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Coping with risks – the old Chitral style

By Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

There was a time when we were advised by our elders to remain away from risky places such as the rolling stone slopes of Chitral, the riverbanks, landslide areas, climbing tall trees and so many other things as any kind of medical aid was not available and roads were too bad for equestrian movements.

Local mountebanks did treat injuries according to their experiences. The collective life of the communities was also not well off though a sense of good cooperation did exist and great sympathy was shown on calamity or any other kind of loss. Swimming was one of the risky skills for communication over the glacial torrents in all the valleys of Chitral and this was the only risky skill that was encouraged to be learnt and feasts were arranged to start the apprenticeship under an expert swimmer.

Other local skills based on local wisdom and experience were also part of a man’s qualities all over Chitral. But risk taking was regarded as unadvisable and discouraged, but young men hardly cared for such advises and risked their lives on emergencies such as floods, earthquakes, avalanches that were the common phenomenon of that old society, including big game in the steep rocky slopes.

In a country like Chitral life without risks is not possible. There are risks all around you. The meager resources of the country compelled them to do extraordinary pieces of work for their families and communities as a recourse of survival. Horse riders did enter high tides of  rivers in July and August clinging to the back of their horses to cross rivers in emergencies. Flood victims were rescued in their own way as no rescue worker was to be called and there was no such training except the wisdom of the older men of the communities who had spent years with the rulers fighting for one prince at one time and fighting for the rival on another occasion in the hope of the possibility of a claimant’s  triumph, strength and courage.

The middle class men of Chitral have seen and experienced a very rough period of history owing to the quarrelsome nature and tug-of-war of the princes of the ruling families. It was the risk that was to make one victorious over a rival for a couple of years to be reversed  by the vanquished one.

The borders of Chitral were not the ones now shown on the maps – it extended from Gilgit, Bunji in the east to Bashgal in the west – a vast mountainous country of intractable tribes who were not very friendly among  themselves in normal conditions due to fostering issues as well as grabbing tracts of lands from the ruling princes  but were united to guard the borders of the state down from Chaghansarai up to Bashgal and in the trans Shandur valleys  down to Bunji and Gilgit – all at the risk of their lives to be honoured by the rulers on show of valour.

Risk taking made them owners of vast landed property as well as higher position in the class conscious society of Chitral. Men like Mughal Khan least cared for their lives and fought demons and witches  all alone and over powered them.

Challenges are opportunities and a risk is nothing but a dire challenge that demands strong nerves and makes a man a super man. Don’t hesitate to take risks but make quick decision on the spot and the decision making capability  must take  a second only  not minutes. If you don’t take risk or hesitate you are doomed.

This is a highly competitive phase of  human history and those who fail to make quick decisions, or hesitate or lack the power of taking initiatives will face failures. Always get up early in the morning,  make it a habit and never hesitate to take risks. It is a part of life and life is not a bed of rose petals but a hard rocky reality and requires constant hard work to compete with rivals to be crowned with success.


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