I may have been younger than 10 years old when I became the family shepherd. I was young and also the darling of my parents, but that didn’t make shepherding any easy. I had to shepherd the family flock from one hill to the next, from one grazing spot to the next, negotiate narrow pathways, look for water reserves, and hope that I don’t run into a wolf, a pack of wolves, snakes, some chim-safeed fox and jackal, or any thieves from other villages.
I got used to doing the work. I enjoyed the company of the mountains, the rocks and the open skies. I was a shepherd. I yelled, made noise and sang everything that came to mind during my ascent and descent from the hills. I suppose all that noise made me feel less scared, and alone.
I made some good friends along the way. There was Bakhtawar, and her sister Hakima. They were the daughters of my father’s Degho, and lived on the same farm as we did. There was Mirsahib, my cousin and the shepherd for her family. And the cheeky girl in the group was Maryam, Mulla Rabzan’s young sister. We left for the hills at the same time in the morning and returned home at the same time in the late afternoon, but we made sure we were not seen returning together. We wanted our families to think that we were hard at work, and responsible for the flocks.
We were friends and sisters. We sang together, yelled at one another across the hills, and helped one another. Sometimes, we got up to no good. We stole apples, grapes, and carrots from other people’s farms. We filled up our scarves and pockets with fruits, and took the loot up into the hills. Each of us brought our own share. We would scrub carrots against a rock surface until it turned into shreds. We ate the shreds. We called it carrot Halwa. It tasted great.
I don’t know what happened to my friends. We were all married off young. Bakhtawar, and Hakima left the village along with their family. I never saw them again. Mullah Rabzan’s sister, Maryam was married off to some village far away. So was my cousin, Mirsahib. I don’t know if they are still alive.
*chim-safeed = brazen, impudent
*Degho = farmer
*halva = pudding