Sher Afgan Raza
Meragram No 1, located between Awi and Sonoghur villages in Upper Chitral, is famous for its lush green landscape, huge overlooking glaciers and springs flowing round the year.
The village can be reached from three sides and approaching it is like ascending a minaret from three pathways.
“No one can come to Meragram on their own sweet wish unless Meragram itself calls them,” says Sher Babur Khan, an old resident, while talking to ChitralToday about the natural obstacles in the three routes to his village.
The most prominent of the route and once dubbed as a death trap in whole Chitral is from the Awi side in the south via Dothan with dangerous curves and bends. Hundreds of people lost their lives and limbs in traffic accidents while negotiating the turns in Dothan when the Chitral-Mastuj road used to pass through Meragram and other villages before it was diverted to the Parwak side on the right bank of the Mastuj river.
The other route to Meragram No 2 coming from Parwak across the river is also treacherous and is used by villagers living on either side of the river. The third road to Meragram from Sonoghur through Ishperu Risht is frequently blocked due to avalanches. But these blockades are removed within days by the hard working and volunteer-spirited people of Meragram No 1.
The village has abundant of natural springs because of its proximity to huge glaciers. In the winter, these springs provide warm water to the residents while in the summer these are used as the source of drinking and irrigation purposes.
People belonging to six or seven clans live in the village which comprise 120 houses. These people have inhabited the villages for centuries but in the recent times most of them have shifted to Parwak across the river.
People of Meragram No 1, like their counterparts in the nearby Songhur village, are fond of music. Famous Sitar player late Shah Guli Zar and his son Afsar Khan also belonged to this village.
It is interesting to note that one of the three drivers of the late Mehtar of Chitral Nasirul Mulk also belonged to Meragram No 1.
The driver, Ghulam Nabi, crashed a man to death in Delhi while driving the Mehtar there and was jailed. Later, however, the Mehtar managed to get him released after paying compensation to the heirs of the deceased, according to Ali Jabbar Khan, a retired headmaster and resident of Awi.
There have been a number of people in the village known for their self-coined nickname such as Atalegh, Tika Khan, Jamadar, Major and Senior.
Though this village is located near the headquarters (Booni) of the Upper Chitral district, it lacks basic facilities of life such as a dispensary or even a medical store. There are three government and private schools that cater to the children up to the middle level.
Polo was once the favourite sport of the local people and the small village had three polo grounds – Meragram Junali, Tori (upper) Junali and Dolop Junali.
Tori Junali has now almost buried under mud due to lack of care and maintenance while the other two are mostly used for playing football and volleyball.