Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains
Pakistan glossary








driver/retired soldier




23 September 2000



Section 1
At the moment I am sitting with Asmat Shah janab at his residence, in a comfortable environment and am interviewing him on the date of 23.09.00

First of all, I would like to ask you, where were you born?
Thank you, I am Shimshali, I was born in Shimshal

What is your age?
At present, my age is 55 years

Since your childhood, have you spent your life in Shimshal?
I spent 20 years in Shimshal. After 20 years - in 1968 - I went out of the village to pardes (place(s) outside the area). My life was mostly spent out of the village. Now I am 55 years old and I have spent very little time in Shimshal. It is now the year 2000 and still I am [living] in Karachi.
The first thing is that, if you want to hear the story of my life then I would like to tell you the story right from the beginning [from my childhood] till today and about the time (era) that has changed, in my life. And till today the time that has lapsed (about the past) and about the early days that is how the early days looked and about these days (present era), I will tell you.
Because the life of a human being has no guarantee, therefore, Rehmat (the interviewer) I will tell you. The story is such that our village is very backward and in the early days there was the Miri system (Mir’s regime), there was the rule of Nawab (king/ruler). We were unaware of even the Northern Areas. Anyhow the entire area was under the Mirs (rulers of Hunza state up to 1974) control. But consonance with that time, the system was very good; they had their own rules and we were obliged to work, abiding by their rules. We were living within their rules. The Mirs of Hunza were driving us and we were scared of their rules, living under their control. There was respect and honour for each other because literacy was not so common.
Another thing was that, whatsoever production we had in our village; it was our exclusive source [of living] and reference (prestige). Importing anything from outside was quite impossible as it is practised today. I will also mention to you that if we had anything in paucity, we would borrow it from others and then it would be returned to one another.
We would gather commodities for the Mirs. For example from our livestock and wheat production we would give to the Mir in the form of tax. The benefit from the tax was that it was reserved for our use in a time of shortage; it was merely the law of the Mirs. From that tax pool we would borrow some grain in order to meet our needs and later on would in lieu of that deposit the same quantity of grain that we had borrowed. In those days there was a lot of love and sympathy for each other.
Section 2
What was the rationale for that sympathy?
The reason for that was, such that in today’s time, due to more unequal income and jobs, the love and affection with each other has vanished. Actually it was like that whatsoever we earned from our village we would share with others and would help each other. And we would labour for others without wages perhaps we would eat the meal and help him [in work], it was part of our society and the reason, we had the affection and love for each other.
Our village Shimshal is very far from other villages. Due to the unavailability of road links, it is many kilometres apart from the surrounding areas. Now Insha-allah (God willing) it will be linked, then it will be clear that our village is not too far from other areas as it looked in the past. Another important reason for that [love and affection] was due to the very close kinship with each other that brought us very close to each other. Due to close kinship and also due to the reason that our joys of life and sorrows of death were all in the one place further strengthened this relationship.
You want to know the reasons for the decline in sympathy? So my opinion is that, the sympathy declines for the reason that in modern times more and uneven earning makes people independent, everyone earns for themselves. In my opinion, when the road link is made then the sympathy [for one another] will further vanish because people will become self sufficient, people will get [more] money. Those who possess education, those who occupy good jobs, they will get more money, then the love and affection for each other will finish. By the way nowadays our love for each other is very much in decline.
The story of my own life is this that, as I mentioned already the Miri system, that was good for that time. We spent our lives under their rule. They controlled us. But I had a brother his name was Itaat Shas who was handicapped. Without the permission of the Mir we could not go even to Gilgit. Because the possible reason for the Mir exercising control on exit was that the people could not speak the language (Urdu) and the era (world) was becoming modern and we were unaware of the era. My brother was a bit lazy, weak and handicapped. It was a must in any case to labour for the Mir, because it was mandatory to pay tax and do a labour job. We become orphans at a minor age and we were required to labour for the Mir, but my brother was handicapped and was not capable of doing labour or carrying the load (transportation of goods from Shimshal to Hunza) and the Mirs also did an injustice by not exempting him from carrying the load or doing the labour as he was disabled.
The load of the Mir included qurut (local dried cheese), butter and many other things which we would carry on our backs and transport to Hunza. If anyone due to weakness could not transport this load (to Hunza) then he would request some other person. In this way the other person would carry the load on his behalf. For the above reason my brother contacted some Gojali (people from upper Hunza) and went away from the village.
At that time I was very young. My brother Iraat Shah went to Karachi with some Gojali and Hunza men, he could not speak the language at that time. So he did not inform us about his whereabouts and job; it was also due to the fear of Mir that he did not inform us. He remained for about 18, 19 years in pardes. I almost forgot him because I was too young when he left the village.
The situation improved when the Mir relaxed the immigration law a little bit and started granting the people rahdari (visa for travelling outside Hunza during Mir’s reign). The communication between Hunza and Gilgit then started.
When the Mir started granting permission, more and more people started travelling. In the meantime someone came from Karachi and we came to know that Itaat Shah was alive
because we had finally lost the hope for his being alive, we were unaware of his whereabouts and his job.
Section 3
Was uncle Itaat Shah, the first person who went out of Shimshal (pardes)?
As I mentioned earlier, he (Itaat Shah) was weak and due to a physical disability he was not capable of carrying the load for the Mir. And the Mir did not exempt him from carrying the load just on the grounds that he was weak and his brother was too young to replace him. Therefore, for this reason, he became fed up and one day without permission he left Shimshal, for Karachi with somebody. We had no knowledge at that time where Karachi was and how to get there. Itaat was lost for us. But after 18 years, when we came to know that Itaat was alive, it was an extreme pleasure for us, we felt as if he had got a new birth.
I was the second person to go out of Shimshal. It was the feeling and the concerns for my brother that forced me to go out of the Mir's control. The only person from our village who resided in Gilgit was a student, he was Daulat Amin who is the headmaster in Shimshal, nowadays. He matriculated from Gilgit. Daulat Amin is the first person who studied in Gilgit. In Gilgit he was residing and studying with other Gojali classmates in Jamat khana (religious community centre of Ismaili Muslims). I also went to Gilgit and I thought I should buy some goods and sell them in the village so I was the first to start the business. I brought soap and shoes etc because in our village sandal (long shoes made of animal skin) were used. Nobody had the knowledge about the modern shoes. We made sandal from the animal hide and the sole was made out of yak's hide. This was the system, nobody knew about the modern clothes. The local clothes were made from sheep's wool, it was such an era. Once I had also gone to Gilgit on foot, because nobody at that time could dream about the road that will link Gojal (upper Hunza) with Gilgit or China. When I went to Gilgit, I obtained permission from the Mir. I had no permission for the journey beyond Gilgit. I went straight to Daulat Amin janab (Mr, sir). I had the address of my cousin named Hunar Baig from Passu; he was also in down country. More over Daulat Amin janab extended his full cooperation in obtaining an air ticket for me, as I could not speak the language (Urdu).

How many days did it take you to reach Gilgit on foot?
From Shimshal to Gilgit it was eight days walk. In those days the people from Gojal travelled with horses but we didn’t have them, however we would accompany them and would arrange for our overnight stay together. On my return from Gilgit people from our village would come and ask about the people in Gilgit about their customs, our people were very innocent and honourable. When I reached home from Gilgit and told my mother that in Gilgit we paid money for food my mother started weeping that ‘what kind of people they are who sell food? We get pleasure from serving free food to guests.’ Because they didn't know the culture of the cities. Anyhow, my programme was to go to Karachi and Daulat Amin helped me. I don't exactly remember the airfare (from Gilgit to Rawalpindi) in those days probably it was about 40 or 60 rupees. Daulat Amin purchased the air ticket for me, because I had enough money from the shop, I did some shopping for the Shimshal shop too. The rest of the money I saved with the intention to go to down country.
At last, when I boarded on to the plane I was extremely excited. Then the plane took off and I felt strange that I am flying in the sky. When I landed at Rawalpindi it was extremely hot, probably the month of April, our cultivation season. I felt thirsty, as I had put on the warm clothes made of wool - the same clothes which I had put on in Shimshal. I had put the local cap on my head, made of wool because it was our tradition. Nobody would walk or live without the [traditional] cap because our elders would not like anybody to live without caps. But in Rawalpindi I saw many people without caps but still some people were with caps. The woollen clothes I had still put on; I felt terribly hot and thirsty; I looked around to find drinking water but couldn't find any. Then I asked my colleagues, the Hunza men where could I find water. At that time I could only speak a few words of Brushaski (language of Hunza); they pointed toward a point, where I could fetch water. I started running towards the water point and I thought that it must be very cold water like in Shimshal. When I took a sip of that water, it was boiling water. I was confused not to find cold water, I thought that my colleagues may have misguided me so I started asking other people about drinking water, but they all, guided me toward that tap water. So I was frightened of all these things which I was coming across since my landing in Rawalpindi.
Then my colleagues took me to the Gilgit hotel, which was located in Raja bazaar. I reached the hotel, I had to buy the tickets for the train to Karachi, but I didn't know from where to get the tickets. I was also ignorant about the train and the railway station. Some people from Hunza were there in the hotel. I met them, they were very nice people, they were also speaking a little bit of Wakhi (language of upper Hunza; and the narrator’s); I felt so comfortable with them as if they were my brothers. I told them that I am going to Karanchi - I could not even correctly pronounce Karachi. When I told them that I intended to go to Karachi, they guided me to the reservation office in Raja bazaar, where they got a ticket for me and instructed me to go straight to the railway station and ask someone about the train. They left for work and I, in accordance with their instruction, went to the station.
I saw down from the bridge that something is rolling on the track and thought it might be some machine. I reached the platform and saw people with red clothes, the railway labours, calling the people towards the train. The train was ready to roll, a red uniformed labourer asked me to show him my ticket and board the train, I was astonished to see the long machine like apartments. I gave the ticket to the guard, the ticket cost about 16 rupees made of silver coins. When I entered the train I saw many people sitting around. I looked around and stood up waiting for someone to ask me or offer me a seat. But they remained inattentive. My ticket was with the red uniformed man, and I had nothing with me; I didn't know that the ticket was to be retained with me. The people were talking in Urdu but I could not understand it. So I kept on standing, I looked around it was like a room. Suddenly I felt that the room was moving. I looked outside, every thing was moving backwards. I thought perhaps I am not feeling well, but soon I came to know that the apartment was moving. Two persons were also standing beside me near the door. I could not speak Urdu but anyhow I managed to ask one of the people standing beside me in a mixture of Urdu-Wakhi language whether it was the train. He confirmed that it was the train and it was going to Karachi. I became satisfied that the train was going to Karachi.
I had a handbag with me with one pair of clothes in it. I grasped the bag in my hand and kept standing. Soon I became tired and I sat down over my bag. After about two hours of journey a man entered the apartment with a notebook in his hand. I noticed that he was checking the tickets, but I had handed over the ticket to the red uniformed man, now I was without a ticket. He came and passed by without checking my ticket. But for the second time when he came he asked me to show my ticket. I told him in a mixture of broken Urdu and Wakhi that I had given the tickets to the red uniformed man. But he could not understand anything. I became nervous, however the people around me convinced the guard that I was a villager and didn't know the procedure. When the guard asked about my area, I told him that I was from Shimshal. They were astonished as to where Shimshal was. They asked me whether Shimshal was in India or Afghanistan. They asked me if I was a spy and I refused and told them I was from Shimshal. When the guard was sure that I was innocent/ ignorant and not playing tricks with him he did not take any legal action except asking me to pay Rs. 16 for the ticket. I bought the ticket again and the guard told me to take rest on the berth and I was very happy to find a comfortable place to rest. I would not leave the berth even for a moment, lest anybody should occupy it.
I didn't get down from the berth even to take something to eat. The vendors came with oranges, I saw people buying oranges. I too bought some oranges but I didn't know how to eat them as I had never seen oranges before. I took an orange and bit it with my teeth like we eat an apple, but the taste was sour. I looked at the people down from the berth, they were peeling the orange, and then I came to know that the actual fruit is inside the cover. When I saw the vendors shouting to sell their goods but not without money I felt bad for them and thought they must be dishonest and inhospitable people. In this way I spent one day and one night (24 hours) till finally, I reached Karachi.
I held my bag and rushed out of train and I saw people going over a bridge to the other side. I was sweating as I had still put on the woollen clothes and the local cap from Shimshal. I saw nobody was with a cap, I felt strange when I noticed that people were gazing at me. I also put my cap in my handbag. I hid the cap in my bag and walked over the bridge towards the exit. The ticket which had been purchased in the train, was thrown away as I was already in Karachi, so “no need to keep the ticket,” I thought. But when I reached the gate I saw a man and a woman in white uniform, standing on the gate and who were allowing the people to pass through the gate after verifying their tickets. I was with my woollen cloths on my body sweating a lot. The clothes were very dirty and I was feeling filthy. I tried to escape with the crowd but the white uniformed man caught me and asked me to produce the ticket. I told them in Wakhi that I had thrown it away but they didn't understand me and the man handed me over to the woman. She took me to the office and told them that I was travelling without a ticket so they started investigating me; they asked me about the area from which I had come. I told them that I had come from Shimshal; they didn't understand what I was talking about. However they released me and I again went to the exit, the man standing at the exit started searching my body if I have some money to pay but he couldn't find any.
In Gilgit Daulat Amin had told me to make a hidden pocket inside my cloths and hide the extra money in it. I had my extra money sewn in my hidden pocket. So the white uniformed man couldn't find the money. When he was sure that I possessed no money, he pushed me across the exit. I fell down; they also abused me in Urdu. I stood up, in response I also abused them in Wakhi and held my bag and set out, I went to the bus stop.
In those days there were trams plying on the roads; it was like a train, people would sit in it and would get down at their respective stations. Double-deckers were also plying on some routes leading to the outskirts and to the site area (industrial area), a small number of auto rikshaws (three-wheeled vehicles) were also seen on major roads. In those days the population was not so much as it is today and there were few buildings in the site area.
I had just arrived at the bus stop and was confused about where to go; suddenly I heard among the shouting of bus conductor, site area Shershah, (his destination) and quickly got on to the bus, it was crowded so I stood up. I had only 10 rupees in my hidden pocket and the bus fare was around 10 paisa (1 paisa = 1/100 rupee). I had two five rupee notes in my pocket, when the bus conductor came and asked for the ticket, I gave him the five rupee note. The conductor took the note telling me that he will return the balance amount when he gets change (coins) but I didn’t understand him I presumed that he is asking for more money. Perhaps we were approaching Shershah and the bus conductor wanted to return the balance money to me and when I saw him coming towards me, I thought that he may charge me more, so I hid myself in the crowd. I didn’t know that the fare was only paisa-10 and I had already given him quite a big amount. So each time when I see him coming towards me I would cover myself beyond the crowd just because of the fear that he will charge me more. So this hide and seek activity continued till I finally reached Shershah. I had the address of Bismillah Hotel, Bismillah hotel and Souvenir company, Ghani Chorangi, where there should be a red building, this information was already given to me in Passu. This was the address of Hunar Baig and he left the address in his house at Passu. As I heard the bus conductor announcing about the forthcoming bus stop i.e. Shershah my destination. I immediately jumped out of the running bus, I though, lest I skip Shershah. I jumped out, and the jump was such that instead of facing the direction of movement of the bus, I jumped out in the opposite direction, facing the rear of the bus.
As I jumped out I rolled thrice till I came to standstill. My body was full of scratches and I was bleeding, my bag was lying on the other side of the road. Next to the road camels were fastened to feed, people feeding the camels immediately came and helped me stand on my feet. The driver stopped the bus quite farther and I saw the conductor running toward me I forgot all my sufferings but I determined to ask him why he didn’t stop at Shershah. The bus conductor was enraged and his face had turned red, as to why I jumped from the running bus and if I was dead he would suffer just for nothing, but it was not my fault either, I had no idea, as I had never seen vehicles. The wounds on my body were bleeding and above all, the conductor came and instead of expressing sympathy, he punched me on my face. After blowing a firm punch on my face he admonished me and went on - the people of Karachi were very warm hearted, when they saw a new comer they would guide him to his destination. These were the sympathies of Karachiti. Those people with the camels helped me, there was a medical store nearby, they brought medicine and cotton etc to clean and cure my wounds. The advantage of this cure for me was that they didn’t charge me, clearly speaking.
A few steps farther, there was standing a four-seater (three wheeler motor car with seating capacity of four persons), which was like an auto rikshaw. Its driver asked me where to go, then I told him the name of Souvenir and I showed him the address, which I already had, but he refused. Likewise, I went to the second he refused too. I went to the third driver he also refused but I forced him, I requested him to take me to the place, but instead he told me to go on foot.
It was getting dark, I thought, I should not go on foot, and if I miss the destination then where I will spend the night. So I went to another driver and requested him and he seated me in his four-seater. He started driving and also asking me about myself that who I am and from where I have come. I told him every thing that I am new here and not familiar with the city life, that I have come from Shimshal, I didn’t tell him Gilgit but only that I am from Shimshal. Later, I came to know that the name of Gilgit is to be mentioned not Shimshal. As I approached the gate of Souvenir Company the driver of the four-seater, told me that I am now at the gate of Souvenir Company. So I stepped out of the vehicle and gave him the last note of five rupees. He took the money and went away. Later on when I became familiar with the city, I came to know that the company was at walking distance from the bus stop and the fare was about five paisas. But the driver charged me five rupees. Because he knew through discussion with me that I was new in the city and I was unfamiliar with the city life.
When I reached at the main gate, I saw a Hunza man on duty at the gate. When he started talking in Brushaski I felt as if he was my real brother. I expressed my pleasure and asked him about Hunar Baig, he told me that Hunar Baig is present. He made a phone call to Hunar Baig from the gate. After a while, Hunar Baig came out. I had still the dirty bag in my hand and there were some dried apricots and qurut in it, which was the gift, I had taken for Hunar Baig. While coming out, he saw the dirty bag in my hands and he ordered me to throw the bag away. I was confused what nonsense he was talking about throwing away the bag. I told him, “Brother why should I throw the bag, I’ve got your gift in it.” But he shouted and expressed his anger and ordered me to throw away the bag. I said oh God why he is talking nonsense like that. I put the bag on the floor. He told me to come inside the gate. Again I requested him that his gift was inside the bag and somebody will take it if I did not carry it. Still he insisted for me to leave the bag because he was shehri (civilised/a city man) and probably he felt ashamed of that. Now he took me to his canteen where he offered me a cup of tea and kept me waiting till his duty was off then he took me to his house with a big compound. About seven or eight persons from Gojal were living there, they had also escaped from the Mir. Some were from Gulmit some from Passu and some from Chipurson, I from Shimshal also joined them. My elder brother, Itaat Shah was living in Landi area and I was unaware of his address but Hunar Baig was my kin, the son of my aunt.
All my clothes were thrown away somewhere. He washed my hair and I also took a bath, he combed my hair. I was given a shalwar-qameez (traditional trouser and shirt for men and women) to wear. I felt so comfortable as it was very soft. At that time I was too young to shave I was about 20 years old. Hunar Baig and other persons were very kind to me they would take me round the city for site seeing. The meal they would prepare themselves. Some of them were students and some were employed. During my stay, the students who were studying in Karachi… Those were Zafar Iqbal General Manager at present, Tahir janab Advocate and Qurban Jan janab. These persons escaped from the Mir and continued their studies the Mir never allowed them. Out of those persons many of them became Engineers and Doctors and now are in good posts. I was just getting acclimatised and improving the taste for the drinking water, but still having the taste of the cold and fresh water of Shimshal in mind. After two days stay, and being teased by mosquitoes, I finally requested Hunar Baig to take me to my elder brother wherever he lived. He took me with him and we headed toward Landi. After a long journey we reached Landi and I was thinking in my mind whether I would recognise my brother or not? How would he look like?
We reached at his door and Hunar Baig knocked at his door. After a while he opened the door and greeted us, he discussed with Hunar Baig in Wakhi and told me “How are you” in Urdu, because he was familiar with him but he did not recognise me. Because I was too young when he left me and he could not recognise me, therefore he said to me “how are you”? We entered the house and when we took a seat, he asked about the purpose of our visit. Then Hunar Baig told him that he had a guest with him, his younger brother Asmat Shah. He asked him, “Is it true?” Hunar Baig said “Yes it is, he is your brother: Asmat Shah.” He stood up and embraced me and we had tears in our eyes. Then he asked me that I was really Asmat Shah? As he was still doubtful, then I told him in my language that I am Asmat Shah. He could not speak Wakhi fluently because many years had lapsed so far, but even than he talked to me in Wakhi. He was so eager to have discussion with me and he didn’t want to send me back with Hunar Baig. So he asked him to leave me with my brother. We remained together for quite some days but I had nothing to do, so very soon I became bored. I was determined to take my brother back with me to Shimshal so, I told him to get prepared for the return journey, we will go back to Shimshal. I wanted to take him back to the village, as he was quite a new man for the people of the village. Nobody had seen him for many years, I was also too young when he left the village for pardes. But he asked me to stay in Karachi. God knows better what was the reason probably he did not possess enough money for the journey or maybe some other reason.
After some days I became accustomed with the environment and the society. I wanted to get a job so I informed Hunar Baig of my idea of a job. In those days employment was not a problem there were a lot of jobs in industries. I found a job in a textile mill in the new area. I and Asman Baig (a colleague) from Chipurson started service together. I had just started enjoying the service and the city life when my brother Itaat Shah, one day told me that he wants to go back to home (Shimshal). But day by day, I was getting more satisfaction and ease and I liked all that life. After three months’ stay I was so involved that I really didn’t want to go back to Shimshal. I perceived Karachi as Janat (heaven), as the location was clean and I was also living neat and clean and would take fine foods. When we would go to hotel to take food, Rehmat, a dish of biryani (chicken or mutton mixed with rice) and a plate of bhoona (fried mutton) would cost us 50 paisa (half a rupee) only. A bread would cost 1 paisa and curry or vegetable 4 paisa only. Likewise cloth was also very cheap. My brother got two pairs of clothes stitched from the tailor. I liked it very much and tried to remain neat and clean. All the dirt of my body was removed in Karachi. Because I came out of a farmer’s life and was living a neat and clean life - that is why I liked Karachi.
After living some one and half years in Karachi I had to go back to Shimshal due to the illness of my elder brother. The story of going back to village is something like that… we had to evade the Mirs. Nevertheless, we managed to reach Passu. Before our arrival in Passu the news of our return had reached Shimshal. My brother Abul Faiz and my cousin Arab Khan reached Passu to take me to Shimshal and my elder brother Itaat remained in Passu. Because it was the summer season we had to trek on the old route of Qaroon (5000 metre high pass with very steep gradient and without water and shadow. It is the symbol of misery in Shimshal). In those days it was customary to come to Hunza once in the summer after crossing the Qaroon pass and trekking over the tops of the mountain, to inform the Mir that the livestock and the people at Shimshal are well. It was because of the reason that we were under the rule of Mir and we would respect him and obey his orders. It was his order that at least two people must come every summer to inform him about Shimshal. The Mir would retain them for three days in his palace at Hunza and would feed and then allow them to return by foot to Shimshal. Those persons when they reached Shimshal would get sick i.e. andave (dehydration). There was no precedence that any person who returned from Hunza had not got andave. Everyone would suffer from this disease; the reason was the deficiency of a balanced diet.
Likewise, my brothers came to Passu just for me. They were surprised to see me. During those days nobody could afford radios, nor they did know about them. The national brand radio which costs 2000 rupees nowadays, was just introduced in Karachi and I had purchased one for 60 rupees. When my brothers saw the radio and heard the songs they became amazed as to how a man or woman sings a song inside a box. Our people were so backward.
We continued our journey; we would listen to the radio and enjoy the trek. We spent our first night at village Morkhun. My brother was so delighted of my return that he wanted to buy a goat for sacrifice. The second day we camped overnight at Paryar. Next day we crossed Qaroon and reached the dut (cable way). For crossing the dut, which was made of iron wire, Abul Faiz tied me up with him and got me crossed over the Shimshal River. Because it was the matter of my prestige, that is why, they had come from Shimshal, as I was their younger brother. The respect I earned was due to the visit of Karachi. They wondered talking to me because for being in Karachi I had learned Urdu and could speak. The goat purchased for sacrifice was also accompanied. We had to camp at the dut, because we were told that the trek has been washed away by flood and was risky to cross it. Next day, early in the morning, when the flood receded we would cross it. So we had enough time to make an offering. We slaughtered the goat, cooked it and ate it. We left some meat for the next day.
The journey was going on, and they would look at my clothes time and again because I had put on pants and a shirt. Abul Faiz was a very brave man. When we arrived at the slide area of Ziarat (a holy place), Abul Faiz crossed the river first and then with the help of rope he got us across the river one by one. Upon arriving at Rech, they showed me the way over the glacier leading to Shimshal, because there were no bridges over the river. We reached Shimshal via Malungodi glacier. Oh my God! When the people of Shimshal knew that I had returned from Karachi, people in groups right from Shimshal to Mazarsit were coming to greet me and welcome me. Nobody remained in their houses. Everybody would look at my face and clothes. After eight days stay at Shimshal, I was taken to Pamir (Shimshal’s mountain pastures), because my mother was in Pamir. For eight days I remained busy in Shimshal, people would come to my house to see and listen to the radio. My relatives also come to sit with me. Every man of Shimshal visited me, they were surprised to see the radio. They were astonished as to how a voice comes out of the box and who is inside it. They were completely ignorant.
I went to Pamir. When I reached Pamir, they all came to see me and to sit with me rather than look after their livestock. This activity continued until I returned back to Shimshal. Though our culture was very impressive I felt strange about the life in the village. I had become accustomed with the liberal life and cleanliness of the city. I liked this life therefore I wanted to go back to Karachi but my mother was reluctant to let me go back to Karachi. Despite her unwillingness, I went back to Karachi. But nobody dared to come with me. Nobody moved, because they were of the feeling that if they went to Karachi what they will do and what will happen. I took it easy, Rehmat! I went again to Karachi, this time I knew everything. I purchased the air ticket because I could speak Urdu now. I returned back to Karachi and lived there for two years. Sorry! At the time of leaving Karachi for Shimshal. I had saved a total of 600 rupees. Out of this 600 rupees, I bought a radio, bedding, tickets and travelling expenses for both, my brother and myself. In this way I saved 300 rupees and gave it to my parents. That is I saved 600 rupees in one and half years. My salary was 60 rupees per month as I was a karigar (skilled labourer), because I was operating the machine. The food expenses were 4 rupees per month only.
I had come to live in Karachi for the second time. During those days, certain persons named Ahmed Mehmood from Chipurson, Magh from Passu, Ghulam Abass from Ghulkin and my brother Itaat Shah, were lost, because these people had fled from the Mirs. Ahmed fell down from a bridge in Hyderabad and died. The Mirs then came to Karachi and tried to investigate the accident. Those people, who were lost, got the Mir in one of the hotels in Karachi and asked him to stop the injustices and harsh governance in the area. The argument led to physical assault and Ghulam Abbas from Ghulkin attacked the Mir. Due to this, Ghulam Abbas was prohibited from entering the Hunza area. The Mir imposed a penalty on his father on the grounds that his son had disgraced him. Ghulam Abbas was aware of these things that happened in the village, therefore he never went to the area, instead, he went to America. The information about him is that, he had returned back after a long time because he had become American. All these things happened to him just because of the terror of the Mirs.
When I returned to Karachi from the village for the second time, I decided to join the military service. I am just telling you the story of my life. I was the first person who went to pardes and again was the first to join the army. This time I could speak the language (Urdu), but was still uneducated. Captain Masti Baig (Masood Baig) from Hunza helped me join the army. After completion of the first soldiers training, I went to Shimshal on leave. I went to the village in my army uniform. When I completed the soldier’s training and to get confirmation of the job, it was necessary to produce a certificate from the Mir to the effect that I was the resident of the area and I belonged to the village of Shimshal. For the confirmation of the service, the certificate from the Mir was vital, in which it was to certify that the person belongs to the Northern Areas. This document was called a clearance certificate. Only then could we get confirmation of the military service. I did not receive this certificate all my colleagues received it and they were sent to units, but I was not sent for the reason that my clearance was not provided.
I wrote a letter to my brothers to get my clearance certificate from the Mir and send it to me. My brothers approached him and presented him with gifts and requested him to issue the clearance certificate of their brother who has joined the military service. Then he issued the certificate. Though I had escaped from Mir rule even then he issued the certificate, it was because he had some regard for the military.
Just after receipt of the certificate, and completion of Qasam parade (oath taking ceremony), I went on leave. I also went to the Mir to greet him, I had my army uniform on my body and I went to the palace and greeted him and he behaved very politely. It was the custom that the Mir would normally not shake hands instead he would forward his hand and people would kiss his hands and touch his feet. It was that the people respected him for it was the tradition. But when I went to the Mir and greeted him he raised from his seat and politely welcomed me. He inquired about the conditions in the army and the urban society.
When I went to Shimshal with my military uniform on my body, people were very impressed, they asked me a lot of questions about the soldier’s life. Many friends of mine such as Aziz Ullah and Ghulam Rasool came to me. Also Daulat Amin who was educated, they came to me and discussed a lot and shared ideas. We exchanged useful information. Aziz Ullah and Ghulam Rasool expressed their wish that they too wanted to go to Karachi. I provided them with full information about Karachi and one day they also left for Karachi.
When I returned from leave to join my duty, I again wore the uniform; the people were very impressed because people had much respect for this uniform. When I arrived at the head quarters in Gilgit, I came to know that 21.A.K (the name of his unit) had been ordered to report immediately for their further deployment to Bangladesh. Those days there was war in Bangladesh. My unit was based at Shinkyari. I arrived there and our unit went straight to Karachi and then to Bangladesh.
I am telling you the story of the sorrows and miseries of my life, about the hardships, which I have been experiencing till today, and the harsh events, which I had witnessed.
I went to Bangladesh where a terrible war had already erupted. The reasons, why this war started, was the matter between the two governments. Anyhow we went there and become prisoners of war and we were driven to India. I am telling you about the hardships of those days that I didn’t find water and food for eight days. We were taken to India by ship; we were loaded in the ship like goods. The voyage lasted for four days. It was the first misery of my life. They gave us nothing to eat. When we arrived at the Indian Harbour, our eyes were covered with strips of cloths and we were loaded into the train. We were told that we would find food and water in the train.
One by one we were searched and taken into the train. The doors and windows of the train had already been welded with thick iron bars so that nobody could escape from the train. Our journey continued for four days and four nights. Although I was very lucky to have a friend from Chipurson, named Mohammed Razi. He was my colleague we were from the same areas and had a common language. We would encourage each other. We were alive just because of heartening each other. We did not attempt to escape because we didn’t think about it, as it was a new experience for us. We arrived at a place named Ranchi; it was a big military camp where there was a prison. We were put into that prison. At last, after eight days we found water. We tried to drink water but could not drink as our throats had become dried. I tried to drink but couldn’t, instead I vomited. Our bodies did not accept it. We tried many times but failed.
Razi was physically weaker than I was. My body was strong. Razi started walking but I hardly walked a few steps. Six persons out of those aged prisoners died due to thirst. And those who were physically heavy could not move or stand on their feet.
There, Razi and I exhibited the act of our traditional courage and bravery. We took a big cooking pot filled with water and gathered wood, lit it, and put the pot on the stove. We had also brought our rations with us from Bangladesh. So, we took some flour from one of the bags and put it in to the pot and mixed it with the water and cooked it. It became like beth (local dish, wheat flour mixed with butter, water and salt served with mutton). We tried to eat from that, but couldn’t as our throats were still dry. Razi slowly started eating beth. Razi advised me to try to drink a sip of water before taking beth. I acted upon Razi’s advice and at last I was able to take from the beth. We also cooked some rice and ate it. The second problem was chewing the food as for eight days we had nothing to eat so all our body systems were jammed. Thank God! that all the systems of our bodies opened (reactivated). For two months, the Indians would come to us regularly and would count us one by one. During the course of counting we would endure [it] as if we were crossing Qaroon (to bear the extensive pressure).
Now most of the people will not accept these things which I already described, because they have never experienced such situations. An easy time has come and tomorrow we will reach Shimshal driving a car. Such freedoms have lessened the love among us. Thank you very, very much, for the interview.
Section 12
Thanks for telling me the story of your life. My next question is that, what do you think; will the road link to Shimshal bring satisfaction or worries?
In this connection, I will submit Rehmat, that, the road will bring prosperity and self-reliance for individuals and will end the dependency on one another.
Everybody would be happy from the road link, but there is badness in it. The story, which I already told you about the love and affection that will end. Because the competition and the hectic struggles will end the love and affection for one another. The children will neither regard and respect the parents in the way we were doing in the past. That will not remain like it was in the past, because prosperity makes man forget God too. Those human beings will be valued who do not forget God, despite their surplus earnings. Those will be successful.

Are you happy with the facility of electricity in our village?
I am very happy with the electric facility. Because it is a gift from God that prior to the road link, electricity was produced (generated). In my opinion it is due to the prayers of some holy saints or some pious man who lived in the village, whose prayers caused the generation of electricity. I am very happy about that. Electricity is light, and emergence from the darkness to light is good for us.

The story of your life which you narrated, relates to which years
It was the year, 1968, when I went to pardes. It is the story of the year 1968 because I was 20 years old then.

How did your parents, at the age of 20, allow you to go to pardes? Were they in agreement?
As I already mentioned, I went just to locate my brother.

Would you like to tell me, which games you liked to play in your childhood?
Those days, there were different games to play. There was a game known as tuksori. It was like cricket, which has become an international game today. This game is widely played in Punjab and known as gully danda. There were also some other games like football and volleyball at that time.
As far as the like and dislike of playing games is concerned; it has become a profession today, people adopt it as career and earn from it. But in the old time, it was considered a waste of time and our parents would never allow us to play games that had no benefit. This was the reason that our parents restrained us from games; instead they would admonish us for playing games, because they deemed them a waste of time. They would encourage us to participate in productive activities, which had some benefit. So in this way we would live our lives and we were impassive of all these things.
Section 13
When did you learn to drive?
I learnt to drive during my military service. Because when I joined the army, I was uneducated. Uneducated people were employed as soldiers in the army in those days. I anticipated that after retirement from the army, I would need to acquire some skills for my post retirement life. So out of my colleagues I learnt driving. The people from Northern areas are favoured and appreciated in the army because of our simplicity and honesty and for speaking the truth. We are not dishonest. Therefore I was granted the opportunity to get the skill.

Is driving your profession at present?
If I had not learnt this skill, then today, I would be doing nothing. Today my children are studying. They are dependent on me. Because I had the children very late, I was blessed with children in my later years and I had a lot of problems. Today I am capable of earning and supporting my family. This is because of the driving skills. Though I am quite old I am still able to earn because of the driving.

How many children do you support for education?
I have four boys. Two are in colleges and two in schools.

What are your ideas about education? Is it good?
The thing is that, if I had deemed education as insignificant then I would never have lived so long in pardes. When I went to pardes I was uneducated and I felt the need for education. Then I was determined to educate my children because, those with me who were educated joined the commission (joined the Army as an officer). Nevertheless, they were the human beings like me but it was education that distinguished them from the others.
It was my desire even before the birth of my children, that I would educate my children and make them capable of coping with the time and interacting with people from all over the world. It was my wish. Therefore my effort in the village was not concentrated on gathering daulat (wealth, gained by agricultural products and livestock) as other people do in the village. I tried my level best to provide education to my children. For this purpose, I moved my family to the city, where she (my wife) spent 19 years with me. We left our village, our relatives, just to provide my children with the best education. I realised that it was also necessary to keep in touch with my relatives in the village. So, two years ago, I shifted my wife back to the village and now she is in Shimshal. My family (wife) is now doing the same routine household and outdoor work as others do in the village. This is for living on a par with others in the village. I am still in Karachi just to educate my children.

There are certain traditional festivals of the village. Which festival, do you like the best? i.e. which one: the Tagam (sowing festival), or Chaneer (harvest festival)?
I like Chaneer from my childhood and Kooch (celebration of migration to and from Pamir). The enthusiastic celebration of Chaneer at that time was such that, Pamiriks (the people at Pamir) would choose the best yaks, for their excursion ride to Wulyo on the day of Chaneer. [Wilyo is derived from Owliyo, the place of pious men, located at a distance of about 4- km from the main pasture Shuwert]. These yaks were gathered one day before the festival and they would firmly tie them up with ropes in a central place and would guard them until the next morning, so that their riding excursion on Wulyo day was assured.
There was a custom that a group of Deyoriks (the people at Shimshal) would go to Pamir on a rope gash mission. The Deyoriks would reach Pamir at least one day before Wulyo and would hide themselves in some high elevation so that they could easily monitor and observe the activities of the Pamiriks. They also noted the places where these yaks were tied up and the route for carrying out the operation in the night. The mission of these Deyoriks would be to cut the rope and get the yaks free, without being caught by the Pamiriks. The Pamiriks were supposed to guard the yaks with high vigilance. This was a sort of fun and an act of bravery and was part of our tradition. Whenever we succeeded in cutting the rope than we would come back to the village with pride and honour but if caught then we were punished by the Pamiriks. And he who cut the rope would become the man of the year. This game /custom I liked very much.
The other game which I liked was the celebration of this Chaneer in Shimshal. The Pamiriks would return back to Shimshal after the celebration of Wulyo. In those days there were no bridges over the Shimshal river. There was a dut and all the Pamiriks were to hang on the rope and to cross it one by one. Some of them would come in the night and steal the celebration cape or cloths. This was our custom; I liked it very much. Before going to Karachi when I was young, I would take part in this fun.
Section 14
Along with your friends, did you ever take part in this game or fun?
Yes, I had two friends, one named Maymoon and the other named Qalandar Baig. Once we went to Pamir on a rope gash mission. We arrived at Pamir after three days travel (walk). We successfully completed the mission and returned to Shimshal. We were greatly regarded and appreciated as we were successful and were termed men of the year.
On the Chaneer day in Shimshal, we went to the daryo sam (river bank), to help the Pamariks cross the dut. The Pamiriks greeted us very warmly and congratulated us over the successful operation. We danced and had a lot of fun. This was the achievement of my youth and it makes me happy whenever I recall those days. I took part in that mission along with my friends Maymoo Khan and Qalandar Baig; both of my friends are no longer alive.

Would the elders (elite) of the village encourage you, for taking part in this fun?
The elders would rather take more interest in this fun than the youth, because it is from our ancestors and is part of our culture… our elders would enjoy it more than the youth.

Most of the time would you stay at Pamir or at Shimshal?
My father died and we became orphans, at a very young age. Our mother lived with us; we were brought up by our mother. Being the youngest, I was loved by my brothers and my mother. One brother had left for pardes. Abul Faiz my second brother lived with us, but mostly I would stay in Pamir with my mother, as Pamir was my favourite place to stay. As I was the youngest among my brothers, they would take care of me and would spare me from labour (work in the field).
Section 15
At the moment you are in pardes, do you still recall the days in Pamir?
The days of adolescence are precious and so are the memories. We never get those days back we only recall them. It is like when one gets old and recalls the golden days of his youth and realises the worth of youth. Similarly we remember all those things we did in our childhood. Because in those days childhood was free of worries and responsibility. Today is the time of education and other activities. In our time there was no educational system; we would spend most of our time in Pamir.

Do you recollect those days when the flood washed away our lands?
I remember at least two incidents, when the flood washed away our lands. I must tell you about that. That day the army was deployed in our village, as the relationship with China was not friendly. My brother, Abul Faiz was a levy (employed as border police) and he would carry out the transportation of army personnel mails and would also act as messenger to the Mir. He was required to deliver a message to the Mir, but those days he was in Mydur (name of pasture). I went just to inform him about his assignment. When I went up to Tang (a gorge) ahead of Band Sar (name of place), I met my brother, he was on the way back to the village. We returned, and when we reached Band Sar we saw some soldiers. They told us that the Shimshal Lake had burst and we saw the wide barren land covered with water. It had also washed away the dut. We took lunch with the soldiers and we told them to have a look at the flood. They did not allow us to cross it as it was carrying huge pieces of glacier and the current was very high. We assured we would not cross and went on to the site of the dut, which had already been washed away. Abul Faiz was very a brave and adventurous man. We reached the site of the dut. Abul Faiz told me that we were going to cross it so I should not get scared of the flood. He used hamayeel (a strap which is fastened over the right shoulder and passed through the left armpit, this was used when crossing rivers to enable people to keep a firm grip on each other). We got ready to jump into the flood, which was carrying glaciers with it. He also fastened hamayeel and told me to hold it with a firm grip. Before jumping in to the flood, he performed prayers and he told me that, Asmat, if we crossed this river safely we would offer a certain amount in the name of God. He said “get ready dear” and the next moment we were in the chilly water. I had no experience of such an adventure. He started crossing (wading along with the flow), as he was experienced. The water was chilly cold and was carrying huge pieces of glaciers.
We moved (swam) along the flow for about one kilometre, until we came to a shallow place near the right bank, close to the land of Mohammed Dad, Abul Faiz still firmly holding my hamayeel. When we felt that the river had become shallow, Abul Faiz held me up and told me to stand on my feet, but I couldn’t stand up, it looked as if my feet were paralysed. Anyhow, I dragged myself, kneeling, to the dry sandy bank and lay down until I recovered my breathing after a couple of minutes.
The army people who were watching the scene, were disappointed and they finally lost hope for our safe crossing. When they saw that we had safely crossed the flood, they excitedly rushed toward us, they applauded us and rewarded us with prizes. The people of our village were busy with ashar (unpaid labour for Mir). When Mula Qurban also saw us moving along the flow of river he had assumed that someone had been washed away by the flood, so he immediately reported this to the people at the place of ashar at the courtyard of Mulla Shikar.
They left the ashar and rushed to the scene. They admonished us and became very angry over this act of stupidity, because most of them were our relatives and they were extremely worried. So this was our first act of bravery. Due to this incident my brother Abul Faiz was named as the brave man. The event of crossing the flood was unbelievable for many people. This act of courage did not pay anything to my brother; instead it adversely affected his health. This is all about the flood.
Now I am going to tell you about the second flood. I was very young. The barren land, which is called sheeth, (wide and plain watercourse or flood plain) was spread over from the Yazben (beneath the glacier) to Rezgeen ben (close to Rezgeen: a place) and was covered with dense forest. The forest was so dense that animals or men could hardly find their way back. When the people came to know, that the lake was going to burst men and women started cutting the forest but it was so wide and dense that we could hardly cut a few metres when the lake burst and washed away the entire forest and the agricultural lands and houses of our village. The intensity of this flood was so high that it also washed away the agricultural lands and fruit gardens at Gulmit and Passu villages. The intensity of this flood was higher than the previous floods. This flood inflicted a heavy loss on our community. Though the lake was formed this year too and it also burst, the intensity was not so high. [The lake is formed due to the blockade of river by the movement of gigantic glaciers. The river makes a lack of several square-km and when the lake is fully charged in peak summer, it bursts causing flood]. I remember these two flood incidents.
Section 16
In old times, what was the system of cooperative works carried out by our ancestors, particularly, the delivery of fertiliser to the fields?
As I already told you, the reason for cooperation in the old days, was that, due to the geographical isolation, everyone would stay in the village. Nobody would go to pardes except those four or five shpuns (herders) who would go to Pamir to look after the yaks. There are three main clans in Shimshal named Bakhti Kathor, Ghazi Kathor and Boqi Kathor. Each one of our villagers belonged to one of the three clans. I myself, belong to Bakhti Kathor. So we all would live in the village. All the people who belonged to one clan would perform the agriculture activities in a cooperative manner. We would commence our agricultural activities with the delivery of fertiliser to the fields. Wergesht (baskets) were used to deliver the fertiliser. Our ancestors would weave the willow sticks together to make wergesht. The fertiliser project would start at one end [of the village] turn by turn and would finish at the other end. The system of food during the cooperative work was such that the person we were labouring for would prepare the food. At that time tea was unknown to us. We would prepare moch (local soup) instead of tea. The soup was prepared from dried apricot that was especially transported from the down villages for this purpose.
These goods (foodstuff) would normally be transported in zemiston (winter). Dried apricots would be brought from down villages, as in those days there were a few fruit trees planted in the village. The fruit trees are still insufficient, however people have started planting more fruit trees. So the dried fruit would be reserved for the moch. During the fertiliser project, the day would start with a breakfast of moch followed by molida (local dish; bread mixed with qurut and butter) for lunch. We would eat someone’s food and would deliver his fertiliser. After the fertiliser activity, sowing and watering of fields would start. Due to a shortage of water in the early spring, each clan would carry out the work of watering the fields turn by turn.
After Tagam, the activity of ploughing would commence. The festival depends on the weather conditions i.e. melting of snow to provide water for the fields. Tagam is one of the best festivals of the village. We celebrate the festival even today but not like we did in the past. At that time we would prepare seman, (local sweet dish). And would invite all our close relatives to the seman party. Cultivation would formally start with the seman party.
The cultivation system was exactly the same as the system of fertiliser delivery. The foods were also the same i.e. moch for breakfast and molida for lunch. In this way, we would help each other. We would eat together in one place, which created affection and sympathy for one another. We would also assist each other in transporting the goods of the Mir to Gulmit and Hunza. It was compulsory for everybody, to carry the load of the Mir and transport it to Hunza, but if someone could not carry it due to illness or some other reason, he would request someone else to carry it. This was our tradition.
Section 17
Was your marriage a love marriage or arranged by your parents?
I will tell you about the procedure of marriages in old times and today. In old times parents would arrange [marriages] according to their own will. They would not bother seeking the consent of their son or daughter. They would look first in their family to find a suitable companion for their boy or girl and would settle the matter with their parents without asking the couple. Unlike today, boys were not allowed to talk to the girls prior to their marriage. That was the time of purdah (seclusion of women) and chastity. The boy and girl would not see each other until their marriage. That is why, the like and dislike of a boy or girl didn’t matter. It was also a matter of prestige and honour. People would object if a boy interacted with a girl.
I married twice; I divorced my first wife, as we had no children. My second marriage was also an arranged arrange, but somehow with my willingness. So my second marriage was also according to the old tradition, but today they [marry] with their consent.

In your view, was the traditional marriage system good or the modern system?
The traditional marriage system was bad in a way as parents imposed their decision on their children. The parents would arrange and marry their children according to their own wishes. The boys and girls had no choice, and as a result the probability of failure of arranged marriages was high. Such marriages would end with divorce because after marriage they come to know that they have no understanding [of each other] at all.
The system of marriages today is good in the sense that boys and girls talk to each other. Before marriage, they understand each other’s point of view and with their mutual consent they enter in to the marriage agreement. They also hold the responsibility of their marital life. But the bad thing in today’s marriage is that, the honour and chastity have vanished. People have become more liberal minded which is against our tradition.

Who was your best friend?
Qurban Karim was my best friend from my youth. We were neighbours so we would spend most of the time together. We would also participate in games together. He was my best friend.
Section 18
In old times, how did the people diagnose and cure diseases?
There is a lot of difference between the old times and today’s society. In old times there were no doctors, hence diagnosis and treatment of diseases were made through traditional methods. Those who were literate would cure the diseases by tawiz (amulet; traditional spiritual treatment for disease). Even then, more people would die in those days as compared to the present time. People were ignorant about the nature of diseases. They would describe every disease as a kasal (an illness). If kasal were a viral epidemic, than it would kill many people inflicting heavy losses on society. When people survived it was due to tawiz and duaa (prayers). There were no treatment except tawiz and duaa. Nevertheless, some diseases were cured with the help of local plants and flowers, but that was not so effective. The good thing was that, people would take moch instead of tea. People would take dry and crispy breads. During travelling they would put the bread in their pocket to get the frozen bread warm, so that they could use it. Those people had tremendous tolerance and were very strong.

Prior to the friendship of Pakistan and China, our ancestors were kidnapped by the Chinese, what do you know about that?
Prior to the Pakistan-China friendship, our Mirs would ask the Chinese for grazing concession in their territory so that they could graze their livestock in Chinese territory. The Chinese would normally grant the permission for a specific period and if this was violated the Chinese would catch them and take them to China for punishment. After the friendship agreement between Pakistan and China, the Chinese visited Pamir twice in order to carry out the boundary demarcations, jointly with the survey of Pakistan. The first time the work remained incomplete so they had to move again. For the second time I also went along with the survey team. We went as far as Furzeen (a place). They installed the burji (peg or post) and that was the sign of formal friendship. Daulat Mohammad who was my uncle, was also accompanying the survey expedition. He helped everyone in the team. He was a very good hunter, so he hunted a lot of game for the team. At the end of the survey expedition, the Chinese gave one teapot and a tea set as a gift to each participant.

Were the old times better than the present time? Do you feel any difference between the two?
Both the eras have their own values. But I submit that, in old times, despite the poverty, the people had surplus love, affection and sympathy for each other, as explained earlier. Today, we enjoy every facility of life. We have free access to education and other opportunities. Prosperity is more than the old time. The present time is good, I mean, one can earn his education and can even progress in games.
We were under the Mirs’ control, but now you are free and today’s time is the time of personal freedom. Allah Taala (Allah almighty, the God), has told in the holy Quran (Islamic holy book) that the universe is very extensive and [we should?] conquer it. It is the time of conquering space as men have already stepped on the moon.
Our ancestors had various predictions about this era. They termed this era as the Qamari Daur (the era of the moon). It is a Persian word. According to the prediction by a saint, [refers to the famous poem “Dauri Qamar” by Hafiz Shirazi a persian poet of 11 th century], a time will come when people will land on the moon and will tour it. That will be Aakhir Zaman (the last era). That will be the end of the universe. The sign of Qamari Daur, which the saints have indicated, has come true. Therefore, our ancestors warned us to be careful about this era and they were fearful about this era.
Our ancestors were scared of this era where as you describe it as the era of prosperity and liberty. All those symbols which they were fearful about, we are practising all those things. One of the symbols of Aakhir Daur will be the lack of love and affection for one another. There will be much freedom and nobody will care for others. That era has approached. People will land on the moon and will settle there. That era that our ancestors were afraid of has come about. So we are required to recite Bismillah (recite the name of Allah/God) and should recite and start everything with the name of God and promote honesty. Only then will we remain successful in Qamari Daur and not go astray, otherwise we will be at a loss. I am just telling you about the predictions of the saint.
Section 19
Have you ever served in a religious institution?
No, I have never served in a religious institution, but I have read the Quran in detail, I can recite from the holy Quran and can also understand its meaning. It is the supreme book among all holy books. Today the educated people only recite the Quran but do not understand the meaning of it. It is of less use for them, who do not understand its meaning. When I hear some one reciting from the holy Quran, I understand the complete meaning of the verse. The Quran is a holy book, sent through the holy prophet and it took many years to complete.

Do you like zamindari (farming)?
Yes, I like zamindari, very much. In my youth, I never liked it; I would rather say to my mother that I would not work in the fields. But when I went to pardes I realised that farmers’ lives are free of tension, they are independent. Those who have been to pardes and have served as employees would certainly like zamindari and those who have never been employed are fed up of zamindari. The zamindar’s life is such a wonderful life; nobody can order him about, he works according to his will and wishes. Without orders one can work from morning till night but under orders, he cannot work for even an hour.
In service, one remains bound and obeys the orders and remains punctual just because of the fear of losing the job or of a deduction from one’s salary. They therefore punctually attend to their duties. But the zamindar’s life is a beautiful, comfortable life. He does the work according to his will and takes food whenever he likes. Nobody is there to force him or give him orders. Life is not eternal, therefore, zamindari is the best life, it is like the worship of God. Because you work in the fields, and produce honestly to feed your parents and children, such a life is like the worship of God.

Do you seldom recall the day of your youth?
It is necessary to recall the days of my youth, but the problem is that whenever I see that your era has become very good then I think to myself, “why I wasn’t I born in this [present] era?” Because your era is full of comforts, you fulfil the objectives of life. In those days, life had no objectives there was nothing to be done or [way] to become famous. Today if someone accomplishes an outstanding task, he becomes popular all over the world. One gains popularity due to quality education or good work, or a good skill. Those who climb a mountain also gain popularity. Many of our countrymen have climbed the mountains and have become favourites. When I see these things, I recall the time of my youth. In a way the old times were good because people had love, affection and sympathy for each other.
Section 20
Do you have any idea as to what we should do in order to maintain that spirit of affection and sympathy?
The only idea I have in mind is honesty and politeness. One should behave politely because politeness doesn’t cost. Those who are honest and polite are successful in today’s time. One should possess honesty and should not commit wrong things. Irrespective of the era, one should always remember God. One should be patient of his earnings and should not be proud of his wealth, good position, good education or other achievements. Those who refrain from such things and build up their character and attitudes would be successful in this era. Normally when somebody gets money, his behaviour changes and he becomes rude and impolite, these things are not liked in today’s society. So one should keep the good habits like honesty, politeness and love for others.

The affairs of the village were run by the numberdar (government representative in the village); what were his special responsibilities?
We were under the control of the Mirs and whatever rules and regulations were formulated by the Mirs would be implemented by the arbob (Mir’s main representative from the village) in the village. It was like the institution of our Council today which takes care the village. So the numberdar would work in the village for the Mir. The job and responsibility of numberdar was to inform us about the orders of the Mir and also to monitor the interests and supervise the works of the Mir in the village.

How was the system of nomus (donating resources towards a community project in the name of a relative), in our village?
My mother had enough savings in terms of goods and she wanted to offer them for nomus. But I had just returned from Karachi and my thinking was different from theirs. I was used to good food and good living, so I told my mother not to waste the wealth just by offering it to nomus. Many livestock would be slaughtered and many kilograms of butter would be consumed if offered to nomus, instead, they should use it to improve their health. In my view it was useless.
My mother got angry about my decision, because it was an essential part of their culture. One day my mother offered all the goat sheep and butter to nomus and langar (communal kitchen of Jamat khana) was launched in our courtyard, the livestock were slaughtered and people were invited to eat the food. This was good according to the norms of that era. My mother was also pleased to have made an offering to nomus from her genuine earnings and she would say that she had fulfilled the objectives of her life.
It was her thinking, but I had a different idea about how to consume this offering. I had the idea of offering it for construction of some bridges, huts or treks, that could be used by people forever and as long as they remained, people would remember and would pray there for them (the people who provided the nomus). But the way my mother spent it, was not good and I didn’t agree with it. It had no purpose and no output, so I was against such an offering and I am still against such expenses.
In recent times, people have also offered nomus. They sponsor educational expenses in the shape of scholarships for some needy students, which is good and according to the true spirit of nomus. In this way they help the needy students to build their career and become officers. And in turn they earn the prayers of the poor. To support a deserved person to buy his tickets for abroad - for America or some other country - is also good. At least someone gets the benefits. But just feeding the people was not good. That was the reason I opposed it. My mother had offered nomus in that way, may God bless her soul with eternal peace.
Section 21
In ancient time, when there was no soap, how would our ancestors wash their clothes?
I would like to tell you that we take regular baths everyday and if we miss them for any reason we feel filthy. In olden times when there was no soap, our ancestors would use barley flour to wash their hands and clothes. They would not take regular baths. Shaff (local grass, used for washing cloths) was used as soap for bathing. Our ancestors would collect many maunds (1 maund = 37.5 kg) of shaff in order to use it in the winter months.
The shaff was dipped in water for some time and filtered, and the filtered water was used for bathing and washing cloths. This had no adverse effect on their health except that due to irregular bathing the problem of lice was common in those days. There were no clothes like today, they would use the locally made woollen clothes which were not so easy to wash. If these [modern] cloths had been available in those days it would have been quite easy to wash them. But our parents would make woollen coats. Skilled people wove this cloth. Those who possessed more sheep would make more chughas (long woollen overcoats). These were stitched by hand because there were no sewing machines available.

Originally, we had no proprietary rights over Pamir, How did our ancestors acquire it?
It is not an event of my lifetime, however I have heard from our elders that when our great grandfather named Sher visited Pamir he saw many Kyrgyz (the people from Kyrgyzstan) around the lake area. He appeared quite strange to them, so they enquired about the purpose of his visit. Our grandfather claimed his proprietary rights over Pamir and asked them to leave his land. But they also claimed Pamir as their property. The argument went on until they came to the conclusion that the decision would be made by a polo match on the plain of Pamir. The Kyrgyz had horses and yaks with them. So our grandfather choose yaks for the polo match and they used horses, as the performance of yaks in high altitudes is better than that of horses. They decided to play polo over the plain from Waraow (the pass towards China) to Gulchinwashk (the pass towards Shimshal). If our grandfather drove the ball over Waraow toward China, he won Pamir and if the Kyrgyz drove the ball over Gulchinwashk toward Shimshal first, they would become the owner of the whole of Pamir. Our grandfather had some supernatural knowledge so he choose yaks and fastened tawiz (verses from the holy Quran for the control of something) around the neck of the horses. That was also the time of magic. As God knows better, our forefather used magic or spiritual powers to win the match. He drove the ball over the Waraow to the Chinese side hence wining the entire territory of Pamir. In accordance with the agreement, the Kyrgyz left Pamir and since then, we have been the legitimate owners of Pamir.

Ghujerab is one of our ancient Pamirs, have you ever lived in Ghujerab?
Yes, I lived in Ghujerab quite often, we have our agricultural land there. Because my grandfather was a famous hunter, he always preferred to go to Ghujerab, as there were a lot of wild animals to hunt. The old horns of game spread over the area indicate the intensity of their hunting. My parents would also prefer to go to Ghujerab because of this. We have land there where we would cultivate barley crops. Wheat crops were not grown because of disturbance by birds (sparrows) and because the climate was not favourable for wheat crops. I lived there and as it was the culture of my forefathers I also hunted game.
Section 22
Would you like to tell something about the hospitality of the people of Shimshal?
Hospitality is not a bad thing, it is our culture and it comes from our ancestors. This culture is extinct elsewhere. I have not seen or witnessed this culture elsewhere in the area. In other areas like Passu, they offer good hospitality to unexpected guests… but they do not invite someone for food. It is only in Shimshal that, if a guest comes, everyone invites him. Probably, this is due to the fact that our village is isolated and at the time of the Mirs, when someone came to the village after four days walk, everyone would invite him to lunch or dinner. It was part of our culture that we would invite everyone even strangers to eat, irrespective of their origin and identity. Everyone would prefer to invite the guest first.
The road link is approaching Shimshal and tomorrow vehicles will come to the village, thus increasing the influx of guests. So the trend of traditional hospitality is declining. Today it is not like the old days, this may be for the reason that many people from Shimshal have gone to pardes. But it is a good cultural tradition and we should retain it, because if we respect a stranger, it is like prayer and worship. It is not useless but a beautiful aspect of our culture.

Would you like to tell me about your family? What would be the strength of your family in Shimshal?
The strength of my family in Shimshal is like, 75 paisa in a rupee (1 rupee contains 100 paisa). About 75 % of the population belongs to my family.

Do you have any climbers in your family?
In my family, the son of my aunt is Rajab Shah, who is the best climber. You know very well that everyone, all over the world, knows him as a climber.

Where were you, when he scaled K-2?
I was in Karachi when I heard that Rajab had scaled the second highest peak, K-2. I was very happy to see him on television and I watched him on T.V with great interest.

You might have been very happy then?
Yes, when I told people in Karachi that he is my brother, nobody believed me. The city people didn’t believe that I could be the brother of that brave man. Due to poverty and lack of education, people deem us inferior.

Thank you uncle, I am grateful for the information you provided to SNT and PANOS.