Despite its enchanting meadows, divine lakes and a warm people, Tangir valley has not yet been explored by the tourism industry
By Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro
There are many beautiful valleys in Northern Areas that are waiting to be explored and visited by the tourists. Tangir is one of them.
A small tribal valley in the Diamer district of Northern Areas, Tangir is neslted within the ranges of Hindukush mountains and offers spectacular terrace fields lining both sides of the mighty Indus river with its imposing wooden houses, towering mountains and enchanting side-valleys (nullahs) that are laced with lush green forests, pristine lakes with floating icebergs and summer pastures.
Tangir is divided into Jaglot and Gabbar -- areas that are subdivided into villages, each headed by a Numberdar or Justero. The majority of population here is composed of four tribes -- Shin, Yeskhun, Domes and Pakhtuns. The former tribesmen speak Shina language while the later Domki and Pashto repectively.
Traditional intuitions hold sway on the everyday life of Tangiris. Every village has its own council. The members are men of influence who represent their lineage while the council is called 'Jirga' with a Justero as its head to look after the village administrative matters. The actual task of Jirga is to settle disputes and see that justice is administered. According to Saeed Rehman, a headmaster in a primary school for boys in Furoori village, the natives don't go to police stations to lodge FIRs; rather they approach the village council (jirga) to settle local disputes. Even the murder cases are not registered with police stations. The jirga system is deeply embedded in the society and the culture of the Tangir valley.
After Jirga, the most important institution in Tangir happens to be 'Zaitu' (warden) that works in tandem with jirga. A zaitu has control over the management of the village resources. He is also responsible for controlling the harvesting of crops, premature plucking of fruits, free grazing, fuel wood, forest cutting, and alpine forest management. Both Zaitu and Wai Segalo (water steward) manage and maintain village-level resources and work under the auspices of jirga. Like Zaitu, Wai Segalo is also a man of repute in the village who, as mentioned above, is responsible for water management and the maintenance of channels.
Each village has its own pastures and forests that are communally owned. Some of the groups only have the right to use and other ownership rights. Tangiris have an indigenous system of resource shares. The royalty of the communally owned natural resources is distributed according to the customary law that governs their everyday behaviour. It is first distributed into Haiti or village and then redistributed among a group of 20 people locally known as 'Kothi'. Women are given half of the total share traditionally called as Tuli.
Tangiris subsist on both agriculture and livestock for their livelihood. It depends only on wheat that is its major crop. At the same time, livestock raising constitutes an important segment of the economy. People give too much time to raising livestock. They celebrate a number of rituals and customs associated with livestock. They perform rituals on two occasions: First, when the herdsmen take their livestock to pastures and, second, when they return safely. On these occasions, the women cook delicious food which is distributed in the whole village praying for their safe departure/arrival.
Tangiris are a very religious people. Almost every adult male local wears a beard. Shaving is not considered 'done' and is discouraged.
The people of the Valley mostly belong to the Sunni sect of Islam and are old-fashioned and orthodox in their tastes and practices. There are no TV sets to be found in the entire valley, even though the place is furnished with electricity and telephone connection. Watching TV programmes is a complete no-no, where radio is not.
The only means of entertainment for the males here is hunting. They hunt in order to obtain meat and also animal hides which can then be sold off in the market. According to Salam Khan, a septuagenarian hunter in Sobho Kot village, he had over two hundred Markhors to his credit, not to mention the numbers of Ibexes, Pheasants, Musk deers, Chakor and Ram chakor etc.
Tangir is considered a heaven for hikers as well. A non-metallic road which spouts from the right bank of Indus runs parallel to the Tangir river up to Satil from where it originates. The total population of the valley is not more than 25,000.
During our visit, me and my friend Shazad Tahir had to put up at a rather dilapidated rest house perched precipitously on the hill from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the Jaglot bazaar that boasts primitive shops and hotels all made of wood. Because of an abundance of forests in the Valley, people excessively use wood to build houses. One of the watchmen in the rest house -- a lean, lanky and garrulous chap -- told this scribe that the people would cut forests in order to earn money. Wood is transported to Durgai in Mardan for the sell.
Tangir abounds in natural beauty but, unfortunately, it does not attract tourists because of the image of its inhabitants being orthodox. However, during the course of our two-month stay in the Valley, I found that the locals were a very simple, gregarious, exuberant and hospitable lot.
Mukem Shah, one of the notables of Jaglot took us to the Satil meadows at the end of the valley. We stayed there for a good two days and had a whale of a time. Mukem delighted us with the bits of information he gave us on the Valley. Satil is a communal pasture open to use by the whole valley in the summers. From Satil two tracks originate one of which leads to the Phundar valley via Chacchi nullah while the other leads to Darel via Batres nullah. Chacchi nullah is replete with three pristine, serene lakes sandwiched between the nullahs. In winters, Satil receives a heavy snowfall and the road to it remains impassable and in summers the temperature drops to 10° C.
One day we planned to go hiking to the Gacchar Lake. After hiring two porters and a guide, we started for the Lake. Prior to setting out, we were told that it would take us two hours to get to the Lake. After an hour passed, my friend and I were terribly pooped-out and unable to move an inch further. We sat on the boulders and took some rest before starting again. Hiking would have seemed a mighty difficult task if we weren't excited enough to reach the Lake.
After every half-hour, we would rest for a while because two hours of hiking seemed never to end. I for one was out of breath. At last -- that is, after five-odd hours of hiking -- we arrived at our destination.
From a distance, the Lake looked like a mirror that was constantly throwing off sunrays that danced and glittered on its surface. The Lake was so overwhelmingly beautiful that one was at a loss for words. Multiple waterfalls that were pouring into the Lake seemed to present a divine picture. As far as I am concerned, it looked more beautiful than Saiful Maluk itself.
Our guide told us that there were other lakes in the Valley, too, such as Pai, Sarogah, Kiregah, Chhaltu, Guloogah, Burel and Jodas -- all of them not yet explored.
By Sarah Sikandar
Our arrival in the world is marked by symbols of identification. When the baby's umbilical connection with the mother severs he enters a world of words and symbols -- laughter and cry are probably the simplest marks of his identification with the world. Gradually he begins to look for a world of meanings outside his tiny existence. His hands and feet start making sense to him while he is trying to understand the gestures of those around him. This is how he embarks into a world where not even a single expression escapes definition.
So all those who every attempted to define life will have no place in my utopia. Those who attempt to comprehend things in terms of numericals, economics and figures would be absent. Freud, for instance, would be non-existent in my utopia. Although a great admirer of the man, I believe life would have been much easier without him. So, in my utopia no one would magnify and lay bare the secrets of my mind. No man shall have the discretion to tell me what I thought as a child and why. I would not be told if my dreams are a by-product of my subconscious. I will only have a conscious and that is it. Sexuality and infancy would be poles apart. No Electras and Oedipuses in my utopia please.
In short my utopia is a world without definitions. It is a world where the self is not corrupted or adulterated by the codes of morality. In that sense it would be a complete anti-thesis of the world we live in. A balance of Rasputin freedom and the clergy-led control. As a child I couldn't help but wonder why things are the way they are -- complex. It was only later in life that I was to understand that behind that complexity lays man's innate desire to label and define all aspects of social and individual life. It is all there. How I should live my life as a member of the family, as a child, as a sibling and as a social animal. Only if Greeks hadn't thought they need to understand life better for it is they who taught us the inevitability of rules.
The worst example of these definitions is fairy tales. I don't identify with Snow White, I never did, but I was made to accept the kind of beauty she represents. Perfect. The picture perfect world of fairy stories has no place for the ordinary. There are either wolves or fairies. In my utopia there are none. It has the most ordinary people trying to pull each others legs, harmless mindless gossip and the desire for a fancy car. Since it would have no wolves the leg pulling will not be done at the cost of people's legs.
I loathe man's wont of defining relationships. So in my utopia relationships are the best source of pleasure without the ever increasing pressure of trying to work things out. The match-made-in-heaven and made-for-each-other sort of couples are not to be found in my utopia. There are no perfect couples, just couples. There would be no constitution to encide my relationship with my parents and siblings.
Utopia sans definitions is the only utopia I would ever want to be in. Beauty and goodness would not be defined but other versions of human satisfaction. Evil, of course, has no place in utopia and whatever vicious is self-destructive.