LIFE Among The Hills and Vales
Tale of a village and life

By Jamil Khan

HAVE you ever thought how it would feel living in an environment free from pollution? How it would feel to wake up at the break of dawn and go out into the fields? How it would feel like feasting on pure milk, butter and lassi and enjoying treats like sarsoon ka saag and makkai ki roti? Wow seems in seventh heaven right!
But little do we realize that most of the villages (it is villages that offer such treats) though bestowed with immense natural beauty are located in far flung areas and offer very few facilities to its residents. Life in a village is hard toil from dawn to dusk to earn a living yet you find a smile on their resolute faces. Villages basically boast of an agrarian society, however, some people do take up other professions as well.
Recently I spent a week-long vacation with my friend, Ahmed, in his village, Seri, Oghi, situated in a remote area of the North West Frontier Province. The place is located at the altitude of approximately 2500-4000 miles west of the Mansehra.
We took a bus and arrived in Abbottabad at around 7:00am after completing a 24 hour journey. Later we took breakfast at a restaurant. Ahmed’s village was still about three hours away. The mercury dropped to 14°C and we were nearly frozen; I had never encountered such extreme cold weather. The journey between Abbottabad and Mansehra was a breathtaking experience. The narrow road wound up with one side boasting of high mountains and the other side seemed as though it was a dark dreary well, it was pretty scary I must admit. The mountains, almost covered with tall pine trees, gave a scenic view. We reached our next destination, Oghi, the main bazaar of the area around noon. The place is part of the Hazara Division and is known as Tanol.
People were dressed in traditional shalwar-kameez with warm shawls wrapped around them to protect them from the chilly winds. The hustle and bustle found in these remote areas was one of its kind. In the bazaar we saw well decorated pushcarts loaded with fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and a variety of dry fruits. Besides this another stall with a variety of warm clothes and caps also captured our attention but then we were too tired to carry any more stuff with us.
We stopped to take some rest and met Kamran a cousin of my friend who was there to greet us. Furthermore we looked for jeeps that could take us safely to our destination but failed to do so and ended up climbing the top of a vehicle. Seri, the name of the village situated between the mountains, was our final destination. As we reached home everyone was waiting for us and they gave us a warm welcome. After washing our hands and faces with warm water we gathered in a big room where the male members of the family were waiting for lunch. The meal was simple but tasty and I feel that I won’t be able to forget its flavour for a long time. The traditional village meal consists of Makai ki rooti (bread made by corn-flour), Saag, Lassi (not cold) with other dishes. We took a nap for half-an-hour prior to going outside to meet the other members of the family.
Here most of the houses are made with rough stones and are plastered with mud while the roof is made of wood, dry leaves of pine trees and a thick layer of mud. This keeps the houses warm during the winter season and cool in hot summer days.
Life in the village is hard as women usually wake up at around 4:00 in the morning and prepare breakfast for the family. The male members gather around the fire after saying Fajr prayers. After taking breakfast the male members of the family take their bulls to the fields to plough them. They till the fields until noon and come back for lunch to their houses.
At the same time the women try to complete their household chores. These include cleaning and washing and also tending to cattle.
Wheat, maize and rice are the major crops of this region. Besides this, onion, radish, carrot, turnip and tomatoes are other crops that are grown in these areas. These crops yield good revenue in the local market. Donkeys are used as the main mode of transportation. People carry their goods on their shoulders for the small distance while donkeys are used for long distances. In many villages around the area women fetch water from wells which are located far from their homes.
There is no school in village Seri and hence the children who want to study have to go to nearby village that have government run schools both for boys and girls. Children have to walk on foot for 45 minutes to and hour to reach school and the same is done in the afternoon on the journey back home. One would often see children taking a bath in the pools on their way back. Unfortunately these schools are up to middle only and after that the children either leave studies or go to nearby towns. Yet it is heartening to know that despite hardship children are going to school and parents are also willing to get their children educated.
In the evenings children gather to play cricket on the rooftops. While the elders spend their evenings chatting in the Baithak of the village. In every village a mosque and a Baithak (guest or common room) are a must and play a key role in the life of villagers.
As the day starts early, people tend to sleep early too. People take dinner following Maghrib prayers and soon after prepare to go to bed.
So this how a person in the village spends a long hectic day…
-Published in Young World-Dawn | Mar 12, 2005

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