By Gohar Abbas & Abdullah Bai
The Eid reunion of Gojali community held in Islamabad, last Tuesday evening, became a celebration of their mountain culture that young and old from the Pamir heights enjoyed till late hours in the night, amidst strains of the rubab and the beat of the duf.
Celebrated at the Lok Virsa Complex, it was a special evening for the home sick Gojalis. A number of guests in the audience wore snow-white woollen Gojali caps while some girls wore the traditional colourful cap.
Wakhi Pamiri people are spread around the Pamir knot that ties four countries — Pakistan, Afghanisatn, China and Tajikistan. This conjunction makes their culture unique in Gojal in the northeast of Gilgit-Baltistan. The presence of elderly people among the young also lended an interesting dimension to the reunion as the former were full of concern for the young and could not have run short of wisdom but the youth met them with passionate arguments of their own giving the gathering the looks of an earnest debate. They communicated in their native Wakhi language laced with the sweetness of about 40 and 50 per cent Persian words.
In the background music was played on two ancient musical instruments, Rubab and Daf, a heritage the Gojalis cling to despite the popularity of electronic instruments among the youth. A covey of singers such as Ali Ahmed Shani, Ali Rehbar, Suhail Rumi, Ali Rehmon, Kashif, Atif, Daulat Wali Baig, Didar Karim, Sher Jan Ajnabi, Mirzo Wakhani, from Wakhan corridor, and Ali Rehman sang lilting songs from Gojal valley.
Mrs Safida Ayub presented a Wakhi and a Punjabi song , adding grace to the evening. Mehrun Niso, Alvina Rauf, Saeeda Amin and Roshan Numo, in a group, presented a qawwali berating the boys who had gone wayward, abandoning the time honoured values of their land. Alvina and Roshan Numo also presented a skit which was applauded by the audience.
A group of students from Abbottabad led by Rehmat Jan presented Burushaski songs and dance. Various skits and humorous poetry was recited by Shafqat Karim, Salim Ahmed, Mohammad Zio, Najibullo, Aziz Ahmed Khon, Sher Karim and Sher Khon to the delight and amusement of the audience.
A different skit presented by Shafqat and Muqeem suggested rare feats from different villages of Gojal worthy, in a manner of speaking, of inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records. But in a skit on cooking class one found valuable information about traditional Gojali cuisines such as chilpindok, garal and gurma hoi.
A painting gallery had also been set up beneath the stage with eight oil paintings done by budding artist Nabila Jabbar. Moved by the young painter, Wahid Murad, a painter-teacher at the Kashmir University, Muzaffarabad, pledged to train aspiring Gojali painters free of cost for two months.
Prof (Dr) Brig Salman Ali was guest of honor while Firoz Ahmed, an elderly notable from Gojal valley presided over the gathering. Brig Salman in his speech stressed the youth to reflect the cultural values of their ancestors in their day to day lives. He regretted that the youth was more inclined towards the street language rather than aristocratic. “Young people fluently use English slang in their conversation but they don’t know the very basics of Elizabethan English which make a large part of literature” he observed. He said wakhi language was among one of the five thousand dialects that linguists fear will extinguish in this century.
Mr. Firoz , in his speech, urged the youth to attain the highest level of educational excellence. He informed the youth about the difficulties and miseries of the region that have now vanished and said that the time for the youth was a remarkable one. “It is a golden era as windows of opportunities regarding education have opened on the youth” Mr. Firoz observed while urging the students to get maximum benefit of the opportunities provided to them.
Seated in the front row were quite a few leaders in a number of professions, including the chief guest of the evening, Prof (Dr) Brig Salman Ali, Sultan Ahmed, famous mountaineer and rescuer Qurban Mohammad, Beg Ali, Gul Baig, Mohammad Darjat, Nusrat Nasab, Yasmin Ali, Ghulam Shah, Shaukat Ali, Jabbar Khan, Sultan Mehmood, Nabat Mehrban, Yasmin Karim and Fayyaz Ahmed.
All speakers urged the participants to preserve their cultural and social values, Wakhi language, customs and folklore and promote unity, inter-communal harmony and enlightenment in society. They also advised the youngsters to achieve proficiency in their professions so that they could advance and contribute to the progress of the community. They also appreciated the efforts of GECA for arranging the programme and the efforts it has been making for the promotion of Gojali people and their culture.
Nabiha Karim, a six years old girl, enthralled the audience by presenting dances on the stage with great confidence and expertise. Aslam Khan Ghalib, Aima Nadir, Salma Karim, Rubina Rahim, Mirza Ali and Gohar Abbas conducted the programme in two sessions.
Earlier the GECA Chairman Farman Ali welcomed the guests and highlighted the importance of culture and the challenges being faced by the Wakhi community and stressed the need for efforts to preserve the Wakhi language which is facing extinction as mentioned in the UNESCO’s red book. He also mentioned the projects GECA has launched for the preservation of the Wakhi language, culture and folklore and the Wakhi Festival scheduled for Oct 17, 2009 at Lok Virsa.
He said that GECA has set up three libraries in collaboration with the national book foundation in Rawalpindi, Sost and Aliabad respectively besides involving the youth in creative activities through village folk lore societies. “The National Book Foundation has agreed to provide books and furniture to three Village Book Clubs being set up in three towns/villages in Gojal Valley — Chipursan, Gulmit and Shimshal initially, which will be expanded to other villages”, he added.
GECA vice-chairman, Tayib Jan, presented the vote of thanks. He thanked Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid for facilitating and collaborating with GECA in organizing the function successfully.