Celebrating culture: A look inside the hidden Kalash Valley

Maureen Lines’ book portrays curious culture of Chitral valley.

ISLAMABAD: A book celebrating the unique culture and lifestyle of the one of the oldest civilisations, Kalasha, was launched at the Islamabad Club on Tuesday. “The Kalasha of the Hindu Kush” has been authored by Maureen Lines, in collaboration with the late MP Bhandara, her associate in social work in the valley for about three decades.

Murree Brewery Company Ltd Chief Executive Isphanyar M Bhandara organised the book launch in a tribute to the efforts of his late father and Lines in the valley.

“There are two reasons for publishing this book,” he said, “one is that my late father’s close association with the social work carried out in all the three valleys. The other reason is to introduce the people and the culture of Chitral valley, their customs and way of living.”

Isphanyar, who happens to know Lines since childhood, said she surrendered her British passport in order to get a Pakistani one.

Major (retd) Sabihur Rehman, political assistant and Bhandara’s companion in social work, spoke about Lines, who came to the country over three decades ago and never looked back.

Speaking of Bhandara, he said, he was as much committed to the people and the valleys of Kalash.

Lines, ever since she arrived in the country, took pictures with an ordinary camera, some of which also feature in the book. Rehman read out a message on behalf of Lines, who could not attend the ceremony owning to a medical condition,.

“Many of you have known Bhandara, who was a good friend of mine for many years. We shared many things: literature, history, writing and above all, the welfare of Kalasha. Bhandara was a man of many parts and this book, the photography and the journey of three decades is a tribute to his memory. It is hoped that many of you will donate to the welfare of the people of Kalash,” he quoted her as saying.

Raza Kuli, who is one of the few people to have known Lines for a long time, narrated that she was one of the few people who came to Pakistan and made it her home. She had inherited a house from her mother in Birminghamshire. She sold it, put half the money in her bank and with the rest, came to Pakistan and stared living here.

As part of her work in the Kalash Valley, she looks after people, takes the sick to Peshawar for treatment and tries to improve the sanitation.

“She is very disappointed in us Pakistanis that we do not look after our heritage. And in some things, she’s become quite Pakistani for she becomes very upset when Kalasha culture is portrayed in the wrong way. She also believes dancing women should not be displayed on tourism advertisements,” he said.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervez Rashid, who was the chief guest on the occasion, lauded the efforts of both Bhandara and Lines for their social work.

“[Lines] has dedicated her life to the welfare of Kalaash community since she arrived there.  She was awarded a Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan for her extraordinary services in the preservation and promotion of Kalasha culture. Her love for the people of the valley makes a compelling story,” he said.

The federal government has approved a special grant of Rs20 million for various development projects, including the up-gradation of a middle school.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2014.


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