fit of fear tried to participate in the community works; this had the effect of keeping the people united. Those who could afford the penalty had to pay it and could do their personal chores but people like me, who could not afford to pay the penalty, had to turn up for community work." Today, those who are unable to participate in collective work make a cash contribution to this, if they can afford to.

quotes about community activities

"…most of the people go out in search of employment due to which the tradition of seeking and extending help has declined. Women still help each other in works like herding livestock and extracting butter from milk."
Hayat Begum, F/60, farmer, Pakistan 9

"… the reason for co-operation in old days, was for the reason that, due to geographical isolation, every one would stay in the village… There are three main clans in Shimshal named Bakhti Kathor, Ghazi Kathor and Boqi Kathor… All the people who belonged to one clan would perform the agriculture activities in a co-operative manner. We would commence our agricultural activities with the delivery of fertiliser to the fields… The fertiliser project would start at one end [of the village] turn by turn and would finish at the other end. The system… was such that the person we were labouring for would prepare the food …We would eat together in one place, which created affection and sympathy for one another."
Asmat, M/55, driver/retired soldier, Pakistan 3

"The reason for the unity in former times was the honesty and sympathy of the people… If someone was not capable to bear the expenses of collective works such as [providing] the food during fertiliser delivery and ploughing the fields, then those who were well off would bear these expenses… it was a good system. They would take care of the poor and would plan to combine their works with the work of those who could bear the food expenses… They would never abuse a person for being poor. This was the spirit of sympathy and love for each other."
Shafa, M/47, farmer, Pakistan 5

"[Women also] helped each other. For example they would ask each other for assistance in the works of processing and carding wool and spinning thread out of the refined wool; such works were usually carried out in the night… At Pamir people help each other in extracting butter from milk, grazing livestock, and in delivery and transportation of animal dung for fuel etc."
Hayat Begum, F/60, farmer, Pakistan 9

"Tuksori (game similar to cricket) was the second popular game. This game would start from the day of Kethedith. We would play tuksori during the fertiliser delivery period. And those for whom we would deliver the fertiliser to the field would prepare bread, which was called bezd khech (bread to put in your pocket and eat whilst working). We would play tuksori with other clans of the village and if we lost the match we would offer the bezd khech to them. The seniors would thank God and would happily participate in the event, for them it was an important and happy occasion."
Shafa, M/47, farmer, Pakistan 5

"[The road construction] is all due to the blessings of Maula that he viewed this site and with the continuous hard work of all our brothers that work was completed, where it stands today……people from every walk of life participated in building this road. They were volunteers, scouts, carpenters, masons, old, young, military men and even children who took part in this cause, and it was only their sincerity and will to work that made it possible."
Amjad, M/50, bank employee, Pakistan 31

key testimonies featuring community activities

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   13   Chughbai   male/65   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   15   Wafa   male/49   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   2   Inayat   male/27   development professional   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   21   Roshan   female/42   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   26   Yeenat   female/51   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   28   Qurban   male/60   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   3   Asmat   male/55   driver/retired soldier   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   35   Johar Ali   male/43   engineer   Lahore  
Summary Transcript   5   Shafa   male/47   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   9   Hayat Begum   female/60   farmer   Shimshal