By Fazal Amin Beg
This is the final part of the biography of Ali Qurban of Northern Pakistan. In this part, he thoroughly discusses about the origin of his poetry composition in different genres and the development of the poetry at various levels. He also offers some reflections and explanation on the historical backgrounds of previous poetries in Wakhi.He also shares some interesting stories of Shishali people who have been arrested in the past during the Hunza State era and how did they spend their time in the prison.
Though, it is not necessary that all aspects or themes of the biography of someone could entirely be triggering or striking to all, nonetheless, I trust the readers would have enjoyed at least, some important facets of the biography of ali Qurban. There are numerous lessons behind his wonderful life stories if read deliberately and in an academically critical manner.I thus invite you to carry on reading him in his own words like those in an autobiography from here onward.
The Journey of Poetry Composition
How did the germ of poetry got produced in me would be interesting and an important question to be answered. Two things influence me in this regard. Though, I composed a couple of poetries initially just for fun, later on I realized it was something a highly influential tool to convey the ideas, messages and analysis to the audience.
In 1987, there was the first ever congregation of our Imam of the Time, His Highness Shah Karim al-Hussaini, the Aga Khan IV in Upper Hunza, which took place on November 18th in Passu. That was so striking, a landmark and historic, indeed. The next year in 1988, on the same day, the community celebrated the first anniversary of the congregation.In this connection, I had composed a long devotional poetry in Wakhi and presented it for the first time among the audience at the congregational venue where the people of Passu and the notables and organizational representatives of the upper Hunza had gathered. The long and well received poetry followed as under.
Nasla-e Ali-e wakht-e Imom-e khũshig̃hi wudhg
Kũnjũdh-e sarzamin-e didori-e khũshig̃hi wudhg
Cẽ z̃aq’v en wezg lup’v-e imon-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Haryi diyor-e daryo et kuh’v-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Zart palch khizon-e mũy-e didori-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
It’s the happy day of Imam of the Time, descendant of Ali,
It’s the happy day of the spiritual congregation on the land of Hunza,
It’s the happy day of the faith of young and old,
It’s the happy day of each village’s river and mountain,
It’s the happy day of congregation of the month of yellow leaves of the autumn.
Ca ti wẽzayn en saker wezgi tem bahor
Ti bari kũk̃hter het̃, car’nes̃h kũk̃ht k̃hũ rũzgor
Dem wakhti niv kuy nast ya ti barkat en bikor
Chizer ki yav-e k̃hetk ya ti sũrat-e didor
Dũnyower k̃hat disũvner, Shahinsho-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
The spring has come for us because of your visit,
Your door is open to all and they make their living,
No one is now without work, due to your blessings,
Because they have sighted your spiritual manifestation,
It’s the happy day of the Emperor to show himself to the world.
Tirich tu yem diyor, ti wẽzayn en kerti sang
Zohiret vite tu, ya yir et z̃hũmak-e rang
Ti wing en dhir vit, khalg-e pũzũv-e zang
Ca ti wẽzayn en vite rawnaq et rang ba rang
Dũnyo pũzũv sang k̃hakkũzg-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
The village was in darkness, your visit made it bright,
You appeared like the Sun and the moon,
After seeing you, peoples rusted hearts got cleaned,
Your visit brought a colorful change,
It’s the happy day of making all human’s hart bright.
Ca’m ghayb-e fikr-e toqat en dũnyo badal vite
Cam ghayb-e nũr-e toqat en ya nag̃hd sahar vite
Kũl muminin-e fikr et khayolot badal vite
Amir en rek̃hk gharib kũ da ti nazar vite
Mawlo Karim-e shũkr-e ado k̃hak-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Because of his unseen power of thoughts, the world got changed,
Because of his unseen power of light, the night changed to the day,
The thoughts and deliberations of all believers got changed,
The rich and poor, all you see alike,
It’s the happy day of thanking to our beloved Lord.
Ti muminisht sarbuland ca ti nung en dar jahon
Har so’at et har wakht, tuwet tey skamev mehrbon
Ne fikri trem dũnyo, woz ne fikri tra makon
Dũnyo-e ins et jinsi tey haryon da ti shon
Ya kifch jahon-e takht-e Shahinsho-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Your followers are prominent due to you in the world,
Each hour, each time, you are affectionate to them,
There is neither worry here, nor worry there,
The humans and giants of the world wonder over your eminence,
It’s the happy day of the Emperor of the throne of both world.
Torik wakht reg̃hde woz ya Nũr-e voyni wezg
Zolim’v-e dawr reg̃hde woz mazlũm’v-e wakhti wezg
Cam-e khazona’ni mumin’ver rizqi wezg
Mawlo-e domangirisht dẽ har dũnyo’ev gezg
Mumin’ver mu’jiza disũvn-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
The dark time has gone and the age of Light has come,
The oppressors time has gone and the age of the oppressed has come,
From his treasure, living to the faithful has come,
The followers of the Lord have stood up in the world,
It’s the happy day to show the miracles to them.
Shũkra Imom saken cẽ tow en jidha en nast
Ca ti baghayr en saken pẽ kuy muhtoj et zor en nast
Tu’t wakht-e lup amin woz Islom-e rost dhast
Ya ti Imomat-e asoyi woz dẽ kuyi nast
Wakht-e Imom-e Shoh-e Karim-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Thanks to you the Imam of the Time, we are not away from you,
Without you, we are not dependent upon others,
You are trust of the Time and the right hand of Islam,
The staff of Imamat is not with others,
It’s the happy day of the Imam of the Time, Shah Karimal-Hussaini.
Yem bayobon khuroson k̃hetket towe obod
Tangdhastig̃h woz gharibig̃h en ti muminisht ozod
Taklifi kuyer nast, neyes̃h cart kuy faryod
Da ti bares̃h wezin, kũk̃htes̃h caren faryod
Dũnyower rizq blek k̃hakkũzg-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
You settled the barren and deserted land,
Your truthful believers are freed of poverty and helplessness,
There is no pain, no one complains,
They come just before you and do pray,
It’s the happy day of the living-distributor of the world.
Osmon woz zamini ya ti hũkm-e ta’bidor
Nokari yir, z̃hũmak et sitor, tower nag̃hd et ror
Dũnyo c̃hũwũvn-e yarki teyti korbor
Nasti ya ti baghayr en yem dũnyo z̃i barqaror
Mumin’v-e sohibig̃h-e jahon-e khũshig̃hi wudhgg
Obidient are the sky and Earth under your command,
Your servants are the sun, moon and the stars,
Running the affairs of the world is your venture,
Unstable is this world without your existence,
It’s the happy day of the mastery of the strong believers of the world.
Ti wocnen khũshruyig̃hi skem zamin woz osmon
Dem bũland zem-e kuvi tey ya ti nishon
Sẽk drakht’vi ya charind et parind ta’r qasidakhon
Sẽk kũk̃ht-e ziki tey ya ti ta’rif dar jahon
Spo zikr et fikr-e Sohib-e Din-e khũshig̃hi wudhg
There is a beauty on the Earth and sky due to your existence,
There is your symbol in the snow-capped lofty mountain,
The birds on the trees are your eulogizes,
Admiration to you prevails on the tongue of everyone in the world ,
It’s the happy day of our meditation’s Master of religion.
Cẽ tow’ni osmon woz cẽ tow’ni yem zamin
Kũ muminev’ni sẽk tow yaqin, tuwet tey yav-e Amin
Kushishi yaven tey ki caren tow e tayin
Chizer ki tuwet tey Ali-e jonashin
Ol-e rasul-e nasl-e ali-e khũshig̃hi wudhg
From you is the sky, from you is the earth,
All believers have faith in you,you are their conviction,
They struggle hard to get your sight,
Because you are the successor of Ali.
It’s the happy day of the Prophet’s family and descendant of Ali.
This was proved a highly beautiful qasida that one might not believe. Though, I had composed the poetry, I was not sure to what extent it would have its effect on the peoples hearts and minds. However, when I was presenting the poetry and looked on the audience, I myself was stunned for its deep influence on the people listening it. The elders of the region had their hankerchiefs in their hands putting them on their eyes and wiping their flowing down tears as they were weeping.I myself had gone to a kind of trance while presenting it.My body was paralyzed and thought how deep effects it had. The poetry was so long but people listened it so attentively. This was the top event where I observed the real influence of a poetry on the audience.
The second event I witnessed and observed in China in 1992. My brother Ghulamuddin told to meet a highly influential Tajik personality of Tashkurghan named Zulal. Both of us thus met him in his house as he had his friendship with them. When we reached at their door, he advised me to evaluate the level of my Persian language myself and speak to him. He pretended that he was not that much fluent in Persian so better I should talk to him. I agreed with him.
We knocked at the door and a woman came out. After greetings, I asked in Persian whether or not Mr. Zulol was at home? (Oyo Oghoyy Zulol dar khona ast?).
She responded: “Baley, hast. Dar boghcha kor mi kunad.” (Yes, of course. He is at home and works in the garden). I told her to convey him the message that some guests have come.
She went inside and in the meanwhile, Mr. Zulol came out and saw brother Ghulamuddin and was excited. He said:
“Ay Ghulomuddin-e shirin! Ay yor-e qand! Tu misl-e khurshid rasidayid.Az kudom taraf omadid?” (Hi dear Ghulomuddin! Hey my sweet friend! You’ve appeared like the Sun. From which direction did you come?).
By saying so in Persian, he came and embraced him. I didn’t know Zulal. Both of them met each other warmly and with a great joy. He took us inside his house. We took our seats. He then inquired about me from brother Ghulamuddin that who was I?He replied: “He is my brother. He is from my family.”
Zulol then welcomed me, too, and asked what I was doing? I replied: “I am a teacher.” He was pleased to hear about it and asked again: “What else do you do?” I told him: “I do poetry, too.” The gentleman stood at his place and embraced me by saying: “You are a big man, indeed.”
This influenced me significantly and I got an enormous encouragement from such a distinguished person who was well-known not only in his county but rather had a high level of honor and respect at Beijing level in the Government. I then thought , let’s suppose if I had said I was director or manager or otherwise, he would have not bothered himself because they have lots of people with whom they encounter on daily basis. He would have answered in the same way, as he did for introducing myself as a teacher. I strongly realized that poetry is not something of ordinary people. I thus continued my poetry with further interest and enthusiasm. These were the two real examples that how did I decided to and consistently remained in the ocean of poetry and like a loyal fish I’ve been enjoying swimming in its deep water fearlessly.
Let me note down another important remarks of a responsible person that further encouraged me to intensify my poetry. Once, Rahmatullah Beg of Gulmit, who was at that time serving Ismaili Tariqa and Religious Education Board (ITREB) in voluntary capacity, suggested me to do the poetic translation of Kitab-ul Manaqib (a devotional poetry book of the Imams and Pirs) in Wakhi. He appreciated my talent and said I had the capacity and great talent in the field. The reason for asking me was his presence in the Anniversary Program of the Imam’s Congregation in Passu. He has liked the poetry so much I had composed and presented where all the audience was weeping. I thanked and replied him with a positive gesture that I’d have an attempt and would produce something.
Resultantly, I brought the Kitab-ul Manaqib and other devotional poetry books of the Pirs (spiritual guides) such as Diwon-e Pir and the like. It was so hard task because poetic translation in Wakhi is difficult and time consuming.on the other, creating a new poetry is relatively so easy.Within the poetic translation, one has to be within limited scope and move around the stanzas of the poets in hand because one has to look for the ideas and concepts in Persian to match with Wakhi. If we look for creating something on one’s on, the proscribed stanzas is dishonesty.
For example, I translated a poetry of Rayis Hassan Al-Mawti, which was followed in this manner:
Har dil ki bo razo-e Imom oshno shawad
Ze hich shak nishona-e amr-e Khudo shawad
Haryi pũzũv ki Wakht-e Imam khũshig̃h’res̃h wost
Chiz sheki nast ki yowes̃h Khũdhoy-e qariber wost
Likewise, there are also poetic translation of the poetries of Pir Nosir Khusraw, Pir Shams Tabriz, and the like. They are on record in written with me in Arabicized script. Later on, I changed them into Roman script because the Arabicized was so difficult to read and write.Altogether, they were 40 poetries. After translating some of them in 1992, I went to Karachi in 1993 for the purpose of doing my B. Ed (Bachelor of Education). Ghulam Amin Beg of Gulmit and other friends were there and they suggested to organize an event. Amin Beg was proactive around and leading such positive activities.
Consequently, we organized a landmark program in Aga Khan Gymkhana and I presented a Wakhi poetry there. The audience liked it very much. Mirzo Ali and other active members were there who took part in the program. He is no more with us today in this world but I am so shocked and miss him a lot. He was so openhearted gentleman.
Well, we also called Karim Khan Saka of Shimshal valley and asked him to sing one of the Persian qasida in his sweet voice along with the music of rabob, which he would play nicely. I then followed Karim Khan stanza by stanza by singing the Wakhi translation version of the same Persian poetry that I had made. The audience and we ourselves enjoyed it too much. It was so memorable. This was a test case before the huge audience to see what kind of impressions we could receive from the people.Itt thus remained very successful, indeed. The aftermath of the event organized in Karachi in 1993, Ahmad Riaz and his group then organized an event and presented his poetries and so on. In the aftermath of this event organized in Karachi, Ahmad Riaz and his group also organized an event and presented his poetries and so on in 1994.
One day, my tested companions, Amin Beg and Habib-ur Rahman of Passu then suggested that we should bring those translated Wakhi devotional poetries by recording them in tapes as it was the period of cassettes. In the melodeous voice of Karim Khan Saka, some of the Wakhi translated devotional songs were recorded and made public. They are still available with me and they have been digitized, too. Those cassettes of devotional poetic translation, in fact, stood to be of a high value before the target community. For example, when those cassettes of Wakhi devotional songs reached among the Wakhi of Hunza, in each house with those who had the tape recorders, they were listened and became so prominent.While back in Hunza, some houses which we visited, we noticed that the Wakhi elders were literally weeping listening them.The people had such a strong belief in God, the prophets and Imam of the Time. Moreover, Karim Khan also became so much prominent among the people due to his outstanding voice and the way he sang them so beautifully. Well, what I mean to say that there are certain important forces and sources through which my poetries among the audience were promoted.I invested enormous time and energy behind such creativities and all of the poetries need to be brought in the form of books an booklets.
It’s also noteworthy that in the initial days of WTCA in 1993, when there was a cultural event organized in Gulmit, I had composed a Wakhi poetry named “Badakhshon-e Tojikem wuz, Haqparast K̃hikem wuz.” Though, it’s said it was popular among the school children at that time, I had discarded this poetry as it was not of a high standard.There were also some other Wakhi poetries of my initial days, I discarded them all in order to sift them and bring the high quality of poetries for the book purpose.
With the course of time, I thought not to confine myself within one genres of poetries. I therefore diversified them. My poetries thus include the ruboyot, ghazal, nazm and so on. Though, my ruboyot may seem influenced by Umar-e Khayom, I actually got an influence of ruboyot from my late mother, who would sing the Persian ruboyot. Unfortunately, I’ve not documented them but luckily my maternal cousin, Babar Hussain who lives in Karachi, has recorded them in audio form in the 1990s. It’s a wonderful task he has carried out. When my mother was alive, brother Babar Hussain would visit my late mother and the latter would like the former, too much, as their wave length matched significantly.
I also composed Urdu poetries and they number not in dozens but ratehr more than a hundred. The first one, which I rmember, was composed on Karachi University. It was that time when I was studying there. The theme of the poetry was: “Mera Jamia”, My University.” On and off, I would compose a bit in Urdu but I actually commenced them in Urdu after 2000.
The Wakhi poetries I have composed are enormous in quantity. When they will be lumped together, it will emerge as a thick book. It may then be categorized in different sections including ruboyot (around different themes), ghazals, nazm, maya (triplet), in which two verses are rythmic and the third line doesn’t folow them), mukhamas,and the manzum tarjama in Wakhi. With a claim, I say that my poetries contain all genres of poetries. The devotional poetries (poetic translation) includes 40 kalom, more or less 200 ghazal, the ruboyat are more than 2,000. Mukhamas and mussadas are not more in numbers.In addition, I’ve also some poetries on homeland, elegies and others.
My Parents Worldviews and their Roles in My Life
The parents worldview, roles and responsibilities count a lot in nurturing their children, particularly at the early stage of life. I think a mother has more influence on the children because a father could not spare more time with and focused on a child’s direct caring if compared with a mother.At varius scale, such notions could be testified in my case.
Apart from my food, clothing and other consideration at home, which remained available to all family members, the care for my schooling, nurturing of various social and other norms and values in my childhood and so on are due to my late mother as my mentor. Besides, my mother was so learned in fluent in line with Persian devotional poetries as she had remained daughter-in-law of Arbob Dolik of Murkhun during her first marriage with Ghulom Jafar. But, because of her agressive behavior, she got separated from him and then has marreid my father.
My mother was so compassionate and careful towards me in different contexts so to raise me properly and effectively, more particularly in providing education. After finishing my primary level education from Passu, when I told her not to continue my education ahead as was being sent to Gulmit, she didn’t accept my request and said: “No, my son! There is the directive of our beloved Imam of the Time to provide education to your children. You are thus disobeying Imam’s directives. Go to Gulmit, I’d talk to my nephew Bai Nazar myself so he should provide space to you in his house and would take care of you.”
Just imagine and assess the opposite worldview of my late father. He would think and emphasize that I should become a tailor while taking me to Ghulkin in order to get the training from Habib Shoh. Otherwise, he won’t expect anything significant out of me. He was thus so careless about such consideration.But, my mother would disagree and tell him that he was a misguided man. However, my late father was a simple man. He was professionally a levy and would get his salry. He was also closed to the Mirs of Hunza.
To share further, it was not only my father who got the employment of being levy but rather my grandfather Nigahbon was also employed as levy by the Mirs of Hunza as grandpa Bai Din Ali was a strong man economically and thus influential gentleman. Due to his influence, the Mir gave him the entire tract of forestland (called “qir” in Wakhi). He has thus constructed its irrigation channel and has done plantation. Uncountable poplar trees could be seen there even today. The Mir has thus given the position of levy to my grandfather Nigahbon and that continued to my father. Apart from him, uncle Muhammad Abbas son of Qul Muhammad was also a levy from Passu.
Although, my father remained with his professional duty as levy,he also spent pastoral life and provided voluntary services to our village community by contributing towards the community well being within his limited capacity.
At home, control of the household management was with my mother. For instance, which land had to be cultivated and what type of crops should be cultivated was under the decision of her. Likewise, other affairs at home was led by my mother and not by my father as the latter would travel towards Shimshal and other areas due to his official engagements and commitments. Hence, as it’s said that father has less effective role in children’s education, it holds true in my case.
However, a father’s role might also be exceptional, as could be seen, for example, in the case of Master Sultan Ali Samarqand towards his children’s education.But in the same manner, his wife, late Bob Nan, has enormous contribution towards them.
In my case, I was a disabled person and if my mother had raised me carelessly, what would have been my condition, while my father was not already much careful?A question arises why did my father emphasized and chose tailoring career for me as part of my life ?The answer lies within the arrangement in the society as late Haibib Shoh of Ghulkin, from whom I was supposed to get the training, was himself a physically disabled gentleman and he had set an example before the people. That’s why my father or others would think on those lines but my mother disagreed sharply with his idea and encouraged me towards getting education.
When I was in Gilgit, my mother would always remain worried about me despite the fact she herself was the motivating force regarding my education. Nonetheless, she would remember me by saying: “My only son. I miss you, too much.” During her later stage of life, my mother, unfortunately, lost her eyesight and remained in this situation for over two decades.This provided me so shock as I could not take her to Karachi for the eyesight checkup if there was any treatement. She suffered a lot but would not share more rather tolaerate and burry all sufrering in her heart.When this reminds me, I become so much upset and remain in constant shock and misery.
One day, suddenly, my great mother passed away when I was in Gilgit. At that time before taking our meal, Sajjad hussain son of my cousin Bai Nazar came to Niyat Karim’s where Fazal Amin Beg and I were with the family. I was watching television and he told me the shocking news that my mother had passed away.This was a highly unbearable news of my life. In the company of Jami Sakhi, Sajjad Hussain, Niyat Karim and Amin Beg , I thus reached Passu. It was the kindness of Niyat Karim to drive me to my home. My mother’s life chapter finally ceased and I became a real orphan. May her soul rest in permant peace.
A Comparative Lens of Societal Change: Past and Present
Within the traditional Wakhi houses, most of the families had bare floor without matress, even there was no rug, called plos in Wakhi, or any other type of matress available around the sitting platform called dildungben and nikard. The family members would therefore sit on the floor with their traditional long shoes called sandal.There was no concept of putting-off one’s shoes and sit. The logica was quite obvious because there was no matress to take their long shoes off. In case, some families had the torn sacs or possessed animal skins, called pask or pist, that were laid at the sitting place and guests would sit on them. The families would thus remain concerned about the availability of rugs and hardly some people had it. When the guests would stay with some better-off families and get up in the morning would appreciate and thank them by saying that they were lucky family for having the rugs and they as guests slept so comfortably at night by covering themselves with the rugs as quilt and matress.
Well-off families were those who had the storage of butter burried under the irrigation channels (called injuy in Wakhi) and had their livestock of sheep and goats. Or, they had the agricultural produces in result of their hardwork that were stored for the entire year. Such families were countable on the finger tips In general, no one had the required wealth as per se.However, it’s also noteworthy that when compared with the people of Central hunza, our people were far better than them in a sense, in terms of food production and usage. There was no scarcity to that extent. The reason was availability of land, more particuarly in line with agriculture.Resultantly, the rugs were available only with such families who had the goats and through their skills they produced the rugs, which were termed as tug̃hej plos.More advanced or better -off families had the yaks, too, and they had the rugs made out of their hairs, which were termed as z̃ug̃hej plos (yak rugs). These rugs were thus spread on the sleeping platforms called razh in Wakhi.
A little improvement were made in the modern context but the sleeping condition was desparate yet. The state of quilt (kumpal or shopos) and matress (tũshek or piper in Wakhi) was so poor that is undescribable. Who would care for the cleanliness, if some people had those things available with them in the later phase of time. It could be said that we had cooked ourselves in the poison and had become poison ourselves.At present, if people would use those matresses and quilts, they could be termed as animals. Even, the animals are cared properly, as the dogs of Europeans are seen how much they are careful about them.
The livestock, particulary the baby-sheep and goats and calves were placed in the lower platform (past razh)of the traditional house under wũrges̃ht. When the cow in the yorch, a lowered platform for keeping the shoes and firewood, would urinate, it would sprinkle on the people particulary if at that time people were busy drinking their soup.The living condition was so grave and poor that we have witnessed it ourselves.
There was no proper arrangement of placing water in the house. Whenever and whoever wished, water was unhygenically used for drinking purpose. Some people would use the same water for washing their handds and faces and some people would drink it.
Conditions of the house roofs were deteriorated. When it would rain, it was so unbearable as the people inside would bitterly suffer.There was no talpar or something like that to cover the roof to protect the house from the rain dripping in the house. In winter, people had no appropriate things to cover the roof ventilator or termed as hatch window these days.
In summer, After shaking the fruit trees, we would find the huge dumps of apricots scatterd in the house, or at the roofs of the traditional houses and/or in the gardens .The armies of flies with their unbearable and teasing noises would fly over and sit upon them. We won’t get space to sit in the house due to the enormously scattered quantity of nuts and processed apricots for the purpose of drying them to make the stalks for winter and spring seasons.
The traditional toilets called dhartshũn (with unbearable bad smells), stables and pens of livestock wer attached with the houses.The houses seemed like the disastrous venues when looked at them today critically, though at that time such phenomena were not considered bad.
Though, there were enormous level of poverty prevailing in our society, nonetheless a significant number of people had no worst condition in line with food availability, especially related with agricultural produces, dairy products and so on. Rather, I must say in the present era, enriched and organic food poverty could be found comparatively. For example, when I look at our family condition,during my mother’s time, there were injuy (butter storages under the irrigation channels.In the granaries, there were storages (g̃huv) of grains and beans (of wheat, barley, faba-beans,peas ) . The wheat boxes were full in result of grinded grains in the watermills termed in Wakhi as ambor dhũk̃hn (the damp of flour). There was no practice of nũfqot (grinding grains during the spring time when ambor ended up). Instead, the ambor (damped grinded flour) will sustain for over a year. However, the expenses during the old days could be observed little unsystematic. For instance, teh expenses involved in marriage and death rituals and ceremonies were highly extravagant. That’s why when the stock of flour the families saved for themselves would end up and are seen compelled to grind the nũfqot. For example, in such rituals, two or three big containers of bat (a traditional dish prepared for the wedding or death rituals) were highly significant. Otherwise, food among our people could be observed in abundance.
Previously, our parents had the stock of the food items like flour, grains, and so on in the in-house storage room, g̃hanz̃, and apples, dried apricots, dried mulberries kernels/nuts, and so on in the fruit storage room above the roof, called mara. At least, I witnessed and found them in our house. The g̃hanz̃ were filled with the reserved food items. At present, our families purchase the rotten and little flour bags of Pakistan.The family members thus eat them away, even the quality of the flour could be found very much cheap or low. But that bag doesn’t sustain for a month. Due to the kindness of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, our people now eat away the subsidized flour. people spend their life in superficial manner and with show-off. Opposed to the previous era, now, the womenfolk hang down the curtains over the chũks and hide the upper portion of Wakhi traditional house called C̃hikis̃h. There is nothing in the store at present. Now, in plastics, the families purchase the flour from the shops and subsist on them accordingly. My perspective is thus on the opposite. I say the poverty in such realms in today and it didn’t remain in the past during our parents time.They were indpendent in producing the food for themselves but today we have become so much dependent on the bazaar.
There was not a grave condition with all families when I ponder over retrospectively on Passu. People would work hard from the morning to evening, particuarly before, during and after the seasons of plowing, harvesting and threshing. When I look back, there was a hard time for our people and it sounds like a disastrous situation. But it leads us towards wonders to look at and sincerely appreciate their great strength, steadfastness and courage.
The community in the past during the Hunza State’s period were independent from top to bottom. Now, look at the peoples viewpoints today that are ironic. In many ways. For instance, let me give the example of my own family or house again. A large tract of land (nine ghilble in Wakhi or kanal in Urdu) beside our house (named “Darkhona wunder” or central house land) has grown the grass of alfalfa today, termed in Wakhi as wũzherk. During my parents time, when our family members would enter in the land for the harvesting, it was something inexpressible.Everything was placed on its respective position . Everything was being managed. The sheep and goats were taken to and brought back from the pasturelands and it had its own jubilance and celebration.The harvesting had its own celebration and feast. The cultivation had its own feasts and joy initialed by series of activities.Every food was blessed with organic base.
It was not possible for any family to exist without helping each other and there was a strong communal interdependence. In the late autumn, grinding the grains of wheat (g̃hidim), , barley (yũrk)andd fababeans (baqla) in the watermill, called Khũdhorg d̃hũk̃hn in or Khũdhorg kẽt̃ak in Wakhi, was also so much painful as it would take days for them to get them finished , once the rotation of the families for the purpose would come. This process was called as Ambor Dhũk̃hn.
At present, look at the big claims of our family who term themselves as humans or parents. Damn with them. Keeping in view the harsh realities, I’ve composed a long poetry in Wakhi having free verses that comprises four pages and depicting the grim situation of today with that of the recent past, which I’ve observed myself with my own eyes. The title of the poem is “Firuza Tu Kũk̃ht-e Nan” (Firuza was Mother of All). She has been presented in the poem as a hardworking and dominant character in reality and in many ways her conditions and activities could be generalized on the great mothers of the past. My mother’s activities would start from the morning to the evening. Ranging from 25-35 guests/visitors from Shimshal (the offspring of Qiymat Bigim) and others, also from Avgarch to Chipursan valley (those who were our kinspersons) would visit and stay in our house. Trust me, in winter, such times we have witnessed that we ourselves would not get space for sleeping in the house. Thus, to host and feed them, to accomodate and take care of them was not an easy task. Oh, look at such idle people now,when they term themselves as mothers these days. It’s really a joke.Look at them, they are not mother of their own children, how could they look after other people in the same manner as did our mothers in the past.When I observe in my own family, for example. There are few children and the parents are not able to take care of and control them. Now, look at their dealing with their children’s lunch boxes and other formalities multiplied by their misbehaviors with the kids. In such conditions, persons like me go in suffocation, either to quit the house or draw them out. How could such parents fail to take care of their kids? They are so sluggish, indeed. And this holds true for each houses as one could observe them farily.Among them, there might be only 5% of the mothers who may effectively and graciously engage and/or deal with their kids. When such mothers are careless of themselves, how come they take care of the others?
When I think back and reach to my young age, we were confined, in a sense, in a cave. The PWD road to Hunza up to our areas have been constructed in the early 1960s and I was so young and could not remember the events. What I remember of my childhood was a narrow pathway towards the Passu Jammatkhana. Afterwards, I recall a narrow jeep road on the upper Passu area named as Nawabod that has been constructed during the visit of Field Martial, Geneeral Ayub Khan, the then President of Pakistan.It was that time when he has come for the ibex hunting in Passu in 1962.The road link has been constructed at that time up to the bottom of Qunghust (a lower passway between Passu and Hussani.However, I don’t remember myself the arrival of President Ayub Khan.
To illustrate, at that time was of a complete isolation.Even the connection beyond the borders of Hunza towards China and the Pamirs was infrequent, though the Kashghari traders (termed as Kirawkash) would visit Hunza and pass through our villages.On the other, the Hajjis would also pass through Hunza. I recall slightly that how they would come and errect their camps and spent their nights.From the southern parts of our areas, I don’t remember exactly the people having their interactions with our village communities.However, I remember a little that few people from Central Hunza or Nagar would come to our villages for begging as their was a grave poverty.
Before construction of the vehicular roads such as the KKH, people would travel thoroughly on foot and by riding horses. My mother would take me to Bobo Ghundi shrine in Chipursan valley. We would ride the horses, starting our journey early morning from Passu and at dangerous sites of the mountains and rocks, we would get down from the horses and by mid-night we would reach at Khaybar, the village after Passu. In contrast, today the travel takes only 25 minutes in cars.
We would thus spend the night in the house of my aunt Bibi Jahon sister of my mother. To illustrate a bit, I had an aunt at Khaybar, as my maternal grandfather Gohar Shoh Baig of Ghulkin had got a second wife named Bibi Zarira daughter of Bahodur Shoh from whom was my aunt Bibi Jahon who was married in Khayber in the house of Ghafron (one of our clan members). Out of this aunt are Faqir Shoh, Dod Ali and others. During our travel to and back from Upper Gojal, we would stay with her.Both sisters (she and my mother) would then embrace each other so warmely by kissing each other, and dripping down their tears of joy. They had such sympathy and love for each other. Though, both these sisters father was one and their mothers separate, my mother had no such consideration rather had so deep love for her sister. She won’t think her as her half sister. Could my aunt’s progenies feel it so today? When I meet them somewhere and ask if they are Faqir’s sons? They would say, yes. My mother’s affection reminds me strongly and when I invite them to go to our house, they don’t care. I wish them to be in my house when I meet them and my mothers love makes me restless, indeed. On the other, in such situations when the house environment has totally changed after the death of my mother, how could guests be brought at home.One then becomes humiliated for bringing them at home when the family members faces are unwelcoming or frosty for them. In brief, the traveling conditions were such gloomy in the past before construction and opening of the Karakoram Highway KKH.
The pens of animals were filled with livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle, yaks adn the like. Their hydes, fleece, hairs and so on were sources for producing various types of products of clothing, shoes, rugs, matresses and the like. From top to bottom, people were energized and would work hard in different fields. Except for salt, almost all things the people would make themselves. Salt was processed in Shimshal and supplied and used in cooking. In the houses of Shimshali people, there even was the salt available to them.This was the main factor that our people have demanded from President Ayub Khan of Pakistan to provide them the salt when he has asked the community to know about their needs during his visit to Hunza in 1962, though Ayub Khan had thought the community would demand for a large project.
When a sheep or goat was lost or it didn’t come in the pen, there was a serious conflict in the family and behind that animal, the family members would go and search it out at any cost. The livestock like sheep and goats had therefore more value than one’s own children. There was no care for the children themselves, which they deserved.
The value of tending cattle was so high as manure was produced out of them apart from the dairy products and meat. The most difficult task to be performed was production of manure. The more the manure, the more cultivation of land and the more produces of crops.When there was no manure, there was no cultivation. The plowing and threshing was so panic and disappointing. The manure was produced out of the sheep and goats, cattle, yaks, horses and donkeys after spreading the soft soil (termed as yikang in Wakhi) under the livestock within the villages. The pastureland manure was further pure. Serious hardwork and laboring was carried out by the community members (even the children had their significant chunk in the household economy who would pick the animals dungs from outside the pens or stables). The people were so much busy from the dawn of the day up to the sunset.
People would have their untiring efforts as there wasn’t that much fodder for the animals to fill their stomach in winter. You could say that their skeletons were seen so visibly. There would become issue of water availability in winter then the rivers would get frozen. In such grave situations, looking after the cattle was also a high challenge. Behind pastoral activities, especially the livestock of sheep and goats, women and/or men would go along with a dried bread and reach at home when it had gotten dark.
Those families, who were well-off would sustain their lives but those whose stock of grains or flour got finished would look for help or borrowing of grains from the well-off. At the same time, it should be noted that such borrowings were considered a stigma and lending (tol in Wakhi) was taken so confidentially from those who were respected and trusted families.
Let me explain a bit about the credit or lending in kind (tol). There existed also some weak or poor families who would get this credit in kind from the well-off families. But it was so impressive norm that the well-off families won’t disclose it to any that so and so families have go the credit of kinds from them. This would ultimately lead towards the respect and not towards humiliation of the poor. More importantly, this would encourage and stimulate the weaker families to work hard and honestly in line with their agricultural activities to return the lending next year to the trusted lenders with a bit increased cereal (such as one jũt̃i behind one ghelbel). This kind of social norms was truly humane against today’s set normof our society where the lenders would not only disclose but rather propagate in many mays, if one has given lending to someone by saying that look at so and so peron: how shameless person is he or she that the lending is not returned to me.
It’s noteworthy that my mother would share with me by saying that during her time there was such occasion in the past if a calf or a cattle elder than a calf (termed as yeksol) would die and was thrown in the hillside of the river, the poor people would repent or complain why that was thrown down the hillside? Why it was kept for my children to to make meet food out of it for them.What does it reflect? It reveals that there was so grave poverty in the past. And this compelled the poor families towards lending in kind.
Now, let’s come towards the rulers of Hunza termed as the Mirs. Though, their time was so, the taxes were in abundance, particularly on the well-off families.Those who were from the lower class have remained porters of the Mir, termed as borwar in Wakhi, borrowed from persian.The lower class people would thus contribute towards the free laboring of the Mir. Those who were the tax collectors termed as tranpha didn’t care of the people. The pastures were in most of the cases, in the hands of the Mirs or under the State.In this manner, pastureland grazing taxes, termed as hilban, were collected from the pastoralists. Furthermore, some of the pieces of land have been given to the people in kũt̃ũkal for the agricultural activities to the local people as tenants. In this manner, they would rule and manage the states of affairs.The classes of the past were termed as Zharzhon (upper class),Darqane (middle class) and borwar (lower class). Consequently, the more the wealth, the more the taxes on the respective classes. Taxes were high on the upper class and would then descend down according to the quantity of wealth production. That’s why there were more taxes on the upper class and relatively low taxes on the middle and lower. Those who had no capacity to produce wealth would contribute their part in physical laboring to the Mir.
Once, a team of journalists from News Channel of Singapore had come to Hunza and took my perspectives in an interview in English regarding the land rights of the people and I categorically told them: “It’s so devastating with regard to the land settlement strategy of the Government in Hunza.Tomorrow, if someone from the down country comes and tries to snatch the land of the indigenous people by terming it as Khalisa-e Sarkar, Government’s property won’t be acceptable for us. We will strongly resist it because for centuries our ancestors have paid the taxes of the lands starting from the river beds to the mountain tops and even the water. Besides,more than a dozen types of taxes our ancestors have paid to the Mirs of Hunza, which includes trẽ khun yundak, cemn, wũtokh,hilban, and so on.” In short, the taxes in the former Hunza State were levied around a variety of subject areas on our people whether that included agricultural produces or dairy products,whether horticultural produces or the animals as per se, whether the handicrafts or the wollen products. Well, the list goes on and on. Thus, in billions, our people have paid the taxes to the rulers of Hunza and who would pay them back to us.
Listening such genuine points, the international journalists were so happy and appreciated the perspectives I present to them.They said, you presented valid points but unfortunately no one shared these points. I told them that these are the realities and, tomorrow, someone from the military mafia or someone from the Bahria Towns of Pakistan comes and snatches our land from us, which would never be acceptable to our community.
Although, there were variety of taxes levied upon the subjects of Hunza by the Mir according to the social classes, there was no such reality that the upper class families had highly residential quarters, enormous banglows or something highly outstanding physical structures on the ground.Instead,I would say those who were better-off families, their houses were the same dirty. They didn’t care of the cleanliness.There were no carpets rather some rugs and they were hanged on the in-house wooden rod hanger called wũseng in Wakhi. When guests would come to their houses, they would then use them both as matress and quilt to them.There didn’t exist the quilt and matress we have now in our homes.
Those who had the livestock would pay the taxes. When I focus on the Passu community, almost all of them were the tax payers in line with pasture grazing tax. Among the descendants of grandpa Magh, there were not more tax payers in the strict sense rather involved more in physical exertion or laboring within the system as they were categorized within the borwar class. Among the progenies of grandpa Spicher, we have paid the full taxes and were exempted from the physical laboring to the Mir because our family was in the zharzhon class. On the other, grandpa Mirzo Murod’s progenies haven’t paid the entire taxes in kind because they were in the borwar category.Among the descendants of Grandpa Din Ali, the progenies of Majnun Bai and Muhammad Razo have paid the full tax, I think. In this manner, among the descendants of sakhi , most of them were full tax payers.Among the Qũba clan, few were full tax payers such as grandpa Jamo’at. Among the Hassan clan, I don’t think all were full tax payers. aAmong the Alvi family, few could be seen not paying the full tax, though they were small in size. The full tax payers were those who were relatively better-off. So, these were some of the recollections and observations of my childhood and youth.
Now, let’s have an eye upon the women situation as well as the clothing realities of our past.The womenfolk would normally not participate in the public events or programs.the key factors were due to the unavailability of proper clothing with them and ultimately leading towards the shyness.For such reasons I think they got socially isolated and they were not allowed to be in the public events. There used to be woolen clothings and even the wool was not easily available with each family. Those who had the livestock of the sheep.Similarly, the rugs were also available with those families who had the goats and yaks.
Earlier, there was no soap and our people, especially womenfolk, would wash their head/hairs with mẽnay, the remnant form of the grinded apricot kernals after extraction of the oil. I didn’t se the people washing their clothes on any regular basis.People were not careful of taking bath properly, just to put the cold water on their bodies meant a lot for them as there was no concept of soap. The clothing of people was highly disappointing. Those who had abundance of sheep, would prepare some woolen clothes for themselves and their family members. Per individual, there was one clothe and that will remain at their body.Similarly, there was no shoes system as we could see varieties of shoes available in the bazaar and people purchase them today. For such reasons, the sheep and goats had a high value, indeed, because the whole dependence was on them.
The parents were all in all with rgard to their children’s marriage. Their children were never asked if they wish to get married or who to marry. Though, at present the situation has taken complete shift and the children are all in all to decide for their fate of life-partnership. However, I’d like to add and suggest a bit. The marriage, of course, should be carried out with the consensus of both the expected mates and must not be forced. These days, what we could observe that looking at the beautiful countenance or make up , keeping asie the beautiful character, people thus get married.
Resultantly, lots of issues emerge in the aftermath. Morever, it’s also important to keep into accounts the family background, the background of both the expected conjugal partners and never to look at or consider the beautiful eyes and hairs or otherwise. I don’t believe all women are equal with regard to their thoughts and behaviors.
The death rituals were very complex and difficult to go through the conventional stages and get them accomplished easily.Despite the fact their was a grave poverty but in line of the food there was no serious issue. The actual issue was in line with waistage of lots of resources behind the ceremonies and rituals.For instance, in the name of a ritual called Khatm-ul Quron literally means finishing recitation of the scripture Qur’an connected with the death ceremony and the concerned family would continue cooking and distribute the food among the people. There was no education and realization for the purpose. There was no road in proper condition. And many more prevailing and the list goes on and on.
Though, there was a lot of quarreling inside the houses, particulary between the mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Outside the houses or family, if a sheep would enter in someone’s orchard or fields, enormous conflicts would emerge and people would call names to each other.There prevailed such desperate situations in the society that it could not be described.
During our young age, in winters, we observed the youths and/or adults would strike the frozen/icy river with stones and make holds in order to take bath with the cold water in the morning after passing their nights with their mates. These are the harsh realities of our society and we have witnessed them with our own eyes in the 1960s. But today we see a complete shift in diferent contexts.
When such societal conditions prevailed in the past and compared them with today, there has come up a radical change in our society and it seems like the miracles, though the present time has its own issues and challenges for our people. When we look closely and objectively, the changes started particularly after initiation and opening of the construction of the KKH , though there is no doubt, Imam of the Time has his own landmark contributions in line with socioeconomic development to his and the adjacent communities in the region. However, if there was no KKH, the people of Hunza have been far behind and would have been suffered seriously. Those who were the strong individuals or families might have come out of the area and struggled ahead but those who were poor would have suffered bitterly.We would not have reachd to this stage of our life as we enjoy the amenities today.
At present, we could find the televisions and computers on the lower platforms of the traditional houses, which remained abode for the small animals in winter. Uncountable channels at global scale are watched on the TV at present and some people would work on their desktop computers. It’s so wonderful, indeed. What a sudden and radical change we evidence in our lifetime, which seems like dreams for people like me. The landline telephone and variety of mobile sets are found in each house and with the family members.Look at the amazing kitchen utensils, the clean quilts and matresses and so on. Today, we find an incredible and a great change in the living standards of the people in line with their housing, clothing, shoes, agricultural and pastoral activities,enterprises and so on.
The intra-family quarels and conflicts reduced relatively. But why and how come? Let me give an example from my own family. Forr instance, if my wife, Nisoh, would come from Khuramabod and my mother would ask her whether or not the sheep and goats had come back in the enclosure. Due to her simplicity or honesty, Nisoh would not tell a lie and say: one of them had not returned. My mother would scold her and send her back to search for that individual sheep or goat, and then come home. I still remember that one evening my mother asked me to go to Khuramabod as my wife had not returned home. We went down to a place called Kipg̃har and in the dark I saw a black image coming towards us. When she came neaer, I recognized that it was her and coming alone from there. These are the genuine issues to be understood that how hard was the life of our people. At present, the physical harship has gone to a greater extent. The livestock, especially the sheep and goats , may not be possessed by the families or they might have reduced their numbers significantly.
Opposed to the past practices, the mechanization of agriculture has emerged and plowing and threshing are carried out by tractors. The current approaches and facilities have brought their own pros and cons for our people. For example, the naturally fallen fruits either apricots or apples were not waisted. Immediately, they were picked, collected and brought in use. But, it’s so unfortunate that at present, our people don’t care of picking the apples or other fruits and they remain either on the trees or drop down but no one cares and they are rotten. If there were animal dungs lying outside the cattlehouse, they were picked and brought inside to make the manures. Today, they are replaced by the chemical fertilizers and the farmers are relaxed, released and freed in many ways, though the chemical fertilizers have their own disadvantages to spoil the soil.
At the end of this section, as described above, I’m going to share the Wakhi poetry on my mother as a character to find the societal realities and conditions of the recent past (my mother’s and grandmother’s generations) and objectively see the rapid changes that has come up in the present context. It’s solely rests on the readers and analysts that how do they see and interpret them based on the factual information glued in the free verses.
Firuza Tu Kũkht-e Nan
Firuza tu kũk̃ht-e nan
Zarowar woz zarador
Kũk̃htes̃h yow qisa kẽs̃hen
Chizes̃h ki k̃hat hayowes̃h go
Hũkmes̃h kert, shilda’es̃h kert
Kuyer ne k̃hũ nola’es̃h kert
Yarker biqarores̃h vit
Tag ne pẽ kuy zores̃h vit
Mazoj en gha sakht tu
Tages̃h kuyer shar ne kert
Kuyeres̃h yow awa ne k̃hat
Sẽk har chiz ce sũqo ya tu
Yem be wost woz ya be wost
Sẽk har chiz yow shilda be wost
Gay gayi gha qares̃h kert
Zik en khalgev zares̃h kert
Kum yark ki ya’r ne pekeyd
Dẽ pũzũves̃h gha bekeyd
Dilkafes̃h vit pẽ dhit pẽ parg
Gay pẽ shet, cẽ k̃hũ yark’nes̃h ne pẽshet
G̃heret g̃hort, tikmayet kert
T̃iret zhevd, sẽk bitet di
Jalho’ret dhet, sargazet nik̃ht
Dẽ z̃ug̃h kala’n pẽ helet reg̃hd
Rug̃hn woz qũrũtet go, sẽghenet nik̃ht
Dẽ gharapac, hamapac, zar’atet g̃hort
Baqla yũrk, g̃hidimet dret
Yowet kast, yowet bond woz peyet kart,
Yan sort nik̃ht
Dẽ gharapac, hamapac chũwanet g̃hort
Yow qaqet kart, yow serket nik̃ht
Chukt woz dhok̃htet yow
Trẽ dhes̃hnet di, yoy telet nik̃ht
Dẽ bahor merzig̃h-e wakhtchũmoset go
Rec̃hn wẽzayn musofir’ver
Ya kũ qarib yoy dhir’ver
Kũk̃ht-e wanj tow setket kert
Kũk̃ht’ret tu yi nan-e rang
Seldet yav zẽman-e rang
Dẽ har qadamgohet reg̃hd
Spo jonet chald, amonet chald, imonet chald
Rizq woz rũziyet chald
Kum wakht ki joyn-e nung ne tu
Pẽ kalet maz̃h kert, kẽtalet maz̃h kert
Maz̃h dẽ madrasa-e yut
Dẽ z̃hũ dhast qalam kitobet dhet
Hada ne gũtak-e wakht, kũl chiz cẽ nan-e dhast en tu
Dẽ wanj s̃hapik et moch hũmũt
Pẽ tan bet̃ et luq hũmũt
Pẽ pũdh sandal et s̃hũs̃hk hũmũyd
Pẽ razh pẽlos et yijin hũmũyd
Yoy nẽsũner chiz gin hũmũyd
Pẽ c̃hẽkis̃h qicha et kubun, pil et tẽlew,
Tigre et sughu, kul chiz ya wakht s̃hungen tu
Dẽ g̃huv zhaw et yumj hũmũt
Molhol’ret yigũm et wũs̃h hũmũt
Har chiz k̃hat paydo’ves̃h kert
Yem wakht kũl chiz bozor’nes̃h wiz’t
Ripyayi wudhg kũk̃ht-e nan
Nanisht wudhg chũvũvn-e nan
Nokarig̃h k̃hak kũzgev wudhg
Vitkev wudh kũ nan’v-e nan
Yem wakhti niv far g̃hiretk
Kũl chizi rẽ sar g̃hiretk
Pũzũvi kũk̃ht en g̃har g̃hiretk
Haryũes̃h k̃hater wũzũmd
Ya wakht’ves̃h ki cumer g̃hort
Yowes̃h yav tẽr sol nik̃hit
Dẽ harchiz Bismilloh’ves̃h k̃hat
Arwo’ves̃h k̃hat, harwoyi rizoves̃h k̃hat
Yav hada ne dishn-e wakht
Ghafch bijo kharcha’v k̃hetk
Tuyet woz pũfarev dhetk
Dẽ tuy trẽ khun yundakkev yutk
Miron’ver hilbanev dhetk
Wũtokh et darqanev dhetk
K̃hũ zar’at et sẽghen en
Yaver tẽr khundakev yutk
Woz ya dũs̃htakev dhetk
Piron et Imomon’ver
Woz sẽk kũ ostonver
Yaver ya nohaq haqev dhetk
Shupr halak mihmonverev dhetk
Gharat dinkũzg’ver, woz ya kũ zolim’verev dhetk
K̃hatev yave zirich likerk
Zolim’verev k̃hat pilpich likerk
Yem wakhtev niv ajab nan
Wuches̃h ne wost yav-e tan
Mũft khũrig̃h odatev vitk
Chũwan chũwan rẽ z̃hũ g̃has̃h pland
Skam sirf yi misolem dhet
Firuza tu kũk̃ht-e nan
Feroza was mother of all,
Domanant and powerful,
All would listen her directives,
Whatever she said , she would materialize them,
She would order, she would command,
She won’t complain to anyone,
She would become restless for doing work,
She won’t depend on anyone,
She had a hard temper,
She won’t spare anyone,
She won’t accept anyone,
She was attentive on everything,
This should be done, that should be done,
There should be her command on everything,
Sometimes, she would become so agressive,
Through her verbal expression, she would hurt people,
If something was not favorable to her,
She would wish to strike them in her heart,
She would get suffocated if there was smoke or ashe,
Preferred sometimes to remain on the sand but would never leave her work,
You would collect the wool and process them to clean,
You spinned the wool and ended its packing,
Handing it over to the weaver, you’d get the product,
Taking the yaks and goats, you’d go to the pastures,
Making the butter and chese, you’d draw out the dary products,
In the heating days of summer, you’d do harvesting,
You’d reap the faba-beans, barley and wheat,
You’d thresh them, you’d winow them and you’d clean them,
And you’d draw the dump of the produce,
In the heating days of the summer, you’d collect the apricots,
You’d process them to dry, you’d draw out the kernals,
You’d smash them and would grind them,
You’d process them (through the stone-based machine) and draw out the oil,
During the starving season of the Spring, you’d make the apricot juice,
To the travellers on their way to or from,
Whether they were your own or others,
You’d fill their stomach,
To all, you were like a mother,
You raised them like your children,
You’d visit each shrine,
You’d pray for us, you’d pray for the peace, you’d pray for the faith,
You’d pray for the living and for the food, ,
When there was no realization to provide education,
You kept me under your armpit, you caught my hands,
You enrolled me in the school,
You provided me the pen and book,
When there was poverty, everything we got from a mother’s hand,
A stomach has to get food and beverage,
A body needs dress and clothing,
One’s feet ought to have the footware ,
The platforms of the (traditional Wakhi) house has to have rugs and carpets,
Or, at least, there should be something to cover up to sleep,
In the upper portion of the house, there has to be utensils like plates and bowls,
Buckets and the butter churning tool,all the aforesaid items were of the wood in the past,
The granaries and storages needed to have grains and flour in them,
The livestock needed to have the stock of fodders and grasses,
Everything was produced by the people themselves,
At present, all things are brought from the bazaar,
Money is mother of everyone today,
Today, mothers are mother for producing children,
They are employed as servants today,
They have become mother of mothers today,
Now, the time has changed,
Everything is available in abundance ,
Hearts of the people have become cruel,
Everyone struggles to avail for himself or herself,
In the past, to the extent people would store for themselves,
That would cover their needs of a year,
Each task, the people would begin with the name of God,
They would take the names of their departed souls, would affirm those souls had their consent,
Due to lack of their knowledge,
They have spent extravagantly,
On the marriage and death rituals,
They have spent enormously on the bride’s return to her father’s house,
They have paid the pastureland grazing tax to the Mirs,
They have paid the taxes on agriculture and livestock,
Out of their agricultural produces and dairy products,
The people have paid the tax of feast to the Mir,
Also, they have paid the tax of dũs̃htak,
To the Pirs and the Imams,
And to all the shrines,
They have paid their rights unrightly,
They have given food to the staying guests,
To the robbers and to the cruels,
They have starved themselves,
But, for the cruels they have remained calmless,
Today, it’s strange to see the mothers,
They cannot lift their bodies for being overweight,
They are accustomed to eat the free food,
They prefer to eat without struggle,
I therefore presented just one example,
That Feroza was a mother of all.
The Story of Qurbon Khon and Companions in the Shimshal Pamir
Qurbon Khon of Shimshal would visit us in our home at Passu as we have closed kinship relationship with him. From the female line, he is also from the family of Ali Gohar and Ali Johar as both of the latter are real brothers and sons of Qurbon Shoh of Ghulkin. Qiymat Begum daughter of Ali Gohar was marreid to Shimshal and Qurbon Khon is an offspring of her. My mother, Feroza, knew her relatives very well as she was a granddaughter of Ali Johar.
It was so interesting to remember that Qurbon Khon so generously shared his life story with us that how he and his friends were arrested by the Chinese border security forces from the Shimshal Pamir. From the outset heere, I’d like to apologize if anything within the story is missed or otherwise. It’s not necessary that what he said, I exactly remember all but at least those aspects they are thought important could be deduced out of the real story narrated by him. The fascinating story follows in this manner as under.
Along with the pastoralists of Shimshal I was also at the residential area,Helgah, of the Pamir. One day, we took our flocks of sheep and goats and moved towards Sherbloq. Though, we were aware that the Chinese security forces, time to time, guard their borderland, I had fallen asleep after an exhaustion when left the flocks to graze around. When I woke up, I noticed, the weather condition was cloudy and seemed it was becoming dark.I closed my eyes again. In the meanwhile I heard hoofing voices of horses.
When I opened my eyes, I noticed that two riders got down near me. Immediately, they directed the guns over me. I got up fearfully and raised my hands up. They arrested me. First they tied my eyes and then asked me where are other people, my companions. I told them that they may be somewhere around but I’m not sure. The border security forces asked me to call them right now in front of them.
I moved relatively away on the green ground and called them loudly in Wakhi. I said: “O sisters and mothers, wherever you people are, run away to the distant places and hide yourselves. I have been arrested by the opposite forces.”
The Chinese soldiers would not understand the language.” They were happy and thought I was calling them to come near them. Interestingly, there have been some other Chinese guards who had arrested another companions of mine, He has become so scared, has screamed and resisted his arrest.
The Chinese soldiers have thus opened fire to terrify him. The firing has crossed by his ears and the purpose was not to kill him ratehr it was tactical to bend him so he should give his arrest.
Sooner the voice of shooting has come up, my companion who was my relative, has fallen himself down on the ground and made himself insane (to show he had lost his sense). The soldiers have watched him for a certain time and observed there was no movement from his body. They thought, he was died. Leaving him on the spot, the soldiers have taken their way back.
In the meanwhile, I noticed there were other people whom had been arrested and they included Zarmast of Ghulkin and others. We were taken to a confinement. Some other Chinese soldiers had reached at the Helgah and saw there were no people. All the dairy products, sighen, our women had made with painstaking, and also the rugs and other stuffs that were in the huts, the guards have thrown all of them in the river.
We were thus taken to the fortress of Sherbloq and got imprisonment for a considerable time.Getting bored inside, it was so much suffocating. We thus started singing songs and would praise the Mir of Hunza, our beloveds and others. One day, all of us were separated from each other.Sometimes, the soldiers would get enraged and say:
“For you people, we would give the food in such manner that a board would be holed and your heads would be crossed through , the food would be kept on the board, you’d then eat your food. Sometimes, when they had good moods, they would talk a bit friendly but we could not understand the languages of each other.
One day, a Chinese Wakhi man was brought for the translation and his name was Muhammad Khon.It was this man whose name I gave to my son as Muhammad Khon after he was born. He would thus mediate our thoughts together for being an interpreter. It was interesting to note that the Chinese soldiers asked us if there were the American forces around. If so, the Chinese forces won’t spare them. We have Mao Ze Dung as our leader.
Well, we the compainions were combined together, once again, after a long time in separate confinement. We again began singing together. We observed the stepping voices on the roof of the prison. They would thus listen us secretly. We thus intensified and amplified our voices by praising the Mir of Hunza, the rulers and wealth of China, and the like. As Muhammad Khon was with them and he would translate to them the poetries in the songs.
Muhammad Khon of Sariqol would thus come inside to meet us. Once, we asked him if we would be released. He shared with us further that discussions continue and there would be some progress. He told us that Zulol Sohib is dealing with the issue. We spent over a month there. Muhammad Khon further said that some representatives of Mir of Hunza may also come and talk to the Government. After the dialogue between the representatives of China and the State of hunza, you people would be released.However, the time would pass on with pains.
One day, we heard Muhammad Razo Beg of Ghulkin and his companions, being the delegates of Hunza, have reachd Toshqurghan. On the other, the Chinese delegation had also reached on the spot to discuss the states of affairs. After their successful dialogues, they have decided to release us.Finally, we got rid of the imprisonment.
The Chinese Government provided us clothes, food for the travel back to hunza and the like.
I then inquired and confirmed from our people of the delegation about the survival or death of our companion (who was my relative and whom the Chinese soldiers had left alone on the spot after their firing on him during his arrest in the Pamir. They said that he was survived because he had lost his sense and when has got restored, he has run away .
I conceived an idea to make a drama.I told our people that I’d make an artificial cry and weep by flowing tears. When the Chinese would inquire, you people should say that I mourn over the death of my relative on whom the Chinese security personnel had opened fire at the Shimshal border. Well, the idea was materialized before the Chinese.They shared the bad news and expressed their condolence to me.Muhammad Khon was also present there and did not know about it.
I thus pretended to cry and weep. The Chinese asked what was wrong? They were told the delegation that during the arrest of these people at the Pamir border, one of his relative was also there and the Chinese soldiers had opened fire on him and he had died. But he didn’t know about it. We thus told him the bad news, now.
The Chinese delgation made sorry and expressed their sorrow and sympathy with me. They thus provided us a lot of stuffs. Finally, all of us embraced and said good bye to each other .We thus left China and took our way for Hunza. We returned to our villages. After some years, I got a son. By honoring the Chinese Wakhi who compassionately helped us during our imprisonment, I named my son as Muhammad Khon.
It was back in the 1990s, if I rmemberr correctly, brother Ghulamuddin and I once went to Late Zulol’s house in Tashkurghan County and and we discussed various topics of mutual interests. Discussions were also made regarding the political strifes between the Chinese and Hunza borderlands in historical context specially between Shimshal Pamir and Tashkurghan County. For instance, why and how the shepards of the Mir were arrested and imprisoned in China and how come investigations were made of Mr. Zulal Khan and other people within China.
Late Zulol Khan shared the fascinating story in this fashon. One day, we heard that on the Shimshal border, our security forces had found a Malborro packet of cigaret. They have thus reported the news to their headquarters in Beijing.It sounds that the American forces have reached on our borders.Hearing about this critical news, the security forces have been ordered to reach on the spot and keep close on the movements keeping in account an emtpy packet of cigaret. Following that incidence, the Chinese forces have been so sensitive towards the borders with Hunza such as the Raskam and others.
Late Zulol said that I was ordered that I should take two Han soldiers with me and go to the respective border.We thus followed the Raskam route and reached at the borderland. After traversing the river water, we noticed that smoke was in the air in a hut of Shimshal Pamir.The forces immediately came in action to prepare the guns. I asked them not to prepare and fire on them at this stage. These are the simple native people and they don’t have even a batton with them.
The soldiers didn’t accept and prepared themselves to open fire. However, I told them not to fire and let me go inside the hut. When I entered inside, I found a poor man having long but uncombed hair.He saw me and was frightened seeing us. The womenfolk had hidden themselves in the internal part of the hut.
Looking at their poor condition, I assured him that I was his people. Not to worry. If there are other men with you, you need to produce them so we should have our formal and legal investigation. He brought another man, too. I took both of them out of the house and kept the terrified and poor women inside the hut and closed the door from outside. The Han soldiers wanted and emphasized to enter in the hut but I didn’t allow them because the situation might have changed to negativity.
Though, we had arrested the poor shepards,I was constantly repenting to imprison them without any sin or crime. My conscience never accepted it and my thoughts were in frequent conflict within themselves. I thought, if in case, these poor people fled , they must not be arrested, again.
I therefore showed a soft corner and gesture to them. Taking those pastorlists of Shimshal, we reached at the river ford. We had to traverse the water on our horses but the shepards had to cross it on foot. We rode our horses, one of the Chinese wanted to be behind all during crossing but I told him to be infront. The Shimshalis were putting off their trousers to cross the water as they were near a stone. While we entered in the water on our horses both of those men fled by taking the route of a ravine.
The Han soldiers straightend the guns on them but I resisted and told them not to make such mistake. They said, it’s part of our duty and do you take the the responsibilities on your shoulders.
I replied them with certainty that yes, I’m responsible. The pastoralists had disappeared by then and we returned to Tashkurghan.
Zulol have been the Commissioner and was with full official authority but the soldiers mood was so deteriorated. Both of them, who tried to compel me, were later known as so influential. They have reported the ground realities to the headquarters in Beijing. Consequently, I found an explanation letter from the center and I was ordered to reach Beijing for the explanation.
In short, I reached Beijing and appeared before the investigation team. They then asked me to narrate honestly what had happened? I told them the conditions with an honesty that there was no danger from their side. There was no gun no soldier there. They were the shepards of the Mir of Hunza State.There was no army, nothing.If there was any army on the border, we could then consider the sensitivities seriously.Those poor people on the border area do graze the livestock of sheep and goats. They thus subsist and survive based on pastoral practices.More particuarly, they were the shepards of Mir of Hunza State. In case, they had any guns with them and if they had fired on us, that was then something else, a highly valid point. But the situation was on the other way round as they are the poor people.I therefore thought it was not good to terrify and pursuade them with out any proper justification.
I thus fully defended the measures I had taken about the poor people.I then returned to Tashkrughan from Beijing.
I even also suggested that on the respective border area, we need to hold mutual dialogues between the Mir of Hunza State and China as it was not clear whose area was it. I thus made a report and submitted to the high authorities in the center.
Zulol has clarified it to the Beijing that there was no American, nothing in the area. In case, if tomorrow any American comes at the border, you may then arrest me. Otherwise, I know there is no American. Ratehr, there are those poor sheperds of the Mir of Hunza.
Though, I formally conclude here the stories of my life, based on my learning, personal experiences and first hand accounts, I know that there are enormous dimensions and stories awaited and are undercover yet and they may be brought to the lime light in the near future.
The biographic stories of Ali Qurban ended here. Those who have missed the first, second and third parts of the biography can read them on the following links:
Note: I owe my sincere appreciation and indebtedness to Mr. Niyyat Karim and Mr. Ghulam Amin Beg of Gulmit, Hunza, for their productive reflections and feedback after review of the whole draft of biography.
Second, I had conducted a detailed video interview with Ali Qurban around his biography and other topics in English, Urdu and Wakhi for my YouTube Channel named EaglesWorl. Those interested can access and watch them on the folloing link: