Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 56

They brought the dead bodies home late in the evening, in the house of the Punjabis in Nechari. Aatay Rohullah’s lifeless body was brought upstairs amid wails and screams. The body of the other man was left downstairs.

We had thought Aatay Rohallah was staying at the community library, along with the other men from the party and their relatives. Unbeknown to us, he had travelled to the coal-mines in Mach to look for work like other thousands of Hazaras. Somewhere in the holes in those mountains he had touched a live-wire and had been electrocuted. Another man, also from Watan, had approached to pull him away from the electric wires. He too, had been caught by the wires and killed there.

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He had been family. He had stood with your father during his most difficult days. He had been in the war. He was with us when we fled, with us on the terrifying journey to Pakistan, and with us in our first years in Quetta. Every Friday he came home to us in the overcrowded room we had rented from the Punjabis in Nechari. He was one of us. He was family, and after all that, he was no more.

Weeks after his death, funeral and burial, his oldest brother Mamdulla came from Watan. We heard about it and we made food and arrangements to welcome him. Aatay-Wahida and your uncle went to receive him. They returned empty handed and said Mamdulla had gone to Doctor Nader instead of us, and had had the Fateha there. I scolded them and send them back to bring him home as we were family. They returned and and got him to come over. He was upset. I argued with him:

His death isn’t our fault. I did not kill him. Mamoor did not kill him. He did not tell us where he was going. He went to the mines of his own will, without even telling us.

He appeared not to care. That was neither fair, nor true. I continued:

If you cared so much, you should not have let him come. But you did. You were there when we fled and circumstances in which we did. His back was hurt; you guys, his own brothers did that to him. He told me about it. He could not even do physical work, you should have stopped him.

He told me how you lot locked him up in the toilet and took turns to beat him up in twos. He told me you kept hitting until he could no longer move and his back was injured. He told me how you beat him for being a member of the party, to force him to stop being with the party. You beat him up until your mother intervened, begged you and even took out her breasts to shame you for the milk she had fed you all, to stop you from killing your own brother.

He tried to find a way out of it.

He fell off a roof and hurt his back.

I stopped him there:

Say all you want but you know that it is true. He was more at home with us than with you lot. And today, you dare think that we would wish him harm.

He hung his head down, and did not speak a word.

Years later, we still had a photo of Aatay Rohullah on our shelf, and his grave lay in a country far away from his home, his wife and children.

*Watan  = Homeland
*Fateha = Prayer service

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 17

We arrived in Quetta, Pakistan. It was a big, very big city. It had more cars, more people, more noise, and more smoke than I could have ever imagined. The city was arid, and had a pungent smell to it. Whatever little savings we had, was spent on the journey. We began life from scratch; worse, we had to borrow money and food from others. We couldn’t afford to rent our own place, and had to move in with others. At first we stayed with Yousuf in Sar-e-Khartar. His wife was stingy. On our arrival at the end of the journey, they served us Thalkh-Thoroosh. We were exhausted. That meal made us sick, especially your mother and Aabay Wahida. dsc_1282 Our days didn’t get any easier. We never had enough food. Those were tough days. They would ask your dad for money to bring one ser of rice or flour but brought very little of it. Turns out, the measurements in Pakistan were different to those in watan. We craved for food. Unbeknown to her daughter-in-law, the late Yousuf’s mother brought us food, especially for you, my grandchildren. You were young then and needed a lot of food. From there, we were taken to Sayedabad.There, it was even worse. Baqir’s wife gave us one room for 7 people.She was very stingy. She didn’t like us. This one time, she lost a pair of scissors. She accused us of stealing it. Frustrated, I sat down with her mother-in-law:

“Why would we do that? We will sit outside and you can go in and search our room.”

Days later the scissors were found under the rug in her own room. Another time she accused us of stealing her cutlery. Moallem had got us a few spoons and knives. I told her to search the room, look at the ones we had and figure out if we had hers. She found nothing. She harassed us. It was hard. These people were members of the Saazman. Everything was communal and shared. It was very hard. Those with status got everything. Those at the bottom suffered. From there we went to live in the house of the Punjabis in Nechari, in the upper floor. The owners lived downstairs. They kept sending their kids upstairs telling us to stop you and Abdul from walking around:

“Baba is asleep downstairs.”

We were new. Work was scarce. Finding a place to live was very difficult. People saw us for our appearance, for what we wore, for the things we had. We left behind a herd of cattle, plenty of food, farm, bags of rice and wheat at home. We had come to a place where we had nothing. We had left behind a house full of food at home and had come to a place where there was none. We had no pillows and had to sleep on the floor. Often all we had for a meal was tea, sugar, and bread. *Thalkh-Thorosh = Thalkh – Bitter; Thorosh – Sour; Hazaragi dish. *Saazman = Political party/organisation *Ser = Unit of measurement equal to 7 kilos *Watan = Farsi/Arabic for homeland

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 2

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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