Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
Once I had the honour to attend a seminar on indigenous knowledge of the old days of Chitral and there were many learned and professional men from Chitral and other districts. They spoke on various old skills, risk reduction tools, development of skills of various crafts, architectural approach of the old men of Chitral.
All the topics were very informative and one could get excellent ideas based on the old way of approach to various challenges faced by the communities inhabiting the valleys far away from Chitral proper.
Iron ore was found in Chitral but skill to develop it into useful tools, implements and weapons was very poor then for centuries or gold dust was panned from the sands of the river but to make jewels from it was crude etc.
In the seminar mentioned above, I was also asked to say something about the topic. As the main idea was about crafts and disaster risk reduction skills I had to give an example of the skill of the bygone days. Since the hall in which the session was in progress had been built in 60s and there was a good use of timber in the construction of the walls and the main support to reduce risk, there was GREN system in the walls. The old men of Chitral used timber at least once and often twice as GREN. This timber was either in natural form as called bond or sawed and fixed over the stones of the masonry at mid wall of the building such as during construction of forts, protection walls, bridges and private houses.
This timber countered the shocks of the tremors and earthquakes did not cause damages and this GREN system had been an indigenous skill and architects used it for safety measures.
There were also good uses of timber and logs for various purposes. Wooden utensils were made from certain tree trunks and all the utensils in a house were of wood but this craft has now been forgotten.
Once I was given a task to find a wooden utensil maker and I travelled to a far-flung valley where a family had been named to be master craftsmen but I was astonished to hear from the grand sons of the old master that they had discarded the old family craft and hesitated to give reasons but gave out that it was a skill of shame in the modern times so they disliked to be called the offspring of wooden utensil maker. In the same manner the society had discouraged the old craftsmen and their grandchildren wanted to erase that name from their history.
What a stupid approach! Many skills have disappeared from our culture because the people around them taunted them and they were to find other source of income and forget their family skill.