By Nasira Jabeen
Arising from the blunt foot of the lofty mountains in series to expand till the near brim of River Chitral, taking some length on its left bank, is the embroidered sheet of a valley called Charun.
Situated about 61 kilometers away from the main Chitral town, Charun is a deeply set, quiet village of nearly 280 households with almost 1,500 population undivided but stretching all along the one side of the main road.
HISTORY: According to one account, the scenic village acquired its name Charun in consequence of the four chief roads from four different sides reaching here. That is, one from Booni and upper regions, the other from Kosht and Mulkhow areas, another from Charun Oveer, yet another from Kuragh. These roads meet at a junction which is the renowned Charun Bridge. It is as though Charun is that juncture for the people from these places (save Kuragh), upon arriving which point their journey ahead is spurred on. For here they find themselves on a track leading them direct to the town and down cities. Charun is not as conspicuous as some villages of Chitral.
EDUCATION: The village is known to have a semblance of primary school (in someone’s house) from the 1950s, from the period when the Walis or Mehtars of the once Riyasat were only nominal. In this school amidst others who left their education without reaching even the middle used to go Mr. Afzal Nadir, Mr. Amir Nowroz and Mr. Nadir Ali Khan (my own father ) too. These three are amongst the early education seekers of the valley who completed their primary school from Charun and went to Booni for their middle and high schools. Interestingly, my father, after doing his matric was appointed a government teacher. Good old days! The two of the pioneers furthered their studies to achieve their later success in the field of education.
From 1956 on, the inclination towards education started and as time passed it gained pace
and more and more after their primary education travelled for middle and high schools. Later, primary school for girls too was established in the village and middle and high schools for both boys and girls were also built. These schools catered not only to the natives’ educational requirements but also students from its three neighbouring villages: Kuragh, Oveer and Junalikoch flocked here too, making Charun revere the dulcet echoing of the national anthem when in houses or upon the distant fields it was heard in summer mornings; and filling it with midday’s cries and swarming it with blue and white and black forms in the breaks they had.
These are all the same now, only the voices are of today’s generation. The village is still the early educational centre for the mentioned valleys with the exception that the erection of a middle school in Oveer in 2002 holds the students back to let them flow here again after three years.
OLD DAYS: To go but still to the past, the people of Charun have witnessed the formidable rule of a Hakim who too was one of the inhabitants. During Wali Riyasat’s period the Mehtars used to appoint sub-rulers of various ranks like Ataleq, Hakim and Charwelu and entrusted them with the administrative control of the areas. Shah Nawaz of the royal clan (Khosh Ahmade) was selected as Hakim by the fourth Mehtar Muzafarul Mulk and the sole authority to rule the areas from Reshun to Booni was conferred on him. In his seventeen years reign, he no doubt did many developmental works. He supervised and successfully materialized a water project and drained in here the water from Kuragh Gol through wide streams and from river Chitral he made feasible the flow of water to some sections of the village. But the absolute exercise of his power, it is said, outweighed his works of reform. He was perceived as cruel but who dared defy him then, even say he was wrong?
To share but his one ‘innocent’ act: a certain Khan Mir Ajam Khan from Malakand, after the dissolution of the state of Chitral, was handed over the affairs of Chitral. He was then called Wazir Azam Chitral and Mulki. Once he visited the primary school of Charun when the earlier few students were being taught by their teacher Gulab Panah. As Hakim Shah Nawaz was also accompanying; after Mir Ajam Khan tested the students, he inquired about the headmaster to distribute among the boys their reward of rupees five. Luckily Hakim’s son was with him, he instantly made him out as the headmaster to the dismay of the boys and to the meek acceptance and seething discontent of Gulab Panah.
Charun has seen poverty, riches in the homes of the elites, favours and disfavours of a Hakim but tolerated each with its unwavering faith to arrive at its current prosperity in terms of freedom, education, wealth and infrastructure.
COMMUNICATION: The village had one bridge, though not as strongly built, since 1972 to connect it with Bumbagh, Kosht and the adjoining areas but for Booni and upper areas the folks had to travel on foot through Chahchil – a plateau sort of land stretching high from the last end of Charun linking it to Booni. It was only in 1983 the sturdiest Charun Bridge was built with China’s collaboration to help meet the contiguous areas more conveniently. This bridge is the epicenter where crowds of people are more seen and always, as it is their station to depart to different destinations.
There was a time when on this same spot people waited and waited for vehicles coming up the road to have a lift to Booni. Now the local people’s good sense have so prevailed on them as to stimulate them to start a Suzuki and coach service from Charun to Booni. The other day, the Suzuki man’s repetitive shouting, ‘Booni wala, Booni wala’, when I too was on the wait there, resonated in ear the annoying call for passengers in Chitral Ada. But that was nonetheless a delightful prospect.
HEALTHCARE: Like the bridge and the schools, the Aga Khan Health Centre Charun also draws people from its four sides. Since the year of its establishment in 1962, this Centre has been providing healthcare facilities equally to all who direct their steps towards it upon light fever and injuries to cases serious.
Sadly, Charun has no hotel in its possession. There used to be one by the bridge which took no time in turning to a shop owing to the less propitious stand of a hotel in a place which has still more of a rustic hue than being ‘of bazaar’ of a kind. Yet the people are happy and call on each other, exchange views, crack jokes and have best kind of refreshments for free. This bonhomie of theirs helps further bolster the unity of the valley.
ELECTRIFICATION: The village was first lit by electricity in 1999. Before that the nights were not entirely dark, for besides other means few households had electricity generators and they served the purpose of diverting the villagers on occasions. But the threshold of the 20th century saw Charun all bright and lively. The subsequent years were of PTCL phones, wireless phones then of mobile phones.
Thus with the dawning of the sunny years the locals’ worries attendant on life accommodations were parried to an extent.
PEOPLE: Now what is to say of its people… they are of practical sort, determined, in the front for help and sympathy; plain though not naïve, positively crafty but no scheming and shrewd to hostility, chaos and ruination. Majority of the residents belongs to the Ismaili sect, the Sunni sect forms but a little part of the population. Both have been living in peace for ages. The village has two Jamat Khanas and one Mosque for their separate religious practices.
Most of the people are educated. You will find people of every capability and in multi fields here: people in administrative positions, lecturers, educators, doctors, engineers, missionaries and health workers. Similarly, multifarious clans of people exist in Charun (almost 12 clans):
Khosh Ahmade (in majority), Syed, Zondray, Bubakay, Mughlay, Bayikay, Boshay, Badikai, Mashuqay, Shaghotai, Godolai, and Lowaiy. Categorized in fact for distinction but harmony among these is seldom breached.
CHARACTERISTICS: Charun is a cozy, small and inviting place; also known as ‘Charun Punjab’ for its comparative warm climate and hotter summers. Though unlike Punjab, in Charun there is a dearth of water but what if not for this, for the warmth it takes the ‘privileged name’… But much mouths were gaped, eyebrows raised and indignations shown when in a Khowar song they heard their title attributed to Kuragh but as ‘Nor thy pity, nor wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it’ of Omar Khayyam, it is written once and is sung too. So…no going back.
However, Ye Charun, Think not of it, Thou hast other beauty too. And this beauty needs to be perceived through mind’s eye, else it is like, as Wordsworth says:
‘A Primrose by a river‘s brim,
A yellow primrose was to him
And it was nothing more’.