This is the story of a small town Pushtun girl named Gulsanga. She lived in a small village called Darora, in Dir, Swat. Her love for rivers and valleys was profound. She breathed the fresh morning air, smelled the delicious poppies, and welcomed the bright, glowing, morning sun.
She was bright, tall, and smart for a girl just fifteen. The village has made progress in recent times, flowers bloomed by, welcoming spring, leaving traces behind of a chilly, winter.
Lost in her thought, she arrived on a riverbed. Humming a tune, she just remembered, folklore, some lyrics she picked up from the Internet. Gone were the days of TV.
Welcome to the new age of Wifi and Tiktok.
Oh, how she loved TikTok. All her friends followed it. They made silly videos, never posting them, of course. They forwarded them to each other. A friend’s group by the name of ‘Shupgmai’-Moon in Pushto-The language of the Pathans- The brave, strong folks, the earliest inhabitants of Pakistan, before the subcontinent partition- living on the land since more than 500 plus years- The early League of Legends some say.
She read voraciously too. “We are no different from the Jews”, she said one day to her friend Fatima.
“Do you know, we are the long-lost tribe of the Jews, so we are Brethren then? Why is there so much hate in the world then?” She queried Fatima, exasperating.
Reading it from a website, of course. Myth or truth who knows, but she clung onto the hope that all humanity is connected somehow.
As days went by she kept on reading different stories, one day she came across a horrible tale from a land far away.
“Fati, Fati, Zar Razha”, she cried. Translating into: “Fati, Fati, come hither, quick.”
Fatima was her neighbor and her childhood best friend. She was making Roti-the traditional bread at around noon, helping AmaGul-the name all Pushtun children call their mothers- lovingly, adorning them as if flowers were not enough in the valley, they have to put a suffix and prefix with Gul as a must with each name. (Gul means flower).
Leaving her morning chores behind, she fled, thinking Gulsanga was in trouble. After all, she had such urgency in her voice. This must be important Fatima thought. She wouldn’t risk being on the roof otherwise.
“I read something disturbing. A girl has been murdered brutally by her boyfriend,” said Gulsanga, breathless.
Fatima made a face. “You burned my Roti(bread) for this. AmaGul will be so mad at me. Are you crazy? What’s new in this tale? Why didn’t you WhatsApp me?”
“Your mobile battery is always dead. If only you would stop letting your wicked little brother play games on it, I wouldn’t have to use age-old methods.” Gulsanga defended her stance.
“Besides where is the fun in messaging, after all, I don’t get to see your reaction.” She smiled slyly.
Fatima decided it is best to give up and not argue. Gulsanga’s mom was so lenient on her, she had so few chores, she can argue with her the whole day but she couldn’t risk it and lose any more time.
“Video call,” sighed Fatima. “I have to go. Catch up with you later”.
“No wait,” said Gulsanga. “Don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?”
“Ok, shoot,” said Fatima, trying to sound excited but all she could think about were the Rotis (bread) she had to bake and time was ticking fast. Gulsanga was so stubborn, she would not let it go by, Fatima knew her so well. She played along.
To be continued….
Thank you for reading, Stay tuned for part 2.
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