Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Memories of a Rural Ancestral Village.

 There is a reverent name by which my grandmother’s village is called, by the few who know it. It is an hour’s drive from the teeming city of Gujrat (3 hrs from Lahore) towards Azad Kashmir.
I wish it were still as beautiful for you to visit, but the truth is that I shall tell it to you from memory – until only a decade or two ago, this place was mystical and charming, still might be, but my grandmother is no longer, there is electricity, and the people have grown up different..

Enter off a lone road, down a narrow uncomfortable dirt track you navigate by gently nudging a very stubborn flock of goats and sheep with the car, who take no notice of the horn and your presence (Do not try it with the buffaloes).
From afar, the batch of mud and redbrick houses is alluring, enter and suddenly you are in a very narrow brick lane, and you take the lanes that can squeeze in your car, open drains on either side running along and medieval towns are no longer a strange picture in history, but very real. Hardship is etched into the lines and threadbare dhotis of the old women and men bent double, but then hardship is etched into the faces of many people across Pakistan, and you will be surprised at the meaning of faces conveying stories, stories you know you don’t want to hear because of how they will make you feel.

At the very end of the village, the last house is huge and covers the perimeter of all the houses behind it, so that when you turn the last lane round the corner, you have only the house, or ‘haveli’ stretching out on one side, and opposite is the mosque, the ‘mazaar’ , and the well driven by oxen, buffaloes tied, and behind all these, the fields open and go on forever. In the background, you can barely make out the purple outline of the mountains of Kashmir.

We break into a run knowing our grandmother is inside, Nano,(are all maternal grandmothers as special and angelic as mine?? ) She is inside, losing her sight,partially blind, fiercely independent, and she is surprised, then breaks into her very musical laugh as she hears the children run up to her and hug her.

There was no telephone in the house see, and she is in the midst of supervising the chattering village women squatting on the ground, who come frequently to pay homage, and gather in the courtyard to talk and help her with various activities.Suddenly a proud rooster is scooped up from the ground, and a few minutes later, two of the women are plucking out the dead bird’s feathers, preparing him for a very strong flavored simple chicken broth, simple and light, but loaded with chillies, and the flavor of a free bird that fed on organic scraps and clean air. The rotis to go with it, will come out of the ‘tandoor’ oven in the ground, in the courtyard. The cat meanwhile eyes them, slinking nearby. At night she will disturb the tin dishes while we sleep nearby on charpais, underneath a black sky FILLED with stars, something I still have not witnessed anywhere else – I didn’t know it was possible to see so many stars, or that there were so many. Until drops of rain falling on our face wake us and force us to move into the verandas, where at 8 AM we will find the village women sitting on our charpais chattering amazed at how we are still sleeping after the sun has risen.

Sharing pictures of my grandmother’s house today... She had the most musical laugh I have ever heard, and the most generous spirit I personally knew – the way to make her happy was to bring her gifts she could give away to poor villagers. Combine that with pragmatism, and forgetting your belongings at her place meant you had just given to charity unwittingly.

Above: The courtyard of my grandmother's house, where the village women would gather around to gossip, and do chores. The pillar has a rod from which hung a wire basket to keep food well aired, and away from cats!
In the bottom right corner(Not fully pictured) is the Tandoor (clay oven) in the ground for making Rotis.. the bread sticks to the hot walls and is done by the flames in a minute or two.

Above: The view from the verandah going around the courtyard.

Above: One of the main entrances... An intricate carved wooden door leads into a small mud floored room that opens into the courtyard.


meryl's musings said...

Your memories are both beautiful and bittersweet to read. I stumbled across your blog from Crafty Synergy -- I will visit again.

Aqsa said...

Oh wow... couldn't have asked for a better surprise on a Saturday morning. You've said it all; the baffaloes, the yummy rooster, night sky FULL of stars, and very very angelic Nano. I have tears in my eyes. You always do that to me!! I'll mail you an image of Nano's painting that I made last year. If you want you can maybe add it to this blog? Love you... and miss you so much, there's a constant subtle pang of pain. *hug*

ThePeachTree said...

What breath taking photographs and an amazing tale. I'm honored to have come across it :)

Shana said...

I've been left so pleasantly surprised that my memory could be so well recieved, Thank you all!
There was always a feeling that we were experiencing something beautiful and ancient,something to drink in because it was tethering at its end..

Meryl: I'm sure I'll remember yours as my first comment - and a pleasant surprise who helped me figure out the emotion I associate with these memories - bittersweet.
I look forward to your visits.

Aqsa: Its yours as much as it is mine..and theres so much else na!
I'm glad we finally speak of what a treasure Nano and her Awansharif was in our life. Your work gets a separate feature whenever you're free one of these days iA!

Peachtree: It truly was one of the richest experiences to have had in my life, and I could only share a little but I'm so honored you liked it.

mudassir raja said...

hello thanks for giving honour to my village.there is true all about it.i am still living in this beautiful village.i love my village nd peplz of awansharif 2.

mudassir raja said...

hi i am raja nd still living in this beautiful village.i love my village nd its peplz 2.

ASHER said...



SHAMS said...

awan sharifffffffffffff

only i have 2 sat 1 thing when ever any body of u visit awansharif ask from any 1 that who was he . he will tell u .

seeme said... father is also from awan sharif (now living in canada) & my in-laws also live there.the house which u mentioned in the blog that is near 2 my uncle(taya abu)'s just takes one(1) min & i've seen this house manyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy times.But i m wonder also that this house also belongs to my bhabi's reletives.can u plz give me ur introduction???

raja_mudasar_786 said...

hi asher
m mudasar raja.son of raja riaz parents still living there.but now a days i am here in gujrat 4 study purpose.
this is my id

Tahir Qazi said...

salalmualaikum my name is tahir qazi the haveli you mentioned is the symbol of our family some of them are in Gujrat and some in awansharif and the grand mother you mentioned was our Phophu Razia hope to get reply i am on the facebook and on cell 00447590585196 give my sallam to everyone at home it might looks strange but still hope to know how we are related

shoaib said...

awesome description.luv my village