In “Report of a French traveler about the Chapursan Valley, Pakistan” we tried to assess the credibility of an alleged conspiracy against local women and foreign female visitors. Here, we come to the amazing evidence that numerous “facts” presented by Ramla Akhtar, aka Rmala Aalam, the self-called whistleblower, seem to be a direct plagiarism of local myths. This reconciliation raises questions about the moral and/or mental integrity of their “author” who also present herself as a writer.
Chapursan traditions quick presentation
Before going into further developments regarding Ramla Akhtar, aka Rmala Aalam (RA)’s tale, it is of interest to spend sometimes in reading quotes from a presentation called “Myths of Chapursan Valley.” They will become an integral part of her narrative.
“Baba Ghundi was a venerable and religious preceptor from Ghund in Northern Afghanistan… one day he set out on a journey across today’s North Pakistan into the Chapursan valley, with an elderly student and the man’s two sons…the tiny caravan eventually reached Istiman at the beginning of Chapursan…Without warning, Baba Ghundifell into a deep fever… After the burial of both Baba Ghundi and his wife, the man and his sons set off back to Afghanistan… After many years it has been confirmed that Baba Ghundi (saint) whose name was Muhammad Baqir, had indeed come from Ghund and died here, buried by his believer”…
“Once upon a time there was a big lake there [near Yishkok] that was very deep… At that time a very big Dragon appeared in that large lake… Every day it demanded either one human being, a large sheep or goat, plus [some extra food]… Their daughter [of parents not rich enough to feed the Dragon]…said that only the offering of herself to the dragon would suffice. [But a mysterious powerful young man killed the dragon.] [He said:]Go back, be gentle, remember God and give up your bad ways. If you experience any problems in the future, come to…the hill west of Yishkok village and say “Ya Ali.””
“Many years later…there was a marriage in a house and the villagers arranged for much music, dance and other immoral dues… many of the men entertained immoral activities with the womenfolk at the party. As the lights switched back on, the men realized with horror that many of those womenfolk were in fact their close relations…[Some decided to test the young man’s words]… As the people cried “Ya, Ali” a young man suddenly appeared amongst them riding on a white horse. ..When the [young] man returned to Yishkok, he told the people…that the village must repent with its destruction by a heavy storm. However, not all the villagers were bad and there was one who did not share the habits of the rest of the village…One night later, the noble man had a dream in which a saintly man told him to shift his family to Dankoth, a small village higher up the valley. The saint warned Mr. Gulbast that Yishkok was about to be ruined by a mighty storm… [When]the nobleman returned to Yishkok…nothing of the village remained and only a huge lake stood in its place”…
“Kampeer Diyor [old woman village] is a small village situated in Shitmerg the second to last village while traveling from Sost to Chapursan…The people had wealth… But there also lived one old woman in the village who was very poor and lived in a cave…The other inhabitants of this small village were very cruel and had no any idea of humanity or education. ..They didn’t know how to respect people and how to care for a guest nor did even the honor of their women. They…were selfish concerned only with their enjoyment particularly during weddings…One night an old man…went from door to door in the village asking for a little food to eat. The villagers treated the old man cruelly. Some laughed at his poorness, others scolded him whilst still others spat on him and pushed him away from their doors. The Saint continued to visit until at last he reached the cave of Bedah ..Bedah offered the little milk she had in the broken pot to the saint who was deeply touched by her generosity While thanking the old woman he said, …By noon tomorrow, bring all your belongings back to your home and climb with them to the high area above the village to behold the fate of all in this village except you…Bedah looked on in astonishment as the storm followed the old man… The flood waters began to rise…Gradually, the entire village sank under the heavy storm waters”…
Baba Ghundi who came from Afghanistan, the young man who killed the dragon and saved the young girl, the saint who flooded Yishkok Village and saved the Gulbast’s family, the old man who saved Bedah and flooded Kampeer Diyor are, here, different people. However, for some authors it could be the same person as says Salman Rachid in the Pamir Times in the “Old man of Ghund”. Salman Rachid produced a “digest” where all the above described supernatural actions are made by the same person, Baba Ghundi. It is even more interesting because he talks about glaciers and crevasses.
These legends are related to those of Afghan Wakhan according to John Mock, “Shrine Traditions of Wakhan Afghanistan”, published in the “Journal of Persianate Studies 4 (2011)”. He especially mentions Chapursan. He also says similar traditions can be found in other valleys of the Karakoram.
Knowing that Karakoram means “Black Mountain”, with what is above, we understand the beginning of Ramla Akhtar’s Facebook blog page title “Black Mountain, Dragon Soul — a Wounded Mystic…” Now let’s see how RA “Spins Her Yarn”. How the legends fits with Akhtar’s personal tale.
Matching the main parts of Chapursan legends with Akhtar re-writing her personal tale
If we reconcile the main parts of the legend with RA’s posts, we can see a though chaotic but unifying thread of her narrative, except for the fact that she doesn’t present it as legend but as her life with actual events or observations. This matching is not complete. More reconciliation can be done. On the other hand, Akhtar’s writing is structure less. As it is said, it can be redundant. Then some part of “her” life can be used in place of what is proposed. Nevertheless, it has seemed, till now, the most relevant way to address this phantasmagoric case.
Extracts of Chapursan legends (here below, Chapursan) versus Ramla Akhtar’s tale staging (here below, Akhtar). RA’s words, spelling and capital letters are quoted without being changed or corrected.
Chapursan: Baba Ghundi was a venerable and religious preceptor from Ghund in Northern Afghanistan.
Akhtar: My esoteric missions are completely unknown to people around me. | [I am] “Not one of theirs” | “I am not a hater, but a highly patient spiritually driven person working in a region not only exotic to me”
Chapursan: One day the victim, a young and beautiful girl, sat by the lake to tearfully waiting to be devoured [by the Dragon] when Baba Ghundi chanced upon her.
Akhtar: I tell you why I am not a “good woman” who “makes peace”. I did not come to this world for passing my time and to make peace. | Trust me their focus will be “why were you cursing” not “why our our men raping young girls openly” | Old men trying to be the first to rape a virgin teen girl is a THING!!
Chapursan: One day there was a marriage in a house and the villagers arranged for much music, dance and other immoral dues.
Akhtar: The men have a peculiar dance and if you look closely…the “come to me woman” mating ritual dance…..the equivalent of Johnny Depp as a pirate, being hauled off by cannibals.RUN FOR YER FUCKING LIFE, JOHNNY!!
Chapursan: That night the party reached a frenzy and with the lights turned off many of the men entertained immoral activities with the womenfolk at the party. As the lights switched back on, the men realised with horror that many of those womenfolk were in fact their close relations..
Akhtar: There is a valley in **our world** known since decades for its lawlessness, binge alcoholism…, wayward sexuality (sleeping with sisters-in-law and friends’ wives and basically any moving female/male thing is completely acceptable here).
Chapursan: As the people cried “Ya, Ali” a young man suddenly appeared amongst them riding on a white horse.
Akhtar: And I.. sitting on a horse after a 6 hour ride…
Chapursan: When the [young] man returned to Yishkok, he told the people that they were cunning, disobedient and dishonest and that the village must repent with it’s destruction by a heavy storm.
Akhtar: I came for SACRED DESTRUCTION, HOLY CATASTROPHE. I came to uproot the vile fruit, I came to turn the soil….My job is not your job. | My lifepath is not your life.
Chapursan:. …not all the villagers were bad and there was one who did not share the habits of the rest of the village One night later, the noble man had a dream in which a saintly man told him to shift his family to Dankoth, a small village higher up the valley. The saint warned Mr. Gulbast that Yishkok was about to be ruined by a mighty storm.
Akhtar: Like I am on fucking FIRE because I KNOW most of us are marked for death.
Chapursan: They didn’t know how to respect people and how to care for a guest nor did even the honour of their women.
Akhtar: Demanding tourists and travelers to just SURRENDER is an actual fucking thing … | ? hunger and cold (inadequate food and heating are provided at his homestay and on some days it can send some guests into shivers and mild mindlessness overnight… I have seen several guests leaving quickly if they can… a feat that may be challenging for solo travelers who, due to exhaustion, often collapse and overstay).
Chapursan: The villagers treated the old man [the saint] cruelly | The snapping point came when they pelted him with dung and stones.
Akhtar: People have completely fucked with me, and in doing so gave fuckex with their lives and families because I hrld a rare key to their salvation. | I was hated minutes after I entered the valley first.
Chapursan: There is… a… glacier known as Qalandar Goom — the Lost Saint.. I suspect, that some poor soul of a wandering mendicant happened into Chapursan where he may or may not have been treated indifferently by the people. He may have come by an easier route and got it into his head to exit by some difficult way that entailed a bit of glacier walking as well. There he may have met his end, either because of exposure or by falling into a crevasse.
Akhtar: Possibly it was similar to when I first (actually second) saw a #glacier… my mind was fucked…I just couldn’t tell how fucking large or small it was. .. It’s as unexpected, treacherous, sad and non-negotiable as that unexpected sheet of ice that caves under you revealing a crevasse…I have fallen into a crevasse since I came to this land. It is a little private scary-as-shit hell and it’s very very hard to explain how and why I cannot climb up a crevasse just the way I can climb up stairs | I had never seen a Glacier sleeping in the arms of scree!
It is not clear who is Ramla Akhtar in this tale. She is certainly not the simple people who are flooded (“my lifepath is not your life”). She is probably not the old woman (Kampeer) or Mr. Gulbast. She might fantasize about herself as the beautiful girl to be eaten by the Dragon. Sometimes, it seems the Dragon is her “former-husband.” Sometimes she can also be the Dragon as written in her Facebook blog page description (“A Radiant Child and a Dragon Mom live on their own in Black Mountains, the Karakorams, away from a collapsing Civilization”). In her mind, she is, too, a highly spiritual person with supernatural powers, a missionary: Baba Ghundi or the other saints. At least, we know because she wrote it, her mission is to punish through destructions and catastrophes. As a consequence, the permanent swing between different roles will add confusion to a messy narrative.
Why did Rmala Aalam hijack legends not belonging to her culture and religious sect?
Ramla Akhtar, aka Rmala Aalam, is from an Urdu speaking family originally coming from what is today India. She grew up in Faisalabad and, later, spent some years in Karachi. She is not from a white Persian origin as are the mountain communities she is opposing. She considers herself as having a “brown skin.” Why a non-Persian person being “not theirs”, as she pretends, needs to hijack Chapursan Wakhi legends against Pamir Serai family and Chapursan Wakhi people of Persian origin? Here is one of the answers.
“Trouble with being a brown woman is that there are so few narratives in your language by your people for people of your backgrounds and minds… there is so little to build upon and relate to”.
Using plagiarism in such a manner could look unreasonable as it could immediately be identified by Gojal inhabitants. However, it must be noted that the readers of Ramla Akhtar are mostly urban housewives living in southern metropoles. They have no clue about the mountain life, culture and education level. As a consequence they did not question their daily soap opera. On the contrary, they expressed their empathy and support for the courageous one of them, able to stand what she presented as primitive people and environment.
This story is an extract of an article published by Bernard Grua on his travel blog: “Report of a French traveler about a domestic toxic speech against the Wakhi minority of Chapursan Valley and its male international guests — credibility assessment of an alleged sexual conspiracy against local women and foreign female visitors — concerns about an emerging external extremism.”
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List of all stories about Hunza & Chapursan Valley, by the author
- How past and present religions built a tradition palimpsest in a high valley of northern Pakistan
- Wakhi mountain houses of Zoodkhun in Chapursan Valley, northern Pakistan
- Portraits, Wakhi in relation with other people of their areas
- Wakhi people and Pamir life ex-libris
- What to see and what to do in a short period of time in Hunza
- The Great Game: Anglo-Russian encounter at the borders of Pamir, Hindu Kush and Karakoram
- Zoodkhun Village in Chapursan Valley preserves a scenic and authentic mountain oasis landscape
- Zoodkhun, Chapursan Valley, a life environment determined by altitude and remotness
- Chapursan Valley, where Zoodkhun nights unveil the universe
- What place for Zoodkhun into the global world?
- Karakoram Highway, a prototype of the new Silk Roads?
- Some reflections about the development of a responsible and community based tourism in Hunza Valley