Family system of Chitral – new versus old


Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig

The tribes and families living in Chitral have seen quite a good number of ups and downs in the past – both near and distant past.

Besides politics-based vicissitudes, our forefathers had their particular circle of activities inside the clan, tribe, community and the relationship network that spread from valley to valley. Here we shall depict the old and new family patterns. These are only very brief and students of sociology may carry out research on the broader basis.

The old family system consisted of grandparents, parents and their children with the grandsons and daughters. Usually, there were above 10 but in a good many cases more than 20 members of those families and thus a family had a good number of workforce and did many kinds of farm work outdoors and also many domestic duties.

The old grandmother used to control the whole domestic chores and resource management. The younger ones also followed them – the males in their circle and the females in their circle – and lived together under the umbrella of the oldest male of the house or his next senior member as head of the system.  

All works were allotted; the older males showed the younger ones the boundaries of their pieces of plots scattered in various parts of the valley as well as in the summer huts called ‘Ghari’. This was also a part of education for them.

Inside the house, the grandparents were all-time in the house or out of it in summer but their grandsons and daughters, infants and older ones used to stay with them.  They were given names full of love called Meher such as ma mayon, ma zhano nus, ma hardi, ma bulbul, ma taqat, ma pari, ma merzhuri, ma chulak, ma chhek, and so many words of love and affection and the children liked to remain with their grandparents; or in case of the absence of one of them with the one who was present.

The grandparents kept a watchful eye on the kids and listened to their learning and understanding capability i.e. IQ from the very beginning and talked about the mental progress of the kids – the extraordinary one was thus found out of a dozen or so kids though they had no formal education system. The talkativeness or taciturnity was detected at that stage. The parents taught the kids various simple skills. They were tested in learning the mother tongue and difficult words were put forward to speak – some spoke correctly but some did not.

The grandparents were the guardian angels (in a sense) and looked after the junior ones who needed help in walking or talking. Puzzles were given to be solved and were awarded. Targets were given to achieve and then GOOD or NO GOOD was given in the presence of all others to encourage the one group and motivate the other one. A sense of competition was also held at domestic level. Up to five years this group was known as ‘Na fahum’ – the one whose intelligence has not developed and , therefore, should not be chastised but guided; after that age anyone who misbehaved was advised to do the right thing and abstain from bad thing  and  was also chastised.

This grooming by the elders of the family were the guidelines and the kids then became young and the gap between the males and females took separate shape and colour. The girls started using dolls, grouped with other girls of the hamlet and developed their circle and thus started to copy their mothers by making male or female dolls and getting them married. They also began making breads of mud and exchanged gifts.

The boys also got their separate circles and used to begin male sports but both males and females were watched by their elders and their positive or negative activities were noted and then guided. The society got its members in this way from the families of the community and the system went ahead.

Within the community the more mischief monger youth with rough behavior because of failure of proper grooming by the family concerned, were chastised by the elders of the community as a common responsibility to make them responsible members.

Then, the political system intervened but at adolescence they got the knowledge about the changes of puberty and both males and females were given instructions and guidance from their own elders as well as gender. The boys were then considered fit for outing, sent on errands and journeys were undertaken.  Visits to one’s maternal uncles used to be an activity that started from early child hood and many kids spent their early days in the houses of their maternal uncles, both males and females did it.

The family system has now gone drastic changes. Married couples hesitate to procreate and have resorted to two-kid formula (family planning) for fear of burden of rearing. After marriage many if not majority, get into separate houses – away from their parents and the grandparents whom they deem a burden; and the lady dislikes all that is said by her in-Laws. She prefers to live independently and joins service or some type of job and the kids have to be with her. The husband has got no value in this bifurcation and has to submit to the dictates of his spouse. If she earns something of value then her say is the final in that hose and the poor husband submits and lives a salve’s life.

The kids remain deprived from the care and guidance of the elders as mentioned. They are sent to schools and find the doors of their houses locked on return from schools and are at the mercy of the society and get many negative values, but if the door remains opened even then they get no love affection of grandparents that were uttered by that generation but some is still present in the present generation if the married couple have bigger heart to accommodate the presence of the old people inside their house.

In order to keep the old traditional ways and values or some of them, the new generation and the new parents have to be much more generous and accommodating by living under the same roof where the grand parents live and secondly show obedience to get the blessings of the old ones and thirdly get the benefits of partaking the kids rearing/ raising duties that comes free from the loving and affectionate grandparents. The kids would thus have better environment to grow and better guidance than living away from their grandparents.

The doctrine of joint family system was a great merit and had many beneficial sides that are being denied to those who have seen the light of the day or who are on their way to reach this new modern world with its innumerable complications and complexities. 


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