Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 55

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For a brief time your uncle was our shepherd. He took the flock around for water and vegetation.

On this day he was with Karblaye’s son  Zia. They set off for Linga valley to get water, and because there was good grass there, on the grounds just before the gorge. He returned home shortly, his face all red, and tears dried up around his eyes.

Ishaq’s son Mohammad Hussain had slapped had scolded him, and then slapped him around for bringing the flock to Linga, the grounds he thought was exclusively for their use, and not for the village. Zia told me the story; your uncle said nothing.

Your father returned home. I was cautious and careful. The relationships in the village were already in ruins, and I did not want it to get worse. We were banished as it was, things could only have gone downhill for us. I stayed quite, unaware that Zia would tell everyone about the beating.

I saw your father busy by the spring next to the mulberry tree. The next moment I turned around and saw him running towards Linga as fast he could. It appeared as if he was being chased after. I was horrified, as if someone just set my body on fire. I screamed and chased after him, but he disappeared into the trees.

I chased after him. The flock was scattered all over the valley. I instructed your uncle to take the flock to your aunties in Jaar to avoid an encounter with wolves. He set off quickly and I made my way towards the gorge.

I saw a small figure emerge out of the gorge. His head was covered in white, and he was holding his hand on one side of his head. I knew it in my bones that there was something wrong. The person got closer, and I noticed half of his face, his head cover and his clothes drenched in blood. My legs trembled. Your father was drenched in his own blood. He was holding the wound with his hand to stop it from bleeding.

I screamed, and ran towards him:

What the hell happened!

His eyes remained fixated on the ground:

Ishaq attacked and hit me.

Hearing my screams, Abdul Hassan Karblaye approached.

I pleaded with him to take him home:

I beg of you, take him home. I will go and throw rocks at Ishaq’s door. How can he do this to a kid. Today either I will die or Ishaq will.

Karblaye stopped me. He pleaded with me not go:

I am also angry, but first we need to get him help. Look at him. He is all pale and white, like a corpse.

We dragged him. There was a big cut on his head, and it was bleeding. He went unconscious. We carried him home. We sent for Mohammad Ali Doctor. He came and stitched his head. Karblaye and Mohammad Ali Doctor stayed up all night looking after him. They were good men.

Worried, I sent for your maternal grandfather. He was in the commander’s party. He didn’t give a damn. We sent for Qareedar. He refused to come to my aid:

It is all your son’s fault. If he joins our party, we will teach Ishaq a lesson. If not, don’t come to me.

That was the response of the elders to a widow and her bloodied son, who did not happen to be in the commander’s party. The did not care. Except for the help of two or three good families, we were all on our own.

Weeks and months went by. That winter, in the midst of the snowfall, I was walking to Jaar to see my daughter, when I ran into him just past the pass. Ishaq stopped and stared at me. I felt the same fire in me. I yelled at him, cursed him, and spat on his face as many times as I could. He stood there, said nothing and walked away.

I met Ishaq again a few years ago. He came to greet me. He was old and fragile – a mere shadow of the fiery person he had once been. He appeared remorseful. We sat and spoke about those days. A few months later, he passed away.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 34

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.

 29I 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

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 27

When I turned 9, like the girls of my age in the village and beyond, I had to observe fast. The boys had it easy; they could wait until they were 16 before having to do the same.

I was young, quick on my feet, and hence the family shepherd. Shepherding was exhausting work. I had to go up and down the hills all day, chase and look after the herd. It didn’t make fasting was any easier.

The summer days were long, the Sun shone bright and hot like the Sun of roz-e-qiyamat. You can imagine what it must have been like to eat and drink nothing from dawn to dusk. My tongue would dry up and stick to the palate of my mouth.

To avoid exhaustion, I dipped my feet in the cold spring water, and poured water over my head before heading back into the Sun. I wouldn’t dare drink water or eat anything, or even think about it. If I did, I would be punished by my parents, and bring bad name to the family.

SONY DSCAfter observing fast all day, we gathered around the earth-oven where my late mother baked bread. We quenched all that thirst and hunger with a piece of bread, and water. Occasionally, mother made tea. In that hot weather, we would rather have that than anything oily. For Pash-Shawi we would eat bread with yoghurt. The food in Watan wasn’t good or plentiful to begin with. By observing fast, we just made it so much worse for ourselves.

When I missed my prayers, or didn’t memorize and read it properly, my older siblings cursed me, and my parents got angry. They cursed and scolded me for defying the commands of God. We just blindly followed what we had been taught by the generations before us.

When you see people of the older generations with all the health issues, remember that it is a consequence of how they lived most of their lives in the mountains. In our youth, we didn’t care much for the pain and illnesses. Now that I am old, I can trace back all my illnesses to my difficult youth and childhood.

 


 

*Roz-e-Qiyamat = Dooms Day
*Pash-Shawi = Pre-dawn meal
*Watan = Homeland