By : Tariq Ullah Khan
I have a lot of memories from my childhood that I spent in my ancestral village Moreder located deep inside the Chitral valley of the Hindukush ranges. I estimate these memories are for the period between 1962 and 1971; 1962 because that is the year I can trace back to my early childhood and 1971 because after this year I never have spent significant time in Chitral. If there was a plan for a book, here is what the abstract of the plan would look like.
My childhood was truly sweet as I was the youngest among the 8 shining brothers and 8 loving sisters, we were 4 sons each of my father and his elder brother and 5 daughters of my father and 3 daughters of my uncle, living in one family together and the word “cousins” was really an alien word to our great family. In 1962 I realized that we were actually two families as my father took myself and my siblings to another home, separate from my lovely uncle and from that group of our loving siblings. For me it was a sad separation, although our two families till now are the best examples of our high values of mutual respect, knowing well and delivering each other’s rights and duties as part of our faith.
As soon as we shifted to my father’s new home in 1962, for the first time I started feeling my own responsibilities increasing in the half sized smaller family, to help my parents as the family’s human capital was now divided. A part from those duties our group of children in the village was always eager to find different pastime activities depending on the 4 distinct climates of the valley. Here I partially elaborate on some of the duties and list few of the hobbies that come to my mind quickly.
An ambassador of belongingness (silai–e-rahmi): Telephone in some parts of the valley became common only recently and most parts of the valley like Yarkhoun, Terichetc are still deprived of it. So naturally children could play an important role in enhancing communication between families and friends. We were frequently used by our parents as messengers, to go and ask about the whereabouts of our families spread from Reshun to Dinwangole on the Biyar side from Oveer to Terich on the Khov side, both in normal circumstances and on special assignments – if someone was sick for example. Our duty was also to go within the village as massagers of our parents to ask assistance in work (Yar – do – yi) for numerous types of tasks. We were also used as messengers for distribution of family gifts (including goods and animals) and invitations of different types. These were great ambassadorial responsibilities in such an early age and I remember during that period travelling as far Diwangole and Bang in Yarkhoun on foot, as far as Kushum as messengers of love, peace and belongingness (silai e rahmi).I believe such childhood responsibilities play a tremendous role of formation of a typical Chitrali personality that I profiled in one of my Note on a Chitrali’s most precious asset.
Water resource manager: Water is the most precious property in my village of the breath-taking beauty. By its nature of flowing through time, water is a special type of property, it will be wasted if not stored or used. As children we knew this characteristic of water so our role was to know our own property well and to use or store it properly. Water shares were and still are highly complex in our village. We call them sorogh, gologh, ghospanogh etc. Sorogh is the largest share and it turns-in in 12 days. As time has passed, lands have fragmented a complex system of time sharing has evolved. So water management becomes a multidimensional challenge of life in our village involving conflict management, negotiation, monitoring and follow-up. Our role as children was to understand our own rights and also understand other people’s rights and the strict guideline from our elders was to do justice as water is the source of life and it is precious for human beings and the environment. If I look back, this role was too serious for a child, but we had become an expert in it because it was also fun to actually know and monitor how otherwise good people actually cheat a lot during night and steal water. That was a fascinating observation for us as children, as few of the same people whom we used to respect a lot during the daily interactions were actually cheating and stealing other people’s properties – water under the cover of darkness. We used to bring them under moral pressure by naming and shaming – a peer group pressure technique in HR management that I came to know later in life in complex organizations.
Animal resource manager: We knew from early childhood that like water and land, animals – cows, goats, sheep, oxen, chicken, and mules are vital for sustenance of life in the village. Our role was to be aware of the needs of the different animals – these need food, water, protection from hazards etc. Our role was also to know the shares in pastures and the preservation of pasture resources for the winter time. Our role was also to be involved in crisis management specially when there was shortage of fodder in early spring when stocks are exhausted and land is still recovering from snow. Our role was also to know the capacity of each animal and to assign it the work that it can do, to ensure delivery of the job by the animal – plowing land, grinding wheat and barley, carrying loads etc. There was no fun at all in this assignment, yet dealing with animals and making those to work for you teach you a lot of patience and patience is what you need most in professional team work in complex organizations.
Minister of energy: If you have lived in a village you know that you need firewood for the kitchen, for warmth in winter and for other household uses like warming water for washing, sterilizing etc. If you don’t have electricity in your village you need an alternative arrangement for lightening – candles, special type of wood, kerosene lamps (laltain) etc. Our duty was to remain watchful to make these systems stable and sustainable. These are very challenging jobs for a child but you know you have to perform for the sake of the whole family.You know the challenge, and properly knowing the challenge in your professional work is 50% of the work already done.Since I knew this challenge from early childhood I know how the job of an energy minister could be painful and thankless!
Miscellaneous jobs: In a village living like a child is being Jack of all trades but also master of all too! These jobs range from catching and slaughtering a chicken to going khora (water flour mills) to make flour out of the wheat or barley, from taking a cow to your aunt in another village to calling the ghost-buster, from going grocery shopping to searching for a lost goat. These are numerous and unlimited number of jobs and unless you are a willing helper as a child, you can be a real headache for your parents. Those miscellaneous jobs give you the realization that you are an indispensable person for the comfort of your parents and family.
Our hobbies were very innovative indeed. We used to build operating models of water-mills, helicopters, traps for different types of birds, raising birds, helping others (yardoyubick), sadly, preying birds during days (boyikanubik) and nights (boyukduzhi), roaming as egg-beggars (ayukunmashkick), playing different types of plays, ogh janu (water war) being my most favourite – that is just to name only a few. Latter I would like to explain how the models of the first three hobbies were actually designed, constructed and operated.
By living as a child in my village (Moreder) you feel belongingness each moment of your life, love and affection goes to your genetic system and that is where the character of a Chitrali child forms between ages 5 and 15 of his/her life. Indeed, we also used to go to schools, which were actually located in far-flung places! Our childhood was a real thrill and it shows that children have a lot of potential, stretchable beyond any imaginable limits as cited above. As Mr. Clinton, the greatest American President ever, once said, children have to remain busy by doing diverse useful things and that is how human, leadership and professional qualities evolve and develop. A child’s life in our village still provides ample such opportunities. Those opportunities, however, also need to be mixed with better childhood educational facilities to ensure a healthy balance between cultural and professional development of our children.