Eid shopping and memories from Swat

Published: August 7, 2013
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People of all age groups are busy shopping, it is time for Eid. PHOTO: FILE

Swat: I grab my white parrunay (veil) and handbag, and ask my younger son to hire a rickshaw for us. It’s the last week of Ramazan and my clothes for Eid are still lacking a lace here, and a button there; my elder son wants shoes while the younger one wants to a buy a shirt like the one his friend at school has.

As the rickshaw races towards Cheena market – the local market where almost everything is available that a woman might need for herself and also for her kids – I see life at its full swing.

People of all age groups are busy shopping. It doesn’t matter if they are fasting or the weather is unexpectedly hotter than usual; the shops, stalls, roads, all are crowded. Some still looking for the things they want, others rushing back home with excited children and heavy shopping bags. Voices of women, men, children, laughing, clattering, bargaining, prices and inflation rates can be heard in the background. But this motion, bustle, ebb and flow – is life!
Suddenly the Ramazan and Eid of the year 2008 flash before my eyes….

As they say ‘good old times’ unfortunately, in our part of the world not all times are good and such times, certainly not! No woman could go for shopping or even step out of the house. Wear a black burka, omit any traces of being identified, and let an adult male ‘guardian’ accompany you – only then were you allowed to see past the gates of your house.

This was a time when we feared to send our dear ones out of the house, because we never knew if they’d return safely. This was a time when the daily head lines would help extinguish the little hope that kept us alive.

Many people in the town hurried to get married, so they could enjoy the little time they had left; life was unpredictable. We were also one of them and thus, Eid for us was followed by my brother’s wedding.

The summer of 2009 was a dark phase with only terror and sounds of heavy gun fires. Our elders refused to move to a safer place and we stayed in our house for at least 50 days without any electricity or gas. We learned to survive on little water and food which was enough for hardly a week – awaiting death.

Luckily, soon after, an announcement was made that the operation had been successful and the natives were allowed to return. We were able to see our loved ones again. But, when it was all over, it had stripped and cleansed Swat of all its beauty, if nothing else. Those returning said they could smell gunpowder in the air, and felt it wasn’t their Swat but some other deserted place.

The beauty of time is that it never stays the same. It changed for us too: from good to bad and then back to good again, though in an extremely short period of time. Gradually everything went back to normal. Schools, colleges and bazaars reopened and we too, reverted to our old ways.

Swat is a better and safer place now. New developments, cadet colleges, shopping malls, parks, cafes, hotels and a university all are signs of a better and more developed home.

We are happy, quite happy, that it’s all normal again. But the past has scarred us.

The locals apprehend that this peace is temporary and actually something more horrible is brewing deep down. The external circumstances have changed, definitely, but what about the horror and insecurity which has formed firm roots and still lives deep in our hearts and in the darkness of the night when we hear wolves howling or a sudden cries or a gunshot, we jump out of the beds saying: have they come again?

Yousra Javaid

Yousra Javaid

A Masters in English literature with distinction, Lecturer, living in an era where being normal is probably the most special thing one can do. The usual beliefs, contradictions and complications to follow. She tweets @YousJavaid twitter.com/YousJavaid

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • hatespeech

    nice depiction of the militancy hit area…Recommend

  • Javed

    I wonder how many comments would have been given against Pakistan Army if this article was describing weaknesses of military against militants and now no one is appreciating sacrifices made by Pakistan Army in bringing peace in Swat. Long Live Pakistan Army for their sacrifices and efforts :)
    Any positive development must be appreciated.Recommend

  • hahahahhaah

    @Javed are u Army PRO?Recommend

  • kheta

    a brilliant piece. The writer has beautifully depicted how once a peaceful place has turned into a nightmare for them, by the monsters of ‘id’. Those were the best of times were followed by those were the worst of times. The impact was so huge that the bad memories still haunt them. They say that time flies when you are happy; but its stays with you when you are scared or unhappy. The writer expressed her fear in a beautiful literary language. Recommend

  • Saba khattak

    A very good first attempt yousra :) keep it up! Recommend

  • Nidz

    Shudders I am reminded of the dreadful times too. Eid of 2007, I guess, when weird-looking Taliban were controlling traffic on the roads of Kanju and the adjoining areas. Some said they didn’t look local. That they had abnormally long hair and beards and looked scary. Some liked them initially but changed their stance after those horrible-looking men started threatening and beheading innocent people for being “Roshan Khayal”. Shudders again
    I agree, things look good now and we pray that the peace stays forever.Recommend

  • gulab Khan

    love the insertions of Pushtu words in this blogRecommend

  • Gingo

    This blog by the writer is a living breathing proof of the fluency of English in students from Swat and a slap in face of those who questioned Malala’s grasp on English.Recommend

  • curious

    the situation in Swat is still not normalRecommend

  • militant

    the area which the writer mentioned was not infested by Taliban in Swat, Chena Market was some how safe and under forces control.Recommend

  • sailab

    good to hear that at least some part of this country is celebrting Eid after restoration of peace.Recommend

  • muhammad abbas ahmed

    as the writer describes herself as “”living in an era where being normal is probably the most special thing one can do. The usual beliefs, contradictions and complications to follow””.
    Enough Said!!!Recommend

  • Iqbal Yousafzai

    taliban have gone from swat…but still there are some which are haunting people like Malala….Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Nice article. A very fine first attempt, if it is :P

    why is everyone talking about militancy and military in the comments? damn! i did that too.
    The sooner we get rid of the words like military and militancy, relating to swat, the better it is.Recommend

  • Javed Iqbal

    A very well written piece! Starting with the description of the present, having a glimpse of the past and showing apprehensions regarding the future. I hope those dark days never return. Writers usually have a sixth sense and warn of the dangers ahead. Recommend

  • r3becky

    Often I read articles and think, I wonder what mindless, emotionless droid has written it. This article is personal, courageous, thoughtful, intense and wonderful. I haven’t been in such a situation so I can only read about it but I can definitely read things like this all day. Bring on more of this, the media should take note.Recommend

  • gp65

    Those who say military does not solve anything clearly are not thinking of Swati women like you. Eid Mubarak – in advance.

    Eid Mubarak to everyone else as well.Recommend

  • The Khan

    So proud of my Pakistan army.
    Till death do us apartRecommend

  • observer

    If the Yahoos can be beaten in Swat, they can be beaten in Waziristan too.

    Wonder what or who is coming in the way.Recommend

  • Mujahid Torwali

    Good written Ma’m, but just dont want to listen or hear about those timesRecommend

  • binger

    now i know why swat is beautiful,
    because of your extreme beauty.Recommend

  • Rational Liberal

    @observer:

    FATA is a tribal area that isn’t under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani government, though it is technically part of Pakistan, but they’ve got their own laws.

    FATA and Swat are very different, if FATA wants to abolish feudalism and come under the jurisdiction of the Pakistan government and judicial system then there’s got to be a constitutional amendment.Recommend

  • sara Bilwani

    A well and a very easy going article…I hope SWAT will progress
    More InshaAllah under te regime of IMRAN KHAN.. :)..and one day I shall visit this awe inspiring place..InshaAllah..Recommend

  • np

    @Rational Liberal: The army also did an operation in South Waziristan in 2009. IT clearly did not need a constitutional amendment then. So your logic does not compute.Recommend

  • Iqbal

    u want to say that there is stil problem in swat?Recommend

  • S.A.W.T

    no more S.W.A.T in Swat, is the key to its more development.Recommend

  • Armie

    the recent situation of Swat would have been much better then this if ARMY have left after restoration of peace.Recommend

  • Ishaq Rudbari

    @militant:
    Please brother towards the end of 2008 and in the beginning of 2009 Mingora was some how under the Dark clutches of Talibans
    Green Chowk, aka “Khooni Chowk” is on 6 minutes walking distance from Cheena market
    so nothing was safe in Swat Recommend

  • kashif

    Great piece of writing. I am proud of the writer. I have been to Swat and to China market. I remember Taliban used to ban women not to visit China market. Swat is a test case that if there is a will there is a way.

    I wonder why the experiment of Swat is not repeated in Waziristan so that one day one writer from Wwaziristan also give us such good tidings that people celebrate Eid in Waziristan too. Clearing Waziristan like Swat will shut the fountainhead of terrorism for the whole Pakistan.Recommend