By Fazal Amin Beg
Life of all individdual humans anywhere anytime and at any age or stage is accompanied by series and different types of challenges and problems.Such phenomena of life in a natural order encourage and stimulate the individuals to remain active, proactive, positively bring in use their intellectual faculty as a highest level of gift, strive to look at the states of affairs in a positive way to come up with effective and productive solutions in different realms to bring change and development within oneself , one’s family and society. In the face of such challenges and difficulties, if people, whether at individual or collective scale, start giving up their struggles in a logical and consistent manner, neglect the genuine needs and aspirations for change, no positive or significant level of results could be anticipated in one’s own life and society as a whole. Rather, the challenges and problems will get multiplied and intensified resulting chaos , anarchy and turbulance at all levels. It is therefore imperative on each individual human to be sensitive enough, careful and realistic with regard to one’s own and others problems , aspirations and struggles and productively contribute towards the effective solutions.
Besides other considerations, each human’s life, no matter what their age, stage, status, educational level, gender or sexual orientation may be, is also significant and worthy in such respects that it is filled with variety and various types of experiences against the confronted challenges, problems and success stories from which other humans could get realistic and practical lessons and wisdoms for themselves in comparison with their own confronted and personal experiences .
Due to such rationales in hand, I have been focusing on the experiential knowledge of people in different culture and societies and have been striving to get something out of their life experiences to explore, analyze and contribute my little part within my very limited capacity towards the huge body of holistic knowledge.In this regard, so far, I have conducted and documented more than 150 biographic interviews of different people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China. Some of them, which I’ve brought in written form have been published on my website (FAZALAMIN.COM). and some of them could be found in video form published on my YouTube Channel known as “EaglesWorld.” .
Well, in this little contribution in textual form, I’m going to present some important aspects of the biography of Ms. Zahida Parveen, a humane, considerate, caring , humble and affectionate artist of the Northern Pakistan, especially known for singing devotional songs in Persian, Wakhi and Urdu in addition to singing poetries of other natures. She is also known as Zahida Khan, Zahida Parveen Khan and Zahida Sultan (behind her husband) on the social media platforms. I have heere however opted for her actual name as documented in her official documents, though she also prefers to be called as Zahida Khan (the surname behind her great father named dawlat Khan).
It’s noteworthy that being relatives, I know Zahida Parveen as well as Sultan Ahmad Khan and their families very well, however in professional and voluntary capacity as a radio artist I started to know her only when she was serving the Wakhi Program termed as “Voice of the Roof of the World” in Radio Pakistan, Gilgit Station where she would host variety of the programs. Apart from her official responsibilities, she would also generously contribute in singing the Wakhi devotional poetries of various important poets by pouring a genuine taste in them through her sweet and gifted voice. Besides, he also contributed in FM 99 and listeners would enjoy listening her moderation or singing.
Keeping in view her artistic talent, competency and potential before me, I requested and offered Zahida Parveen if she likes to sing one of my poetries in Wakhi in 2019. She so graciously and generously agreed and prepared the song with no time. The poetry was based on the nature and philosophy towards spiritualism.Zahida Parveen thus sung the lyrics with the great music collaboration of Shumol Band of Hunza, with the sponsorship of my brother Ghulam Amin Beg and the song named “Inson” (Human) was thus released in the first week of November 2019 , where Faizan Ali Arman Ali of Gulmit was the joint singer.This song thus became so popular and was liked by thousands of listeners with their productive comments and feedback.
It was a great gesture and truly friendly support, indeed. If Zahida Parveen could come forward, care, honor and contribute this much in the case of singing or reciting my poetries, what could I do genuinely to her was a big question mark before me.Although, monetary support or remuneration to an extent could also be considered (which is for the time being only) but what about her deserving and humble personality filled with lots of challenging stories on the one hand,and her talents, experiences and other aspects of her life on the other? Should I end it up here or should I write something about some important aspects of her life? As a researcher, writer and poet, these were some of the actual questions that stimulated me to opt for contributing little bit on her life history and personality either in poetic or in textual form.It was and is not a big deal to compose a poetry on the subject matter (which I could think for) but the details of her life evoluation cannot be brought under some stanzas unless we know the real stories, challenges faced and experiences gained by her. This could then be better described and explained in proses than poetry.
For such reasons, I got an interview with Zahida Parveen in December 2019 so to know about her life stories and experiences and capture them in written form so the other artists, especially womenfolk could compare their life journeys with those of her and could better get real world lessons in many ways.
Responding to the questions in a logical order, Zahida Parveen begins with her actual and official name as well as her date of birth then moves towards sharing with us her family background (both paternal and maternal). Describing her families at nuclear, joint and wider scales, she so nicely explains the rural setting of Chipursan valley, the absence of availing the basic educational facility at her birth place (named Spenj) forty years ago, her schooling in her maternal family’s village, craving for her parents for being away from them, the worldview of the people at that time, the school environment at middle level and appearing in her matriculation examination as an irregular or private student due to absence of any formal high school in the whole valley comprised on more than nine villages.
In a contrast to many people who are observed for exageration with regard to their success or achievement or hiding the real information, Zahida Parveen is witnessed for her honesty and upstanding in telling us the truth with regard to her apparent result at secondary or higher secondary level which she passed with third division.She nicely analyzes the condition of the people of the whole area and reveals that how she evidenced the ground realities while spending times among the people in diffeent villages or area within Gilgit-Baltistan Region. She further describes about her educational pursuence and the true challenges faced at higher secondary level while entering in college in Gilgit including the study environment and accomodation issues for girls at that time.Like her schooling life in another village with her maternal family members, she remains appreciative of her maternal uncle and family in Gilgit as well.
Zahida Parveen then enters in another chapter of her life when she had not yet passed her Intermediate level education but she got early marriage due to the social pressure and cultural norms back in 1999 and consequently getting two children while she had not yet qualified her F.A. examination. She acknowledges her husband’s role for providing mentorship to her at this stage. She does not give up the struggle in her educational journey and prepares herself for B.A. degree. However, before appearing in the exam, she gets her third child and there comes up a long break, again. Being an affectionate mother, she takes care of her children and in the meanwhile also struggles to continue her education as well as look for some job. On the one hand, she does qualifies her b.A. examination and on the other, she also starts serving Radio Pakistan, Gilgit, in the Wakhi program.
It’s so inspiring to note a true passion of Zahida Parveen for singing, especially the devotional poetries. When we look retrospectively she had already started it during her young age while reciting or singing the devotional poetries in the prayer halls called Jamatkhanas. Such activities and participation in the events provided her good opportunities to learn and experience them in persian and later on in Wakhi while serving Radio Pakistan, Gilgit.
The most heart touching point before me, for which I have a high respect and true love, indeed and behind which it is an emotional moment, was saving the paid amount of money as remuneration from the Radio Pakistan, Gilgit, that Zahida Parveen has re-used for recording the Wakhi devotional poetries in her sweet and soothing voice in order to enrich the content and volume of the radio program in Wakhi. When looked in the current context where greed is on its height but she proves her generosity and affection for her mother tongue promotion in multiple ways. Though some readers may negatively connect this important aspect of Zahida Parveen’s contribution with her persoal promotion, what I could see it as a genuine passion for her mother tongue promotion through her gifted and impactful voice within her capacity.
Moving ahead in her discussion, Zahida Parveen describes about her activities in Islamabad in result of her husband’s employment and shift from Gilgit. Her voluntary contributions could be seen marvellous as she teaches the devotional poetries and songs to the students of a religious center in Islamabad. The capital city provides her relatively good opportunities to overcome some of her frustrations and challenges on the way she was facing. Here she tries to meet her artistic needs and desires she deserves in addition to learning some technical skills in line with computer software in video editing and so on.
It is noteworthy that it was Islamabad, again, where Zahida Parveen enthusiastically contributed not only towards singing of poetries (in Wakhi, Urdu and Persian) of diferent poets including mine but rather during the unpredictable and highly frustrated pandemic year in 2020, she also so graciously joined hand with me to play our part in sensitizing the Wakhi community and wonderfully spoke and made five videos in Wakhi on COVID-19, for which she received a high appreciation for her contribution. It was a voluntary venture named as Viral Languages Project initiated by University of Baffalo, New York, University of Hawaii and University of London in collaboration with the World health Organization (WHO). The related videos, their transcriptions and English translations are available on my website (FAZALAMIN.COM) in addition ot the virallanguages youtube channel (the links could be found in the annex of this write-up).
During the hard year of the pandemic in 2020, she prepared and beautifully sang one of my Persian devotional poetries named Gulzor-e Imomat on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration of His Highness, Prince Karim Aga Khan that was released on July 11, 2020.The music played in this project was by the Iranian musicians .moreover, Zahida Parveen also generously contributed towards the EaglesWorld Channel by singing Persian devotional poetries in addition to reciting couples of my poetries in Wakhi as well as reading a concerned report on COVID-19 focused on Gilgit-Baltistan Region.
Although, Zahida Parveen has, time to time, contributed to sing poetries of her husband, Sultan Ahmad, in 2021, she also pursuaded and prepared a devotional song of a renowned wakhi poet Saifuddin Saif of Hunza and jointly performed with a senior Wakhi artist of Hunza named Fazal Rahman Shirin Sado.While in Islamabad, she has also moderated some panel discussions for the social media groups such as Wakhi TV and other social media forums. Well, the list is long to describe all. I’m trying to capture those only which I know myself and sounds so significant.
In 2021, around her deep passion in music, she bravely initiates and attempts to learn some basics of piano and gets a basic level in it from a professional musician in Islamabad.During this time, she also creates her own FaceBook Page named and available as Zahida Sultan. She has been struggling to spare time for her creatitivies and make them available to her followers on her FB Page.
Although, the biography of Zahida Parveen could be perceived by many in different contexts among the readers and through their own specific lenses, she also could be witnessed so courageously talking about, advocating for and analyzing the human rights issues, especially women’s right, ranging from the education to employment, property rights and other aspects. Finally, she comes up with her deep messages and practical recommendations to the parents, youth and children that what do they need to do realistically in the current situation and in the near future.
From here onward, I would invite the readers to read Zahida Parveen’s life history in a lively manner in her own words as she speaks in a natural order. I hope the readers would carefully read her interesting and adventurous life history as a woman , though she has a long way to go yet in her life.
Zahida Parveen Khan: A Humble Human and A Gifted Singer with Consistent Life Struggles and Achievements
Birth and Family Background
My official name is Zahida Parveen and Khan is my surname as my father’s name is Dawlat Khan. That’s why I’m also known by Zahida Khan. My husband’s name is Sultan Ahmad and for this reason I am also known as Zahida Sultan. I’m thus identified by these three names but I prefer to be called as Zahida Khan or Zahida Parveen. My mother’s name is Bibi Anjir.
I was born in Spenj (Chipursan valley of Hunza, Northern Pakistan)and my actual date of birth is January 7, 1978.However, it’s interesting to note that in the educational and legal documents my year of birth is 1977 (one year earlier), which could be seen against the set tradition of our area where parents or teachers would reduce one or two years out of the actual year of birth.This seems a blunder by the school teachers.
We are eight children of our parents. I’ve thus four sisters and four brothers. I’m oldest of all. Following me is Nahida Nasrin and then Muhammad Ali, Asiya Parvin, Rubina Jabin, Farida Jabin, Muhabat Shah, Abdullah Khan and Shakir Ali. My father has two brothers and four sisters. His brothers are named Ghulam Hassan (who passed away recently) Ali Muhammad (who had passed away long time ago in his youth) and Khalil Ahmad (who is alive). My uncle Ghulam Hassan had married with a Khoja woman named aunty Bibi Yasmin and was settled in the United States. After a long time, they got separated (as they have two sons. My uncle then got married in Hunza with Aziza daughter of mehrban Shah (having three children) and are based in Gilgit.My younger uncle Khalil Ahmad has married with Shar-e Gul daughter of Safeer of Gircha (Hunza) and they have three daughters. My father’s sisters are named as Shamah married with Shah Rustam of Ghulkin, Suhbat Numoh married with Ali Akbar of Reshit, Bibi Izat married with Karimdad of Kirmin and Rukhsana married with Nazir of Spenj.
My mother is daughter of Bakhtawar Shah son of Sikandar Shah of Shahr-e Savz.my mother has no sister and has three brothers named Muhammadullah (married with La’l Jahan daughter of Teighun Shah of Ghulkin), Ghulam Rasul (married with Bakht dauther of Aga Baig of Sisuni)and Abdullah Baig (married with Bibi Khunzo daughter of Aman Baig of Shahr-e Savz).
My father’s father name was Arbob Rustam Khan and his father was Arbob Ali Muhammad.my paternal family is named as Bakht Kũtor, named behind one of our forefathers named Bakht Rustam of Ghulkin, a famous and rich personality of his time behind him this lineage is known as Bakht Kũtor, which in turn is a descending branch of Khawaja Ahmad Busing Kũtor. My paternal ancestor has migrated from Ghulkin to Chipursan valley perhaps six or seven generation earlier. The name of mother of my paternal grandfather Rustam Khan was Durdana and she was daughter of Ulfat Shah of Ghulkin.
my mother’s family belong to the Mir’s family of Hunza (being descendent of Abdullah Khan son of Mir Shah Silum Khan). My father’s mother (grandma Bibi Zenab) was a sister of my maternal grandfather Bakhtwar Shah and daughter of Sikandar Shah.my maternal grandfather had thus two brothers and six sisters (having separate mothers: three on one mother and three on another). Their names are Bibi Zenab wife of Rustam Khan of Spenj, Bibi Husniya wife of Muhammad Jali of Res̃hit Bibi Roshan wife of Teghun Shah of Ghulkin, Tai Bibi wife of Ghulam Rahmon of Ghulkin, Husni Ja wife of Nuruddin of Kirmin, and finally Bargun wife of Murod Khon of Imit (Ishkoman valley). My maternal grandfather Bakhtawar Shah’s brothers were Tawakal Shah and Ali Fatah (the last one was my father-in-law). There was another brother of my grandfatehr (having a separate mother) named Ghulam Sarwar in Ishkoman valley who is also not alive as he had gone under the snow-avalanche during his military services. My maternal grandmother was daughter of Ali Fatah (son of Abdullah Khan son of Mir Shah Silum Khan III) and sister of Sultan Ali Samarqand.
Childhood Memories and School Life
Though, I was born in Spenj (a village of Chipursan valley, I spent my childhood with my grandparents in Shahr-e Savz (a neighboring village when was I five years old. I’ve thus grown up in my maternal family and study from Grade 1 to 8 (in the Diamond Jubilee middle school of Shahr-e Savz. Although, there was a primary school in Spenj, my parents preferred to get education from Shar-e Savz while spending mmy erly life with my maternal family., My maternal uncles Muhammadullah Baig and Abdullah Baig as well my aunty Lal Jahon were also teachers in the same school. My parent thus thought I’d be getting proper education and care there. For such reasons, I spent my early life in Shar-e Savz.
At present, I must mention here , when I’ve come to my middle life and have become a mother myself that keeping a child away from the parents in the childhood leaves a negative impact on him or her in terms of parental care and affections. When a child spends his or her life with her pparents in such stage of life. The love and affection cannot be given by any other individuals of the family.this aspect I feel strongly and that lacked in my early life.there is no denial at all that my maternal grandparents and uncles looked after and cared me extraordinarily but I missed my parents love and affection all the time that left a negative impact on me in different context.I can realize this subtle point at present that a child should be with his or her parents during the early life, even up to secondary level of education. Otherwise, if not possible, at least up to ten years of their age, the children should be with their parents, which is quite logical and foundational. However, I’d reiterate that if the children are up to secondary level of education with their parents would be so appreciative as the nourishment and training they get more effectively from their parents. The love a child has for his or her parents cannot be felt by any other family members.
When I was enrolled in the school for the first time, I don’t recall the very moment and event but I remember the days that I missed my parents seriously. My maternal grandfather was so compassionate and caring towards me and my maternal grandmother was strict in nature.He’d scold me and even beat us sometimes as keeping in view that time, such approaches were customary as it’s said in Wakhi: “Band̃i bihisht en” (stick is from the heaven” and children were punished physically. But in the contemporary period, we cannot punish the children. My maternal uncles also extended their care and affection towards me. They would teach me and pay the school fees (as was PKR 10/- per month initially and then it increaased up to two hundred rupees per month).
It was too much cold during our childhood in winter season. We would thus go out and play with my childhood friends and companions My grandpa Tawakal Shah’s daughters including Gohar Nigor (who is married with Rasul Bakhsh of Kirmin), Marina (married in the same village with Haji Karim and Bibi Manjon (married with Siraj Ali) were also of my age and were friends of my childhood as we were at the same place. In the school , I had many class fellows, both boys and girls , some of them included Haji Karim son of Hussain, Karimuddin, Fazal Karim son of Am Baig (who is now a Mukhi),Salma daughter of Ibrahim, Pari Zohra daughter of Niyatullah, .
We would also attend religious classes in the school. Our religious teachers included Ustad Asmatullah Mushfiq (who would train us in reciting the devotional poetries in Persian (this is why my basic Persian is good), Ustad Lutfullah Baig (he was one of my good teachers at both places in secular and religious schools). In addition, my maternal uncle Abdullah, my aunty La’l Jahan, Ustad Ali Akbar, Ustad Qurban Shah, Ustad Bakhshdil Khan, Ustad Parvaiz and so on were also my school teachers up to Middle level in the DJ school of Shahr-e Savz.
My favorite school teacher was my maternal uncle Abdullah who would never punish us and instead would extend his afection during the lesson. In the same manner, Ustad Lutfullah was also so kind and won’t punish the students and would teach nicely. It was interesting that unlike others my favorite subject was Urdu. English was also my favorite subject but I couldn’t reach up to the mark. On the other, I won’t like Mathematics from the beginning and that is why I’m not good in Maths. Likewise, general science was not my favorite subject.
When I was in the lower grades or classes in the school, I used to get second position in the annual examinations. But gradually the positions I began to lose and secure third positions and finally reached to just passing marks at higher level.At primary level examination, in Grade 5, I also got second position. However, in the middle level examinations (from Grade 6 through) I would get third positions. I don’t know the reasons exactly that why such decline came in my school’s examination and few of them may be due to remaining away from my parents, wasting my time, having workload at home and the like.
I pursued my secondary level education privately and not as a regular student because there was no high school in the area in Chipursan valley.the books had been purchased and I would study them myself and my maternal uncle would also teach me sometimes.for the examination, I thus reached Gulmit as there was the examination Center and I appeared in the matriculation examination as an external or irregular candidate. During my examination, I stayed in the house of uncle Muhammad Rahbar son of Abdul Bari, as he is the maternal first cousin of my mother in addition to my kinship relationship with him from my paternal grandmother side. Finally, I qualified the examination (with third division D Grade) perhaps in 1995. The reason for being such low division, as mentioned, was because of absence of secondary level school in the area and deprivation of having regular classes. This important factor I strongly felt and still feel that if I had the opportunity of availing secondary level classes, I would have secured high marks in the secondary examination.
It is interesting to note that among the secondary level subjects, my favorite subject was again Urdu. And within Urdu, I loved the ghazals such as those of Mir Dard, Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and the like.although, I myself am so interested in the ghazals, I myself have not yet come up towards composing poetries.however, it’s known to many that I’ve already entered in the singing field. It developed in me from my childhood as I used to sing the Urdu poems and devotional poetries. With the course of time, I used to sing the devotional poetries in groups in the jamatkhanas of our villages. Most of the time, I do sing the devotional poetries independently, which I began in Gilgit after my marriage.
Higher Education, Matrimonial Life and Challenges
Though, I had appeared in my FA examination, I couldn’t qualify a couple of subjects due to financial issues, early marriage, matrimonial life and so on. Because of financial constraint, it was not possible for my parents to accomodate me in a hostel. I had to thus live with my maternal uncle Muhammadullah’s family for two years of my F.A (part I and II).It’s noteworthy that for the female students, it becomes problem most of the time to effectively pursue one’s education dedicately while living with the families as the domestic chores hamper on them and their education gets suffered. This I could realize at present when I myself have become a mother.
Well, I was married on January 28, 1999 with Sultan Ahmad when I was twenty years old only and I had not yet completed my intermediate level education from the Government Degree College for Women, Gilgit. the marriage was based on our closed kinship relation as my parents and my husband were the first cousins (my father’s mother and my husband’s father being real sister and brother; and my mother’s father and my husband’s father being real brothers). Our marriage could not be termed based on our mutual understanding as these days it’s preferred in most of the time before engagement. It was thus familial arrangement , though Sultan Ahmad has also proposed me and I was also asked to get my consent. after the engagement, I was so interested to continue my education but due to the set social norms and pressures, we had to get married immediately.
Following our marriage, I got a son Faizan Ahmad and a daughter Uswa Zenab. However, Sultan Ahmad encouraged me to repeat my intermediate level education. I thus appeared in my FA examination (part I & II combined) as a private candidate where I studied myself and Sultan Ahmad would also extend some mentorship for me as he himself had done his Masters in Public Administration (MPA). Couples of years after marriage, I thus qualified my FA examination with third division in a situation where I had already two children.
altogether, we have thus four children including Faizan Ahmad, Uswa Zenab, Shayan Ahmad and Sanan Ahmad. Faizan Ahmad was born after two years of our marriage and at present (by December 2019) he pursues his intermediate level education; Uswa Zenab studies in Grade 9; Shayan Ahmad is in Grade 7; and Sanan Ahmad is in Grade 4. Though, it is important to note that all children are equal before me as a mother, my first child Faizan Ahmad is so compassionate in nature.
Reiterating the the aforesaid stances, let me emphasize that pursuing my education consistently was thus so difficult in such a complicated situation for me being a mother and a wife. Nonetheless, the germ was within me and I didn’t give up my mission and continued my endeavors in education. The optional subjects I had in my FA were sociology, education and civics and among them, I liked the most was sociology. This provided me to understand, more particuarly the social interactions with different people When I began to work with Radio Pakistan Gilgit, the subject of sociology helped me significantly to know people in various contexts.
Moving ahead, for the purpose of Bachelor’s level education and degree, I got admission in the same Government Degree College for Women in Gilgit in 2006. I appeared in BA Part I examination but at the same time there came up interruption in the educational travel when I got my third child Shayan Ahmad. There came up thus a break in the middle of the study. Though, at the intermediate level education, my husband had helped me in terms of teaching at home, at BA level, it was difficult for him to mentor me as he had also his own priorities at various scales such as his professional endeavors and commitments because he was looking for employment at different places. Initially he was serving Karakoram Area Development Organization (KADO) Hunza; then joined IUCN; then in Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan (AKESP); and in such manner he would change the organizations.
Not giving in, I resumed my educational mission at bachelor level after my son was a bit grown up and did pass my BA examination with third division again. The optional subjects in BA were sociology, education and Persian. My favorite subject at this level was Persian and I enjoyed too much to study it and I teach Persian devotional poetries to the students in the Religious Education Center in Islamabad.
Although, I was determined to get admission in the Masters degree program from Karakoram International University in Gilgit but because of third division I couldn’t qualify the criteria as it requires minimum second division. I was then suggested to get admission again in BA from Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU). For this purpose, I got admission in Mass Communication/journalism. But the residences and house addresses got changed time and again and the issues intensified.the related documents thus got scattered and finally they were lost unfortunately.
At present, when I’ve reached in my middle age and being a mother of four children, I could analyze the situations effectively that where does the actual issues and problems exist.for a woman or a girl in our society, more domestic work hampers on her creative and educational plans.I’ve been involved in domestic work, as part of the brutally defined women’s chore in many ways from my childhood.when I got early marriage, my responsibilities and difficulties intensified at different fronts.when I got children, the conditions surrounded me incredibly and exhaustively to take care of them and other joint family members.consequently, I couldn’t get time for my study and education, for which I was craving and was in so much hunger. To add, I must say that it’s so difficult to raise and look after the kids and take care of the children as a mother like me to spare time and opt for other creative work in life. Nevertheless, I’m still yearning for acquiring education and I’ll see if could manage, I should study ahead as for getting education there is no and should not be age consideration.I’ve my plan to do the masters degree and then have my advanced study in the future, if I could manage.
Experiences in Professional Capacity and Performing Arts
For over six years from 2010 to 2016, I worked with Radio Pakistan Gilgit in the Wakhi Program known as Sado-e Bom-e Dunyo (Voice of the Roof of the World). Here, I would host the radio programs according to the set schedules. In the aftermath, I also worked with Human Enterprise Development Institute (HEDI) at the reception and would deal the students and clients coming to know about the institute.
As described earlier, I used to recite and sing the devotional poetries when I was young and studying in the school.Along with my female classmates of three or four in groups, I would sing the Persian poetries in the Jamatkhanas in Chipursan.but at individual scale, I began to recite and sing the devotional poetries in Gilgit. Such activities of my childhood and student life provided me a confidence to lead towards the performing arts and for being an artist.
When I joined and served the Wakhi Program (Voice of the Roof of the World) in Radio Pakistan, Gilgit (from 2010 to 2016),nice opportunities emerged to present my creative contributions within my limited capacity as a host and as a singer of devotional poetries in Wakhi. The first poetries in Wakhi I had sung here was that of the renowned and senior Wakhi poet, Ustad Asmatullah Mushfiq of Shar-e Savz. Afterwards, another senior poet , Ahmad Riaz Ahmad of Gulmit, handed over a devotional Wakhi poetry (Na’t) to me that I had sung on the Radio. Besides, Sultan Ahmad, had also his devotional poetries (such as Noha, Zikr-re Hussain) and four of them I had sung, too. In addition, I also sung three devotional poetries of Ustad Bahram Baig of Reshit. In the same manner, I’ve also sung a poetry of a well-known Wakhi poet, Saifuddin Saif of Ghulkin.
On November 2, 2019, one of the fascinating poetries of Fazal Amin Beg of Gulmit, which was about the nature, philosophy and spiritualism, was backed and released by the Shumol Music Band of Ghulkin. This was sung jointly by Faizan Ali Arman Ali of Gulmit and I myself, which stood to be popular at international scale. The first stanza of this poetry follows in this manner:
Khirad Khũdhoye ki ta’r dhetk, shũk’rev bajo ko wũzũm
Haywon’v en ki twoi yũwretk, zikrev c̃hũto ko wũzũm
If God, the Almighty, has bestowed upon you the intellect, come up with a special gratitude,
If you’ve been separated from other animals, come up with a special indebtedness.
In brief, altogether, I think I’ve sung more than 20 poetries of different poets in Wakhi by now (December 2019). It should be noted that against the performance in radio Pakistan, Gilgit, like other artists, I was being paid for the singing of the poetries in the Wakhi program . It may be an interest to the concerned readers to share one of my productive activities related with creative work. I used to save the small amount of money I was being paid in the Radio Pakistan, Gilgit. Consequently, the saved money I would bring in use for the purpose of recording the poetries/lyrics to quench the thirst of my singing that would then come in the public. Those recorded poetries, sung by me, are still broadcast in the Wakhi program. Though, it was the assignment of Radio Pakistan to sponsor for such types of recording, I opted to bring the poetries in my voice to the limelight as I had a special enthusiasm for it. It should be noted that the poetries recorded earlier in the studios in Gilgit were without music but it was the poetry of Fazal Amin Beg, which I had a joint singing performance, was with music for the first time with the collaboration of the Shũmol Band and it became so famous in November 2019.
Although, I like too much and have sung so far the devotional poetries of diffeerent Wakhi poets as well as Persian, I’m also interested to sing non-devotional poetries based in social, nature, philosophical, homeland, love and romantic contexts. However, it’s noteworthy that the Persian devotional songs I highly prefer to sing and for this purpose , I had prepared four poetries (Kalams) of Pir nasir Khusraw but couldn’t record them due to financial challenges with me, as these days when those poetries are sung with music, it involves more and more money.
It is again noteworthy that also prepared a Persian poetry of Fazal Amin Beg (Jashn-e Gulzor-e Imomat) and I hope to record it and bring in public on the occasion of the Imamat Day 2020. .
Besides, I do sing Urdu songs but I’ve never sung them in the public. Instead, I sing them in isolation as from my childhood I was so fond of Urdu ghazals. One of them I like too much and let me narrate them here for the purpose of presenting a different flavor here. The ghazal is of Jegjit Sing.
Pathar bana diya mujhe, roney nahi diya
Dãman bhi terey gham ne bigoney nahi diya
Tanhayiya tumahara pata puchtey rahi
Shab bhar tumharey yad ne, soney nahi diya
Apart from singing in Wakhi, Persian and Urdu, I also like hosting and moderating programs and events, as I used to do in Radio Pakistan, Gilgit.I have the capacity to even moderate the discussions whether live or recorded.In addition, I’ve also hosted an effective What’s App Group of the Global Wakhi community named K̃hik Dũnyo (Wakhi World).
I must mention here that I myself have also deep passion for learning music. But it’s unfortunate that there is no enabling environment for Wakhi women starting from one’s own home to the society in the field of music to appropriately and professionally learn it. For this purpose, it’s important for the interested women and girls to take bold initiatives in the field. It’s imperative for them to come forward and practically involve themselves in learning diferent musical instruements. In my case, for example, along with singing, I am primarily interested to learn piano and later on plan to learn the string and wind instruments, but there are some existing challenges on the way from different sides that hamper over my set goals in the field. However, being women, we need not to be scared of such types of challenges and issues but rather prepare ourselves to overcome them with patience, if we have a true passion, spirit and strenght.
The male members of our community should encourage female in music as they do so for the men. For instance, if my daughter, Uswa Zenab, wants to choose music as her profession, Sultan Ahmad and I will have to encourage and support her in the field unlike the traditional approach.those parent among our Wakhi community, who are well educated, can understand that like their sons, their daughters also deserve their genuine rights to be given to them. In brief, in any field my daughter wants to choose for her profession, we will and should not discourage her. As I know that she is also interested in singing and music and for this reason, we do appreciate her to go forward as this field possesses also a great hub of knowledge and various types of skills. As it’s normally said that music unites and religion divides. It means when music is played, it brings people together and when there are any religious ritual, people from out of the faith are hesitant to attend the events as it draws people out.
Technical Skills , Sports and Other Interest Areas
On the suggestion of Sultan Ahmad, I also got training in editing the audio and vedio documents in Islamabad.I thus learned the basics of this skill and can also work in the photoshop software to an extent. But for such tasks, it’s important to have a laptop of high quality, which I don’t have at present to facilitate the nature of work I’ve learned for a month or so. However, I’m optimistic to mange such issues of relatively small scales.
Well, it may seem strange to some people that in the field of sports, I’ve least interst. When I was a child, I used to play Doraq (a game played by the children where they’d strike the blown small stones on the ground with one of their fingers, particuarly the forefinger).
On the television, I normally watch the singing programs or other aspects of performing arts; while on the social media, I prefer to read or listen mostly sayings of the great personalities of the world. In adition, I also watch or listen the discussions on the psychological topics, more particuarly with regard to the children and their mental and physical development.
Voluntary Services, Social Changes and Women’s Condition
Within the voluntary domain in my life at communal scale, I have been sharing and trying to contribute my part for the social development. In the Religious Education Center (REC), within the jurisdiction of the Jamatkhana in Islamabad (Karachi Company), I have been teaching the children the devotional Persian poetries, teaching the designed curricula for the children.
furthermore, I also participated in appropriately learning and teaching the Holy Qur’an.I can thus also teach the Qur’an to a significant level.in addition, I teach the prayers to the children and also offer prayer in the jamatkhana as well as prepare the ob-e shafo (pure water) for the rituals.I’m also a member of Bayt-ul Khayal (literally as House of Thoughts), a forum for spiritual practices before the morning prayers . when I was in Gilgit and Chipursan, I used to take the religious classes of the children.
At present, when Imam of the Time has directed us to offer our services for the community in the name of Time and Knowledge Nazrana, I’ve offered my voluntary services in a formal way by filling the form. For this reason, I do go to the Religious Education Center (REC) on regular basis and never miss the class against my pledge and commitment with our beloved Imam of the Time
Well, regarding the women of our region, when I look and observe their conditions in the past (during my childhood and youth time), there was nothing for them. But when I see and compare the women of today in the current context, enormous changes we could find among them. The girls are encouraged and given education in the high level of insitutions.in the fields of their interst, they could go in many ways at present, although there are some exceptional cases where women are not permitted to go according to the will or consent of the women themselves.For instance, the women are witnessed to go abroad for educational, professional and employment purposes. More importantly, these days, the womenfolk can also get married according to their will and understanding, which is quite the contrast when seen retrospectively at least even during our time. At present, the time has become so enabling for the daughters and I think their rights are given to them to a significant level.
Although, land or property right for daughters is a big question mark yet, it has its own implications when looked through our cultural lenses and societal realities. For instance, when Farida Khan, my youngest sister will get married with a man from Punjabi Ismaili, she cannot get the land , which is for the sons as per our customary law.If the land properties are given to the daughters, it would be great but it involves some critical implications in societal context. The genuine concerns would arise if the marriages of our daughters are not taken place within Wakhi community, particulary Isma’ili Muslims, more societal issues will emerge. For instance, if a parent has two sons and a daughter and the land was divided among them equally and the daughter gets married with a Sunni Muslim or from other faith communities, the prospective conflicts and clashes of religious norms and values could emerge as there is a radical difference between the belief system of the Ismaili and Sunni communities. In our case, for instance, I’ve a daughter and three sons, and my daughter gets married according to her will outside the community, we would give her the land in the Urban areas like Islamabad or Rawalpindi but not in Hunza. We plan that when we would purchase land in Islamabad, we would make four equal parts to our sons and daughter alike.
Travel to Canada and the Time Ahead
Although, I’ve been to different parts of Pakistan, at international scale I got an opportunity to travel to Canada. I visited this fascinating country when Sultan Ahmad was going to get his Master’s degree from there and I thus also joined him. I spent ten days in Canada and I liked this great country, indeed. the social environment is so friendly here for women as no fear can be anticipated as we normally come across in Pakistan. I also visited a jamatkhana there. I finally returned immediately by travelling independently.there was no fear at all to travel on my own.
On the other, Sultan Ahmad stayed there to seek job and thought to look for the opportunities to opt for his PhD degree from Canada.he had a plan that if he got a job position there, he would then also shift all our nuclear family there. When I was back to Pakistan, it was a misfortunate incident that Sultan’s younger brother, Saeed Ahmad, got accident and passed away in 2010.It was thus so difficult for him to remain in Canada and he had to return to take care of his parents and other family members.
Well, in the future, in the upcoming five to ten years time, I would like to be part of a religious insitution and also to improve myself in English language. For this purpose, I had attended classes of one month in Gilgit organized by Pinnacle .
In the same way, with the course of time, if I could get an enabling environment, I would certainly opt for and seriously learn some musical instruments . Moreover, as described above, I also look forward to my formal education to do my Masters. If I could get conducive environment and support, I will also move ahead for advance studies as for getting education there should not be age limit, I think.
Messages and Recommendations
Finally, I would like to end up here and convey my humble messages and recommendations to the parents that they should spare time to their children, nourish, educate and train them appropriately these days, every facilities we could witness our children have for them also including the Internet, and the children can get all information for themselves from it. but the children need effective and positive guidance that which desirable sites should they follow as the Intent has both the positive and negative aspects in the sites. The children could thus go towards the negative sites. The parents therefore need to guide, monitor and supervise them that what sorts of sites they have visited. In other words, the parents and other family members need to show to their children the good paths on the Internet.
Second, in addition to the updated secular education, it’s a serious obligation upon the parents to send their children to the religious centers to get their education in religion, particularly the training within the framework of Islamic ethics.the parents themselves have to be positively role model before their children.as our beloved Imam of the Time advises us to continue prayers every day as well as sending our children to the religious centers. We need to realize that the curricula designed for religious education is of a top quality. Therefore, the children must be send to the religious classes.
Third, the rights of a son and a daughter should be fully ensured and there must be clear equity and equality between their rights. I’d emphasise equally that the children also need to be obedient to their parents and they must not waste their time. Our young generation need to understand that once the time moves ahead could never be reversed . they therefore must use their time more effectively and productively so that they should meet their genuine needs and become a refined human.
Last but not the least, women should be emancipated from the steriotypes of men , especially with regard to education, employment and various types of productive and legally facilitated enterprises. Like other women of the world and Pakistan, the women of Gilgit-Baltistan should also be encouraged in line with journalism and media, legal studies and practices, various types of creative work, in all fields of performing arts such as learning music, singing and so on.
Conclusionand the Way Forward
Although, the biography of Zahida Parveen Khan was evidenced filled with various challenges and difficulties, it provides the readers with lots of hopes and prospects based on her practical experiences by going through various types of life challenges and employing consistent efforts and positive struggles as strategies that brought series of successes to her life to a significant level. At present, she is in her middle age but is so much determined to face even the upcoming challenges , get achievements and contribute productively not only for herself or her family but rather dreams for all societies and humans, especially the womenfolk. Well, out of her interesting, ample and sober discussions, we could productively deduce a lot and variety of meanings and lessons. Here, let’s opt for deducing some important aspects here.
Based on the stories above, we can observe that personality of Zahida Parveen is made up of series of life experiences, encountering challenges , taking testable approaches and getting success in many field of her interests including recitation, singing and teaching of the devotional or other poetries in Persian, Wakhi and Urdu, learning and teaching the Holy Qur’an to the school level students, contributing voluntarily to her community organizations and institutions, learning the basics of music, learning English and other languages, and many more.
As for a person’s immediate, logical and legal identity with regard to a name is concerned, it sounds so convincing, logical and legal, which was pinpointed by Zahida Parveen. First, we need to understand that a child is born out of his or her parents and the identity thus takes itself in most of the cases (in patriarchal societies) behind their father, though in some cases, apart from the first or given name, second and third name as family name could be found from both paternal and maternal sides (for instance as we could find in the cae of Spain). A lot of cases are evidenced that soon after getting married, the young wives coming in emotion change or sacrifice their second or surname behind their husbands’s name or surname. With the course of time, when matrimonial conflicts emerge, and particuarly in case of sepearation, the identity of a sepearated woman itself pushes them towards intensified frustration and mental conflicts.A wisdom or lesson we could get out of this special note is an advice to the young women to be cautious enough for being emotional in giving up or choosing personal identity of names. Instead, they should use their own official name as has been recorded in their respective educational institutions and the legal documents provided by the Government’s registration office. This will then never lead towards inconsistency and issues regarding their actual names and identities.
Another but so important point to be kept in mind, a woman is never ever a commodity or a kind of livestock purchased from the bazaar, or from somemone where her identity gets fixed or shifted. In contrast, a man and a woman when join each other as life partners, it stands and remains to be a social contract between those two individuals. If such life partnerships could sustain for longer time or for the whole life could be termed great in whatever condition that partnership may be or continue. But the contract could get dissolved any day or anytime because it robustly depends on the cohesive, friendly or compromising relationships between the two partners. In case, no element of compromise appears or sustains between the mates, the social contract of life-partnership then comes to an end as opposed to the commodities or livestock. Nonetheless, if any child is born out of such couple, the identity consanguineally takes its route from the father’s line, again, except for the small population of matriarchal societies.
Well, out of her experiences and observations from childhood, a significant point Zahida Parveen pertinently highlighted was with regard to the kids early development by their parents where she emphatically urged that their children should be with their parents during schooling ages at least up to 10 to 12 years of their age. She so delicately noted that how did she remember when her parents were not in the school with her on the first day of school enrollment, though she has missed them, time and again despite the fact she has been given a lot of care by her maternal family members. Such phenomena thus leave a deep but negative impact on the children in different contexts, especially in line with personality development of the individuals.
The third important point we could examine is with regard to the overall societal and cultural changes.Zahida Parveen so greatly presented the old pictures of her valley and the whole region of Gilgit-Baltistan pertaining to the rural and poor conditions of the people.She so honestly related the situations starting from her own family during pursuence of her school and college life that how the girls would encounter genuine issues during their education. Though, we cannot say that in the current period the conditions of girl students have been revolutionary in many ways, we could however evidence a drastic shift within the cultural normls and values of the concerned people in different walks of life when compared the conditions of the people forty years or 30 years ago.
Although, Zahida Parveen had and has a great passion for acquiring her secular education in terms of degree,she has gone through various tests and trials in familial contextswhere she becomes a mother of four children. Being a loving mother, she thus compromises and prioritizes her children’s care, nourishment and education on top.Nonetheless, she is seen proactive in engaging herself with social or voluntary work and uses her time positivley. Zahida Parveen has ventured and bravely highlighted women’s basic rights at all levels. She seems to be so vocal and advocates that it should be started from one’s own house.until and unless, women are regarded and respected in their concerned homes, it will be futile, though the same aspect of human rights could also be seen from various angles.
It is important to note that though Zahida Parveen greatly shared some aspects of her life, it cannot be pronounced or determined that her whole life stories are gathered here in this very small write-up.A lot of stories embedded in genuine challenges and experiences are covered yet that are parts and parcels of her personality development as a whole. However, when we look retrospectively on the life stories and grooming of Zahida Parveen, the support of her parents and other family members (paternal and maternal) are credible, indeed. The role of Sultan Ahmad (her husband) is also appreciable, though no life partners could be termed ideal or perfect .
In conclusion, I would like to end up here with the following words that Zahida Parveen is versitle in many ways. She is an honest, sober, caring, gifted and deep person. Though, she is blessed with a sweet and soothing voice where she is witnessed to grace singing the lyrics, reciting the elevated poetries, or recitation of the Holy Qur’an within her own capacity, she is also embedded in moderation of programs or events. In addition to her domestic or familial responsibilities and partial professional commitments around her experiences, She could be evidenced as a devoted and dedicated volunteer. whenever she gets time she tries her best to contribute to her community with a spirit of selfless voluntarism.
A couple of lessons I could get out of her interesting biography are as follows: frequent struggle and remaining proactive for the genuine causes in life;sincere with those who are honest, caring and sincere in a true sense; trying to keep a balance in her life between the secular and the spiritual domains as guided by her Spiritual Master or Guru.
I owe my sincere indebtedness to Zahida Parveen for sharing her interesting biography with me that led towards this little contribution, otherwise it was not possible to know about her colorful life history to such an extent.
References and Available Links
FaceBook Page of Zahida Parveen:
YouTube Channel: Zahida Sultan
Devotional poetry of Saifuddin Saif of Hunza in Wakhi
Devotional Song composed by Sultan Ahmed in Urdu
Website References: WWW.FAZALAMIN.COM
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