Aftab Ali Khan Musa
In the pristine valleys of Chitral, where the mountains kiss the heavens and the rivers sing their own melodies, a different narrative has taken root.
It’s a narrative that speaks of romanticism, an ideology that once graced the landscapes of Europe during the Metternich era, an era fraught with political turmoil and revolutionary aspirations. An era where romanticism played an adverse role by making Europeans forgetful of the present, entangling them in laxity of past and merry-making. Little did we anticipate that romanticism, born continents away, would find its way to our beloved Chitrali culture, entwining itself like ivy on a trellis.
But as we behold the echoes of European romanticism, the question beckons: has the real essence of Chitral been shrouded under the weight of songs and dances? Do we, the inheritors of a land that has witnessed the ebb and flow of empires, not have more to offer to the world than just merry-making? Can we justify ourselves as women and men (some wearing make-up) dancing in TikTok videos? Is it worth it – aren’t we better off without?
It is undeniably factual that Chitral is a place of immense historical significance, where the footprints of countless civilizations intersect. From the Greek expeditions of Alexander the Great to the Silk Road merchants and the ancient kingdoms that held sway here, Chitral has borne witness to history’s grand pageantry. Yet, this tapestry of history remains largely forgotten, overshadowed by the allure of romanticism and lack of knowledge has uprooted love for history and culture altogether from our society – culture other than dancing, singing, and falling in love every other day.
How unfortunate and disheartening it is to see that we have inadvertently surrendered our cultural identity to influences from afar. Our ancestral beliefs and practices are threatened by the encroachment of external ideologies. Our rich heritage is eroding, and the foundations of our culture are being undermined by the allure of other traditions.
One can’t help but wonder why we have allowed our Chitrali culture to be tethered to Hinduism; consenting our families to gather around to watch Star Plus and our valorous spirit to be eclipsed by the code of Pashtunwali (Kho culture is far older, superior, significant and diverse).
An adolescent learns Hindi as a second language and brazenly declares himself to be a Pathan. Adding fuel to fire, we’ve yet to establish a functioning Khowar department at the University of Chitral, a stark symbol of the disrespect our own culture has endured. Mark my words, cultures die not merely by non-representation in written, they die too of falsification!
The time has come for Chitral to reclaim its cultural legacy, to rekindle the flames of its historical significance, and to pay homage to the echoes of empires past. We must transcend the superficiality of romanticism that has held our attention captive and endeavor to explore the depths of our unique identity. We must abate striving to beautify our face, instead characters must be beautified- that’ll be a thing worth depiction.
To achieve this, we must embark on a journey of self-discovery, fostering a deeper understanding of our history, language, and traditions. We must cultivate institutions that promote our cultural heritage and protect it from external influences seeking to dilute its authenticity.
Let us not forget that our cultural identity is a priceless treasure trove, one that we owe to ourselves and the generations that follow. It is time to dismantle the grip of romanticism, to revere our heritage, and to carry forward the legacy of Chitral with pride and reverence. I assure all the mothers that your child would sound equally adorable if they use the word “Miki” instead of “Uncle”.
Also, in this endeavor, we must not merely sing and dance, but we must also study, learn, and preserve. We must be the torchbearers of our culture, illuminating the path for our youth, and ensuring that Chitral continues to stand as a testament to history’s grand narrative and a bastion of cultural vibrancy.
The mountains may stand as silent sentinels, but it is our voices and actions that will echo through time, telling the world that Chitral has more to offer than meets the eye. It’s time to write our own narrative, one that celebrates our heritage, honors our history, and preserves the soul of Chitrali culture for generations to come.
(Aftab Ali Khan Musa is Lecturer International Relations/English and an expert in European history).