Largely symbolic than being an article of faith today, , or the rite of exorcism, is a throwback to an age covered in mists of time like the mountain peaks in clouds on a rainy day here.Of late, though, the mountain folks have returned home to find that evil spirits have hardened themselves to withstand the ritual.It is not unlike the time when terrorism peaked in Pakistan and in your hometown you knew someone – a friend, a family member, yourself – who had survived a suicide bombing or lost someone to it. Suicide bombers die for what they believe is a cause. The motives of suicide bombers may be “altruistic” — as defined by French sociologist Emile Durkheim whose suicide theory is considered seminal in sociology.They think they are dying for a shared ideal or a collective purpose that is larger than their own lives.They returned disabused of myths, divested of faith in fairies their forefathers bow to and seek counsel from in time of adversity.
You would not know it from the retired soldier, feather-crest in his pakul cap, who stops to buy – dumplings made with onions and mincemeat – from a shop along the road; or from the young man wearing a jeans folded half way up his shins and a red T-shirt, leaning forward on the seat of his motorcycle, who stops along the way so he can text on his phone.
You would not know it from the shadows on the tree-lined street leading up to the river, from the wind that suddenly rises in the evening as a dying sunlight lingers over peaks surrounding the valley, or from the blazing, bright afternoon that leaves eyeballs scalded, hot and itching from sunlight.
Neither would you from the child who laughs as he runs across the street, chased by a young father who plants his rosy cheeks with kisses, laughing as he tickles the child’s face with his own.
The clockwork of their lives is regulated by nature – through its bounties and scarcities, through the harsh and kind turns of seasons – as they work through summers to save for winters.
Their naturalist outlook on life, and a mountain culture conceived and preserved in isolation from the rest of the world, hint at their region’s Shamanic past even when these communities have long embraced Islam.