Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary












28 August 2001



Bismillah Rehman-e-Rahim (In the name of God the magnificent and the most merciful).
Section 1
I, Taj Begum have come to the house of Yeenat khui (sister; respectable term for women) to interview her. Her house is located in Khizarabad. Everyone is busy with their work. My sister (the narrator) was also busy with the harvesting of barley crops and when I came to her she very kindly spared time for the interview and stopped working for the interview. The season is very pleasant. After rainfall, a fresh and cold wind is blowing which makes the day very pleasant. We are sitting in her house and getting prepared for the interview
My sweet sister, I have come on behalf of the SNT and PANOS who have a joint project and in this project we get the information/views of the important people and record their experiences. After this interview it will be translated into English and will be sent abroad [to PANOS]. They will publish the interviews in the shape of a book. From this book readers will know about our society, they will know as to what kind of people we are, what kind of thoughts we have, what kind of life we are living and what aspirations we have.
My sweet sister now I hope that you will inform me of your valuable thoughts and experiences.

Sister! What is your name?
My name is Yeenat.

Where were you born?
I was born here (Shimshal).

Did you marry here?
Yes I married here.

How many children do you have?
I have three children. I was married at the age of eight. Now I have three children.
Section 2
When you were married at the age of eight, what kind of difficulties did you experience?
The difficulties were in the sense that I was married at the age of eight and I always worried about the norms and environment of the new family. The worries were that, how would I be able to carry out the responsibilities in the new family and the feeling that how would I adjust in the new family and what will happen in the future. So these were the difficulties. I was the favourite in my parentsí house but in the new family when I was married at the age of eight, I experienced a lot of hardship in this house (family).

Sister in your view is it easy or difficult [to adjust] in a strange house (family)?
It is difficult [to adjust] in a strange house, it is easier (more comfortable) in oneís parentsí house but more difficult in a strange (husbandís) house.

What kind of difficulties for instance does one face?
The difficulties one has to face are such that at first one cannot know the norms and environment of the new family and to get familiarised with the norms and procedures, one has to face difficulties and worries. But those who have been trained (in household activities) by their mothers do not face difficulties in the new family. But those who have not been trained in household activities by their mothers; they certainly face difficulties in [adjusting] to the new family. I could not get education I was in elementary classes when I was married and I carried out the household activities in this house, and could not spare time for study.

Were you willing to get an education?
Yes I was interested in getting education but due to worries in the strange [husbandís] house I could not continue my education. They assigned me the household activities, so I could not spare time to go to school therefore I quit the school (education).

How many members were there in the family?
It was quite a large family but household work was even bigger than the family size. There were as many as 25 members in the family including six women but there was a lot of household work to do in the family

Sister! As you said that there were many family members in the house and there were six women. Despite this large family size why was there so much workload on the family members?
The workload on the women was due to the shifting of responsibility; for example I wanted my sister to carry out the work and she left her work to others. In this way we all remained busy (but with no progress); there was plenty of livestock and we had to carry out the work of carding wool, making yarn and also to prepare fertiliser. There were no handcarts available at the time for delivery of fertiliser we had to deliver the fertiliser with the help of baskets. We would always try to shift the work responsibility to one another. There was no competition among the women so everyone would remain busy with the household work
Section 3
In your view what were the benefits of the livestock product such as making woollen flakes and yarn?
The benefits were many fold as there were no cotton clothes available in the village so we would use woollen clothes - when the cotton/clothes were introduced in the village then we quit making woollen flakes and yarn - we make clothes for us, the clothes were also stitched by us. I have the skill to carry out embroidery works such as stitching clothes, making embroidery works and caps and embroidery on pillow covers but at the moment I have no time for these works because I remain busy with other domestic works. Our husbands go with tourists to earn money and we remain busy with the agriculture activities

My sweet sister! What kind of labour/job does your husband do?
My husband does portering for the tourists.

What will people do if there are no tourists visiting the village?
My sweet Taj! If there were no tourists visiting the village then people would sell their cows, livestock and yaks to meet these expenses.

Do you have livestock?
Yes, we have livestock but not so much.

Do you go (migrate) to Pamir (Shimshalís mountain pastures)?
When my husband separated from his brothers since then I have not visited Pamir because my mother-in-law is still alive and she goes to Pamir, otherwise I would go.

Have you been to Pamir previously?
Yes, I have been to Pamir several times; I guarded my livestock and also prepared butter and other livestock products. So I have been there several times.

In your view is Pamir better than the village?
Shimshal (the village) is better for the education of children but Pamir is good to prepare livestock products such as butter etc.

What is the benefit of butter?
We do not get optimum benefits from the butter, we collect the butter in Pamir throughout the summer and transport it to Shimshal and store it in yeenjui (underground cold store for butter) where it ferments and the taste changes. Our children use this butter but it does not bring any change (improvement) in their health but at the moment we cannot preserve the fresh butter

Why the butter is stored and fermented in the yeenjui?
The butter is stored in the yeenjui in order to consume it gradually as fresh butter is not available for the reasons that the cows do not give milk all year round, hence fresh butter is not available. Therefore the butter is stored in the yeenjui and is used on the occasions of marriages and deaths and for other requirements. So it is stored to use it gradually for the domestic needs. The purpose of fermenting butter is that when it is used for [beth] on marriage occasion it makes the beth (local dish; wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton) tasty as compared to beth made by fresh butter. It is a symbol of prestige to use fermented butter on such occasions. That is the reason that butter is stored in the yeenjui.
Section 4
What other benefits do you get from the livestock?
From the livestock we make carpets, we get milk and butter from them, but yaks are more profitable

Do you sell the palos (local woven carpet made from yak or goat hair)?
Yes, palos is also sold in the market to earn money in order to meet the daily needs but mostly it is used in the houses.

What you have thought about the education of your children?
Our thoughts regarding the education of our children is that we must meet their educational expenses by any means but we must continue their education.

My sweet sister! What is your impression about educated persons?
My impression about educated people (women) is such that they know about everything and they have a thorough knowledge of everything. But illiterate people like me do not know much about these things. When we go down country (refers to the rest of Pakistan) we donít know the language or the manners, we donít even know how to ask for water. We are like animals because we donít know anything; wherever the educated person goes she doesnít feel [such] problems.

Sweet sister! Do you carry out agriculture activities too?
Yes, I also perform agriculture activities I can plane the fields for watering and I irrigate the crop fields then I harvest the crops fields when it gets ready and then I carry out the threshing works. I screen the wheat grains, make them free from dust and then grind them to get flour. I grind them in the water mill and get flour.

Out of all these activities what is the most difficult task?
Tapech (irrigating the crop field for the first time) and buteech (irrigating the field for the second time) are the most difficult tasks. The most difficult work is the tapech but after buteech it gets better and the work (watering the fields) becomes easy.

How is tapech carried out?
In tapech the crop field is carefully planted and a small quantity of water is guided [through the infant crops] in such a way that all the plants are irrigated and no (infant) plant is uprooted and no erosion takes place. Then for the second time the field is carefully watered and when the course is established for the watering in the fields then there is no more difficulty for watering the fields. So I also grow vegetables in my fields, I know the technique of growing vegetables.
Section 5
Have you grown vegetables this year?
Yes, I have grown plenty of vegetables this year and I have also dried a full bag of vegetables for the winter season, because in winter dried vegetables are used, as no fresh vegetable is available. I also sold the vegetables and got money.

Do you also manage the household activities?
Yes, I do manage the household activities.

How do you manage the household activities?
In household activities I manage the food requirement of the family. Food is prepared from the available foodstuff stocked in the houses and I also plan for the foodstuff that is short in stock so that it is purchased from the market in good time.

My sweet sister! You said that you perform agriculture and embroidery works and management of the household activities. In addition to these activities have you ever rendered any service to the community?
Regarding community service, I have not been to Pamir but I have been to Ghujerab (name of another pasture) and voluntarily I have helped the physically weak and poor people because, unlike today, there were lot of difficulties at that time in the pasture (in terms of herding livestock) but we assisted them as volunteers in their works.

Have you also served the Jamat khana (religious and community centre of Ismaili Muslims)?
Yes, I have also rendered service in Jamat khana but not too much.

Sweet sister! Were the volunteers in previous times more active than today?
The women volunteers were more active in previous times than today. There were no facilities at Kook (spring) Aston and Dot (cable way) (these are the names of camping place along trek from Shimshal to the downtown). The volunteers provided quilts, pillows and woollen mats in these campsites. These facilities were provided by our mothers (female volunteers), but today the volunteers are not as active as our mother mothers were. They rendered valuable services and some of them are still serving the community. The old women (volunteers) guided the new generation until today but the young volunteers are not so devoted, our mothers help them even today.

Sweet sister! Have you ever performed nomus (system of donating resources for a community project in the name of a relative)?
Yes, Taj, we performed nomus very recently, we offered two butter (about 100 kg), twenty goats and flour to construct the road

What is the advantage of nomus?
The advantage of nomus is to get the good wishes (prayers) of the people, which obviate us from troubles/mishaps. These [prosperities] are all because of the prayers of the people that we (the family) are not suffering even from a headache until today.
Section 6
What benefit does the community get from nomus?
The community built for them the road and we got their good wishes

What are the losses (disadvantages) due to lack of road?
There are several disadvantages due to the unavailability of a road link to the village: we are cut off from the rest of the area and we donít know the modern way of life, our men also suffer for transporting the daily use goods on their back. Our young brothers and sisters (students) also face difficulties in their travelling for education and a lot of time is being wasted due to the difficult trek.

What are the advantages if there is no road link to the village?
The advantage of there being no road, in the first place is that today we move freely wherever and whenever we want to go, but if the road is linked then we may not be able to even get out of our houses. Secondly we may not communicate and deal properly with the people because we women are illiterate but at present we are comfortable in our houses and we live a peaceful life and move freely wherever we want to move.

Sweet sister! What impression do you get when you meet people from down country?
When we [women] see the people from down country we get frustrated because we donít know the right manners, as we are in isolation between the high mountain rocks. Because of this our children cannot get a better education - that results in frustration. When the road will be linked our children will get better education and we will also learn the manners but at present we are busy with the livestock herding and agriculture activities. Therefore we give little attention towards the education of our children

Sweet sister! Have you ever suffered from illness?
Yes Taj! The sudden death of my brother was a great shock for me. Due to this shock I fell ill and my condition was very serious. Then one of my brothers took me to Gilgit where I received the treatment and returned back to the village. Then my second brother suddenly died in an accident. Due to this shock I again fell ill and the doctor gave me treatment in the village. Now I am quite well and can perform my routine works.

What happened to your brothers?
Both my brothers died in accidents. One had an accident while he was going to participate in a tournament, as he was a player while my second brother had an accident in China.

Did the army pay compensation /pension to the family?
Yes his children received pension from the army and his children are getting education.

Sweet sister! What type of dresses would people use in olden times?
Woollen trousers, woollen coats, shushk (long shoes made of animal hide without a thick leather sole) and sandal (long shoes made of animal skin with a thick leather sole) were used at that time. White cotton and silk were used to make shirts. New clothes were made on the marriage occasion.
Section 7
What kind of dresses would you use in olden times?
In olden times woollen clothes were used, which were not washed frequently but a vast variety of clothes made of cotton and silk are used today. Shaff (local grass, used for washing cloths) and ash was used for washing the woollen clothes. Shakhore (ash made from local plant used as shampoo) was used for washing the hair.

How was shakhore made?
Spander (local plant) was burned to ash and the ash was dissolved in water and the water was filtered and used (as shampoo) for washing the hair.

Was it good for the hair?
Yes, it made the hair healthy, strong and dense but today we use bath soap and shampoo which results in depletion of the hair.

What is the difference in the dresses between former times and today?
The difference in the dresses in previous times and today is such that in ancient times woollen clothes - except shirts which were made of silk - were used in olden days and these (woollen) clothes were seldom washed but today we used several kind of dresses and wash them frequently which is a troublesome job.

Was that woollen dress effective in preventing the body from severe cold?
Yes it was effective to keep us away from diseases caused by severe cold as it was very warm and protected us from cold.

What foods were commonly used?
The common foods use at that time were molida (local dish; bread mixed with qurut Ė local dried cheese - and butter), chilpindok (large chapattis spread with qurut and butter stacked in piles), garal (pancake-like bread made from what flour), meat, soup made of meat dry apricot and qurut.

What kinds of foods were prepared on the occasion of celebrations and agriculture activities?
On the occasion of cultivation soup was prepared instead of tea for breakfast. The soup was served in big common bowls and was taken with the help of wooden spoons. Molida was prepared for lunch and patock (thick bread) was prepared for the evening meal. Tea was not available at that time and the bread was taken without tea as for as I remember.

What kind of food is prepared for such occasion today?
Nowadays, on the occasion of cultivation, paratha (deep fried flat bread) is used for breakfast or khista (fermented soft bread). Molida is served for lunch. For dinner qamachdoon (thick bread baked in cast iron oven) or rice or anything that they can afford are prepared for dinner. Nowadays, we bring foodstuff from down countries.
Section 8
Sweet sister! What kinds of dresses were prepared for marriage occasion/ ceremonies?
In olden times, three pairs of cotton/silk women gowns, with woollen trousers and overcoat and shushk were prepared for marriage ceremonies (bridal dress). Those women whose fathers were hunters were prepared two or three pairs of long shoes otherwise one pair was made for the marriage ceremonies. Colourful woollen ribbons were used as shoelaces.

What dresses are used today on marriage occasions?
Nowadays, several pairs of clothes and about five to six pairs of shoes are purchased. The girls whose fathers are employed or their brothers are earning; they give their daughter two or three boxes full of clothes. In olden times the economic condition of the family was given due importance while selecting the pair. Their daughter was married in the family that possessed more wealth even without her consent, but today the consent of the boy and girl is sought before the marriage.

Sweet sister! Would you like to tell me something about the shogoon (festivals)?
Taj! Regarding shogoon it is such that first of all we celebrate Vichhosh (outdoor soup) festival in this festival soup is prepared by each household and is taken to Jamat khana, all the community members (men) gather in Jamat khana and they take the soup together. The men play games throughout the day. In the evening the youth gather in a house, they collect flour and other foodstuff (from all houses) and prepare dishes in a house and make funs.
Then there comes the Kethedith (Spring festival). In this celebration fermented bread is prepared and this bread is taken to their relatives and kinís houses. Then a special dish is prepared for the entire family (clan) by each household and the family members are invited to the meal.
After that, there comes the New Year festival. For this celebration, a special meal is prepared for the clan, they collectively take the meal in each house turn by turn and all the youth enjoy playing different games.
Thereafter the sowing festival is celebrated. On the day of the sowing celebration mool (local dish, paste of wheat flour mixed with butter and qurut) is taken to the house of the eldest (senior) in the family/clan and the entire clan members take the food together. The next morning women go to the channel and bring water and spray it in rizen (opening in roof for ventilation) then part of this water is added to the local sweet dish called seman then seman bread is prepared and is taken to the house of senior member in the neighbourhood and is taken together. Than the sweet dish seman (in paste form) is taken to the sowing field and [they] take the sweet dish together in the sowing field. Than everyone returns to their houses and they take seman to the houses of all their kin and relatives.
Section 9
Why is it (seman) taken to the houses of their brothers (kin)?
It is taken to the houses of their brothers (kin) for the reason that they want to reiterate their unity and share pleasure with each other and also remind each other of family unity.
After this festival the cultivation season begins and when it ends the Safza Sar (crop sprouting) festival takes place. For this celebration beth is prepared and is taken to the Jamat khana or other place where all the villagers take it together.

How is the cultivation (activity) carried out?
Previously it was carried out by the room (major clan) but today it is done with the participation of the skuin (sub-clan; close family members).

How were the fields cultivated?
The fields were cultivated with the help of oxen. Two oxen were paired to drag the plough. But this work is now carried out with the help of tractors. Ploughing with the help of oxen was very time consuming. It would take about two months to complete the work. But now the tractor does the same job in a few days.

What shogoon comes after that?
After that (Safza Sar), there comes the Charaman Katak festival (inaugurating the threshing field). For that celebration molida is prepared by each household and is taken to a common place where all the men take the food collectively whereas the women are not allowed to participate in it.
Chaneer festival (harvest festival) follows this celebration. The people coming from Pamir are welcomed by the people at the village. They help them crossing the river (via iron rope/cableway) then, they all come to the village. The women also prepare meal for them and take it together. Then after that beth is prepared and the grain of new crop are added to it and are taken collectively.

What is the system of kooch (seasonal migration with livestock to and from pasture)?
Taj! The system of kooch is such that everyone migrates to the pasture (in summer) where they take combined breakfast. They normally take meals together and they live there in unity. The livestock of those who do not go to Pamir are looked after with great care throughout their stay in Pamir and these livestock are brought back and handed over to their masters. On the day of Kooch festival all the women and men from the village go to the riverbank to welcome them (returning back from pasture). They cross the river and all together come to the village.

Which is your favourite one amongst these festivals?
Amongst these shogoon, Kooch is my favourite festival. It is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm. People return from Pamir with a lot of earning (livestock product) and plenty of livestock herd.
Section 10
My sweet sister! My last question to you is that, have you ever experienced such an event /incident that could never be forgotten?
I experienced an awful incidence in my lifetime; my two afsar (officer; man with qualities) died in an accident. One brother was a player in the army. Another was a businessman in China. They were our guardians and were feeding us, but I lost them and can never forget them. These incidents caused mental and physical damage to us. I cannot forget them even for a moment. I always live with their memories.

My sweet sister! I thanked you very much for sparing time from your busy schedule for this interview and share ideas with us. Would you like your name to be published in the book and would you also like to have the booklet if published?
Taj! I would like my name to be published in the book and if this book is compiled I would also like to have a copy of the book. Thank you.