Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 9

Everything changed when the war started. Everyone abandoned us. The village sided with the commander and his party, against your father, against us. They raided our house. It was the betrayal by those we trusted that hurt us the most. Two of my own brothers sided with the commander.

Your father’s close friend was the one who tricked me into opening the house door on the night of the raid. There was a knock. I asked who it was at the door. He answered. I trusted him and opened the door. Armed men, the commander’s men found their way in.



They declared your father an apostate. The villagers ostracized our family. We didn’t belong anymore. We didn’t communicate, didn’t socialize. They even forced the village shepherd to make choice between herding our flock or that of the rest of the village. He made his choice. We were unwanted.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 8


“Sister, it was unlike anything I have seen before. It was round, and looked like a hand-washing basin. Men and women spoke out of it.”

“Women spoke out of it!? Could you see them?”

“No, you could hear them, but they weren’t there. It was magic.”

Mullah Rabzan’s wife had just returned from Sang-e-Masha where she had been attending a wedding. She had seen the men play something on a “radio” (gramophone). For weeks after that, this magic was the talk of the village.


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Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 7


When people speak of the good old days, they speak of delusions. If you were rich, the old days were good. If you were poor and helpless like we were, the old days were the days of despair. Food was scarce, and a lot of work and hard labor yielded little fruit.


Your baabaye and I farmed the land in the gorge along the river. We had no tools and supplies, and had to lease them from Aatay Chaman in exchange for the promise of a share of the yield. We worked hard and long in harsh conditions. Upon harvest, Aatay Chaman came over to reap his reward. He claimed one pile for leasing to us his bulls, another one for providing us with the seeds, another one for the tools we had used, and the last one for something else, right in front of our bewildered eyes. He claimed every last bit of grain we had harvested, and left us with nothing. We had nothing to go on. He could not care less. He went into the village to hire laborers to help him carry the grain to his home.

His wife was different. She was kind. She called me over. She picked up many hands full of grain and poured them into my scarf. She said, “take this, run, and hide it somewhere. Don’t tell anyone I gave you this. This will let you feed your children.” And that was all we got for months of laboring.

Those, my child, were the “good old days”.

*Baabaye = Hazaragi for grandfather; old man.
*Aata = Hazaragi for father, i.e. Aatay Chaman: Chaman’s father

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 6

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. People led simple lives. We were all farmers. People were good to one another.

My first born was a son. Jaan Mohammad and other villagers came to our place for shaw-shini. They stayed up all night long, sang ghazal, ate, and laughed. Early the next day, they ate dried fruit and naan-boota, and then returned to their own homes to sleep. 12 days later, my first born died.


*Shaw-Shini = A tradition wherein relatives celebrate the birth of a son with a night of songs, games and festivities.
*Ghazal = Traditional Hazara songs that combine Persian poetry with central Asian throat singing
*Naan-boota = Traditional Hazara dish made with butter, yoghurt, and ground dried bread

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 5 #JeSuisCharlie


The mullahs go mad when they gain power. They have done horrendous things to our own people, things only an enemy like the Taliban would do.

In the days just before you were born, they did something really horrible in Sang-e-Masha, something with no precedence. A shopkeeper in Tameer had been accused of having an illicit relationship with his apprentice. This accusation quickly caught the attention of the local Mullahs. They seized the opportunity, and gathered a mob of some locals, shopkeepers, and other people with nothing better to do. They made fiery speeches shaming the locals for allowing such a thing to happen in their midst. The enraged mob chased the shopkeeper but he managed to flee. They, however, caught the apprentice, who was only a young boy. He was beaten and dragged back to the markets. The Mullahs formed a court, and issued a prompt religious decree. The mob then spared no time in carrying out punishment.

They dug a ditch in the middle of the Tameer bazaar. They tied up the badly beaten up boy and threw him into the middle of that ditch. Then they filled the ditch with firewood and bush. After a sprinkle of Kerosene, the ditch was set alight amid horrifying screams for help, The boy begged the bystanders to save him, but no one did anything. The mob was overjoyed, the crowd watched in silence. The boy’s father, who had rushed to the bazaar to rescue his son, was chased away with sticks and stones. The fire burned, and that poor boy was burned alive. Witnesses said that the fire ended in a bang. It was probably the boy’s head or abdomen that exploded in the fire.

On another occasion, the locals in Dawood chased and caught a young couple that had tried to elope, intending to run away to Pakistan. Again, the mullahs formed a court and issued a religious decree for the punishment of the two. The young boy and girl were buried in the ground down to their chests. Then by religious decree, the local mob, the young and the old, pelted them with stones, big and small. They were pelted with stones until they bled, until their cries stopped, and until they were dead. It is said that the girl had survived the first stoning. She had asked for help but the mob smashed her head with a big piece of rock. She died. Again, no one came to their help.

The mullahs act like gods. May God curse them.

*Mullah = Islamic cleric; slang for an excessively religious person.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 4


Your baabaye disappeared on his way to Iran. We waited for years for his return. He never returned. We assume he died somewhere in the desert.

After him, we had to live through some dreadful years. We were left with a little food, no savings, and no idea what to do about it. Your father was only thirteen, and the eldest male. He had to support our big family.

People from the village knew we couldn’t farm the land. They got together and promised us supplies and support. Most never delivered. A few good men did. Aatay GhulamLi was a lifesaver. He got us the cows for the plow. Aatay Ali Jafar helped us farm the land. Others brought us food and firewood. The harvest that year was very small. We had to give away most of it to the people who we owed money to. The little bit that was left, helped us survive.

*baabaye = Hazaragi for Grandfather

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 3


One of my aunties was a Qalandar. The Qalandar Hazaras had been driven off their native land by the Kuchis. In the dead of winter she would tell us kids her story:

We lived in a valley called Nawoor Toghay, near Thai Bogha. We were a powerful and prosperous people. The land was fertile, and food was plentiful. We had almond farms. Upon harvesting the fruit, the women gathered to crush the seeds, and extracted almond oil. We bartered the oil for the things we needed. We also raised cattle, mostly fat and healthy sheep. The Qalandar herded their cattle on horseback. The arbab rode through the herd and sliced of sheep suet on the run. This was a show of power.

Then came the Kuchis, and it was all gone. The Kuchi attack caught us off-guard. Some fought, others could only run away. Many were butchered. We fled and were only able to carry what we could hold in our hands. We ran and hid. Many didn’t make it. We ran to the settled Pashtuns and pleaded with them to save us. They protected us, the survivors, from the Kuchis. In the darkness of the night, they helped us flee to the Hazara lands.

My auntie was old. She died and took her stories to grave. Now I am old but I remember her stories.


*Arbab = Nobles

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 2


In the days when I was young, people didn’t travel much. They thought the world was a small place. Aatay Madi from the village had been to Shalkot – these days people call it Quetta. The people in the village and the surrounding villages called him Ali Ahmad Shalkoti. We had heard of the towns and the cities. We had never heard of a place called Pakistan. Things have changed so much since the days when I was young. The world is so big, aadami so small.

*Aadami = Farsi/Urdu for Man

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 1


I was born in winter. My aata and aaba were poor. We were all poor. My parents had no sugar or rock candy at home. They sweetened my mouth with bitter tea. It is because of that, that I am addicted to tea. I like to drink tea, even in summer.

*aata (n): Hazaragi for Father
*aaba (n): Hazaragi for Mother
*As per Hazara tradition, the parents feed newborns a solution of rock candy or ‘holy clay’ to mark the start of their dietary journey.