Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 78

This is from when I was young and strong, and I could work like many men can not. Your father was only a kid, and your aunties were younger. We had had to lease out the family land to repay your grandfather’s debts, and he had a lot of it. Your grandfather fell very ill that year, and had to remain home-bound.

Khalifa offered us some work on his land in the gorge during the summer months. We had to cut the tall grass, prepare the land, and cultivate grain. It was hard work. We worked there as a family, starting at dawn and finishing when darkness made it impossible to see what we were doing. We went hungry every other day and had no spare food.

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One day, in the midst of work and the summer, I collapse at work. When I opened my eyes Qareedar’s son, Yaqoob, stood there with some bread in hand. He offered me a piece of it with some milk. I sat upright, ate it as fast as I could, and felt instantly better. I ate some more, and I could get up and return to work again.

We worked there for many weeks, and finally harvested Khalifa’s wheat crop. When it was all thrashed and ready to be loaded on the back on the back of donkeys, he arrived there to weight it. He first claimed his half, and left the other half on one side. We thought that was our share. He then took our half and divided it into smaller portions, claiming those in exchange for what he had provided us with: a portion for the seeds, another for the bull and the thrasher loaned to us for a few days, and another for allowing us to use his farm equipment. He took everything, all of it, not one portion left for us. God curse me if I lie. Nothing for us. He took it all. Allaywar arrived there later in the day, loaded the harvest on the back of a few donkeys to take the wheat to the crusher.

The children stood by me and watched, as I wept in despair. Khalifa’s wife saw this. She was scared of her husband, and could not say anything. She walked over, and discreetly poured a handful of grain into a corner of my skirt and chador. She told me to take it and walk away as fast I could. I did.

I felt as if she had poured the world into my chador. That wheat only fed us for two days and two nights. A summer of hard work, and it was all over in two days.

Curse poverty. When you are poor, people treat you like cattle. Those are the kind of days we had to live through. When you have money, your friends remain friends, your relatives remain close. When you have no money, your own eyes will disown you. Khalifa was a close relative of your grandfather. He had been like family. He did not spare our starving family a plate of the harvest we had worked on.

That is what the world has taught me.

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 74

A husband and wife in Baderzar took their little daughter to the mountains, and kept her in a cave. They took food and other things for her in that cave but they kept her hidden from the eyes of the other villagers.

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I do not know how long this went on for before she was discovered by a shepherd. The villagers then found out, and soon this news spread to the kharijis working in Sangemasha. The came to the village, and went to the cave where the girl was being kept by her parents. They found out that she had leprosy. The khariji took her to Sangemasha, and then to Karachi in Pakistan for treatment.

People say she received treatment for years in Karachi, and she was cured. In Karachi she met and married another leprosy sufferer from Jaghori. They settled and became rich. The girl’s parents tried to contact her but she kept them out of her life.

Leprosy was the big terror of our days. People thought leprosy sufferers were cursed. They hid the victims or took them to the mountains where they often died and were eaten by wolves, bears and jackals. People who contracted leprosy were considered cursed, their families were cursed, and their villages were cursed. It was terrifying.

When the khariji  doctors first started visiting villages to treat people, some villagers pelted rocks at them, and chased them out of their villages because they did not want others to find out.

The kharijis stayed in Sangemasha for many years and visited all the villages to treat people. They saved many people, and removed the terror of leprosy from our lives.

 

Khariji = Westerners

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 67

The people of my generation were simple, perhaps even stupid. The women were simple, the men were stupid. The women did not know there was a world beyond the mountains, the men did not want to know there was a world beyond the mountains.

The village paid a slice of what little food they had to a mullah to teach the children to read the Quran. Only the boys got to learn to read, the girls did not. This was acceptable, but proper schools were hated. People were stupid, I can not even tell you how stupid they were. An outspoken girl was looked down upon; such a girl was considered to be a bringer of shame to her family and to the village.

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Khalifa’s daughter Feroza went to the government school in Tameer along with her brothers. Abdul Karim liked her. He wanted his parents to ask for her hand in marriage for him. He loved her, and came to your grandfather to ask him to put out a good word for him.

My brother Aatay Khadim Hussain heard about Abdul Karim’s intention. He scolded him for his choice:

Who in their right mind would marry an educated girl! She goes to school. She could not be a good girl. You will not be able to show your face to the people.

He kept talking about it, and scolded him until he changed his mind.

The government at the time tried to force the villagers to educate their children. The government sent police to the village to force people to send their kids to school. The land owners paid them off and prevented their children from going to school. The poor villagers had to send their kids to school.

Today, in this day and age, the children of those poor families have good lives and good education. The children of the land owners have little to nothing. I told you that people were stupid. They made life bad for themselves.

*Mullah = Religious teacher

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 64

In my days, the women in the village sang songs and celebrated happy times more than men did. These days, women can not sing or even laugh because their men will scold them or worse.

When there was a wedding or a son was born to a family in the village, the women stayed up late and had three night long village party. On the day of the wedding, the groom and bride went to their future home on horseback. The family followed them with songs of joy, dance, and drumbeat. Sometimes they brought a professional drummer and ghazal-goy. You could hear them from far and wide.

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When they crossed another village, the women and girls there stopped them in their path to look at the bride’s face. The men kept walking, and the women stopped along with the bride until the girls had had an eye full.It was an innocent tradition. People of all ages sang, the young were not good at it, the older people were better – they remembered good poems, and good songs. The drummer would hang the drum from their necks and beat both sides of it in melody. The caravan walked with the beat of the drum. When the drum stopped, the people stopped. The restart of the drumbeat was the sign to move.

Hassan of Chuna was a popular ghazal-goy. He was popular at weddings and shaw-shini. Mama, Maamad were other singers from the village. They would not just attend any wedding or party. They had to be convinced, and promised rewards. The elders and the influential villagers had to go to them, and promise them good food or clothes to get them to sing. The parties began with grilled beef or lamb, sweet tea and dry fruits followed, and then came songs, stories and jokes. It continued right until sunrise.

If anyone fell asleep, the others played practical jokes on them. They placed their shoes under their noses, or tickled them in their feet, tickled their ears with a piece of string, or took items out of their pockets as a joke.

I think people knew so little about the world, their expectations were so low that they did not have much to ask for and anything worry about. People observed their religion, they did, but there was a time and place for it. People also laughed and lived.

ghazal-goy = traditional singer
shaw-shini = birth party

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 28

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Ibrahim is the one guy who I know killed his wife. He lives in the next village over, and is related to your grandfather. He is wicked.
He beat up his wife. He beat her up so bad, her young daughters had to arrange transport to take her to Kabul for treatment. She didn’t make it. She died on the way to Kabul and the vehicle returned her lifeless body to the village.
I had met his wife. She was hard working – dokhtar-e-watan. Like the other poor women in the village, she labored hard, spent her days working the farms. She looked after his horse and cattle.

We were shocked to hear about her death. They lied to us about it. They said she had suddenly fallen ill and passed away. We still don’t know why he killed her.

The women who washed her body to prepare it for burial said the body was covered in marks and bruises, especially on her head. The hit on the head was what probably killed her. Nobody asked him questions or even tried to find out what had happened. They just took her and buried her body. That dog didn’t even attend the funeral. Then it all went quiet.
Her sister came over from Hotqol. She screamed that her sister had been beaten to death. We believed her but could not do much. His daughters cried and screamed but they didn’t say much. This continued for a few days and then everyone returned to their lives. People stopped caring and then forgot what had happened.

Ibrahim later remarried. He is still alive and lives in the village. I hear his son has taken to banditry.

*dokhtar = daughter
*wantan = homeland
*dokhtar-e-watan = daughter of the homeland

Stories My Grandmother Told Me – 15

For a woman to survive life in the mountains, she had to be like a resilient man on the inside. The men beat up their wives over petty things, over nothing, often just to establish their authority, but usually to take out their frustration over other problems. There was nothing the wives could do about it. The villagers and the relatives always sided with the husband. It was a man’s world.

This one time, I was cleaning the cowshed, and I was annoyed that my daughters weren’t giving me a hand. I got cranky and scolded them. Your grandfather heard it. He yelled at me and called me over. I was terrified, and did not go. He broke a few branches off the nearest tree, rushed over to the cowshed, and began flogging me. He kept hitting me until all the sticks had broken into little pieces. I screamed, I cried but in vain. Once he was done, he left me alone.

Later in the day, my brother came over and saw my bloodshot eyes. He inquired if I had been beaten up. I was upset and said nothing. I was scared that if I told him anything, it would result in a fight between the two, and then between the two families, and the loss of my family. He understood and left. I followed him, and later found both of them sitting under a tree and talking. I was glad they were talking. I was upset no more and walked back home happy.

On another occasion, I was preparing a meal when your grandfather stormed in. He yelled at me and told me to stop cooking. I was startled, and didn’t know what was going on. I resumed cooking, but he stopped me. He screamed at me that he had been knocking the door for so long and I hadn’t opened it. He was furious. He took me by my arm, dragged me out, and asked me to leave, and return to my parents. I hesitated but he forced me out. I had to return to my parents. No one came for me. A day later I had to return to my children.

We quickly forgot it each time, and moved on. Your late grandfather was an angry man. He beat me up for minor things. So did all the other men. Often, we did not even know what our fault was.

Moral of the Story: Be good to your wives/partners/each other. If you aren’t, chances are your children will write anecdotes about it.