Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 16

10410815_345163149021874_1430725723564559355_nYour late baabaie once took me for a pilgrimage to the Dahmarda shrine. The shrine is a reminder of the Kuchi-Hazara wars. He and Aatay AbdurRahim pointed at different hilltops as they recounted the battle for Dahmarda.

The Kuchis had better guns and were more numerous. They had pushed us back into a narrow gorge. We were lost and desperate, so much so that the women of Dahmarda tied their trousers on sticks and raised them on their roofs. This was either to shame the Kuchis or to confuse them, or perhaps to remind their men that their honor was at stake.

The Kuchis had almost overpowered us when a horse-rider emerged from the spot where the shrine is. The rider wore black and rode a white horse. The rider rode straight into the Kuchi lines and broke through it. In the ensuing chaos, their lines faltered, and we gained our confidence. We were sure that the higher powers were with us; may be the Kuchis believed that too. They ran away.

It was the first time that the Kuchis had been beaten back. Before that, they had been taking over Hazara land all around Dahmarda. If not for that battle, they would have taken over Dahmarda as well. The Hazaras of Rasna, Nawa, Jhanda and other places were dispossessed. They either fled into the mountains or to Pakistan and Iran.

On the way back, passing through Rasna, we ran into an Awgho on a horse. He told us off,

Off the path, Hazara!

We all had to move off the road to let him pass. He was proud and arrogant. He rode on without even taking a second look at us.

Under the Taliban, the new Kuchis returned. They brought their cattle to graze on our farms. The villagers had asked them leave. In their arrogance, they had laughed:

Relax, Hazara kafir. We will return next year, and become next-door neighbors.

The next year, they didn’t dare return. The Americans saved our people. Bless the Americans.

*Kafir= Arabic term for infidel, unbeliever; Derogatory term used for a non-believer
*Baabaie = Hazaragi for grandfather
*Awgho = Slang term for Afghan; a term Hazaras use to refer to Pashtuns

Disclaimer: While these anecdotes may be based on actual events, they’re by no means meant to invoke prejudice, hate or love, support for one community or another. Read with context and time in mind.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 13

The Kuchis came to the hills every year. They spent the entire summer in the area. They ate from our orchards, claimed their right on the crops, ate our food and at times, stayed at our homes. Their cattle and camels grazed all over our land, while they grazed all over our homes and livelihood.

One hot summer day, the girls were getting mulberries from the tree when they dropped a full container.

“Ay khag da sar e Awgho!” (Damn the awgho!), I exclaimed.

Bakhtawar Awgho, who I did not know was up the next mulberry tree, heard me.

He yelled:

Khag bar sar e Hazara! Khagbar sar e Hazara! Khag bar sar e Hazara!” (Damn the Hazara!)

I was taken aback. I panicked and dropped all the mulberries. I huddled my girls together, and rushed back home.

Bakhtawar Awgho, Sher Jan and Sahib Jan came from Rasna. They were not nice people. They did all they wanted in the summer. They barged into our homes when they wanted. They demanded food, took our belongings, and beat up anyone who resisted. They had the support of the government. We despised them, but were too afraid and too weak to ever say anything.

In the Autumn the Kuchis returned home, only to return the following summer. Then came the war, and mehrbani khuda, they stopped coming. May be that was the one good thing about the war.

*Kuchi = Afghan Pashtun nomads
*Awgho = A variant of the word Afghan; a term Hazaras use to refer to Pashtuns
*Mehrbani Khuda = By the grace of God.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 12

There is a special joy in simplicity. You don’t need many reasons to be happy, just a few good ones.

We lived simple lives, and simple things made us happy.

At weddings men walked great distances to find a Ghazal-Goy who could sing songs for the occasion.

On sunny winter days, grown men spent their time playing shighai and gowli on the roofs and big rock-slabs. The young pelted passersby with snowballs. We ate carrots, turnips, while lamb jerky was a delicacy reserved for special occasions.

The old were good storytellers; the young were keen listeners. Old white-bearded men gathered in small circles to sing ghazal. At night, we all got together, drank tea, told stories; the women spun their yarn, and told of tales from places beyond the mountains.

The birth of a son was a special occasion. Everyone had to sing – the young, the old, the able, and the talentless. Men covered themselves with chador and did aakhoo and charkhag. At one shawshini, GhulamLi dressed as a peerag. He knocked, and when I opened the door, he pushed his way through the door. I screamed, ran terrified and jumped into my father’s lap. They all laughed.

These days, people don’t talk straight. They talk in riddles. Life is not simple anymore.

*Ghazal = Traditional Hazaragi songs that combine Persian poetry with a variant of throat singing
*Ghazal-goy = Ghazal singer
*Shighai, Gowli = Traditional Hazaragi games played with animal bones
*Aakhoo, Charkhag = Traditional Hazaragi dances
*Shawshini = Tradition wherein the family stays awake the whole night singing, playing games, and eating sweets to celebrate the birth of a son
*Peerag = Old man; Young men disguise as old men as part of a Shawshini fun/game usually to scare the kids

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