Hunza, GB, Pakistan
Of all the few places I have ventured to, and all the lands I was travelled through, and all the cultures I have lived within, there seems to be a message so universal that it ties far-flung islands to the north of Pakistan- humanity and its common essence. But in the multitude of cultures, the Universe has embedded gems: each beautifully unique. These are not physical, but rather sensory- they must not only be touched and seen, but also felt from within oneself.
And so, off I went to discover the gems of Hunza. And might I add, I was pleasantly surprised at the advancement of its culture; though remote and miles from any urban city, Hunza is rooted so strongly in its ethics and sense of universal love, that it truly soars higher than most cities towered by skyscrapers. Small but mighty Hunza had its gem hidden among girls who unapologetically fly.
During my visit to Fort Baltit, our guide explained to us the pivotal role their females have in their society, and how they are valued and acknowledged .”When a girl is born, we celebrate its birth twice more than we would a boy,” he beamed, “because a boy grows up in our society to work and earn, but the girl also gives birth, and becomes a fostering mother. If she is educated, so will be her family,”he explained simply.
After our visit to Fort Baltit, at Karimabad, our group retreated back to where our cars were parked. Lining the way were beautiful houses, each with a welcoming smile at its door. When we came across Farhana Baig and said our ‘Salaam’, she instantly invited us indoors for a cup of tea and some ‘gupshup’(chitchat). Delighted, we all walked in.
Excited as our group was, we bombarded her with questions. But the most memorable of these was:”You say you are seventeen. Are you engaged yet?” To this, her eyes widened. “No, no no! I am far too young to be married!”We were pleasantly surprised; for rural and semi-urban areas, it was not uncommon for girls to be committed at a young age.She continued after smiling at our reaction:”We at Hunza encourage one’s independence, no matter the gender. We promote learning and enlightenment, and experiencing life widely. So I learn my lessons, and attend a school. The right man will ask for me in marriage, eventually, but I will not wait around for a proposal of course!” she laughed heartily. “We are not raised to become ‘lasses fit for proposal,’ because we are raised to value ourselves, to be enrolled in school and become learned and educated. We are always reminded that it’s okay to fly.” her mother added.
After a heartily conversation, Farhana’s family insisted we join them for evening tea. But being in a rush, we politely refused. Farhana then excused herself to be dismissed, for she had music lessons at the local culture centre. We then exited, much grateful to our hosts for their kindly insight.
And that was Hunza’s unique gem: it unapologetically taught girls how to fly. For more than a few centuries now, Hunza has not breathed a word of its doings; rather, its courage and wisdom is reflected in all its people. Especially in its empowered girls who defy common stereotypes so courageously.
If my hosts can read this, I thank them for their uplifting words!