New year celebration in a rural village of Dir Lower, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By: Mohsin Ullah

We were sitting in ‘hujra’ of a friend, He offered green tea with peanuts and dates. We heard gun shots and then I got a call from my mother asking about my location, She told me its late, what are you doing outside at this time.  I saw my watch and the time was near to tik the bell of 12:00 am. Suddenly, my mind clicked that people might be celebrating the new year. One of my cousins told me [that how one can celebrate the new year at village. it is not Islamabad, its Dir. He used a proverb “ghwa ao anda” [A cow and an egg], as cow cannot lay an egg, similarly the people of Dir cannot celebrate a new year. Suddenly, we heard some more fireworks and we stepped into a new year. We wished each other and came back to our houses. As I entered my house, my mother asked me about the gunshots. I relaxed her and told her about the new year. She might be also thinking that what is happening in the village, I have never seen a celebration of a new year. I wished her new year and came to my room. I was wondering about the people of village. Once the area was a hub of Militant group and military operation was carried out in the area and now, they are celebrating a new year which was once considered as a celebration of yahoodian [Jews] in our society.  I was thinking and started writing my reflections on the celebration of new year in district Dir. I had many questions in my mind, how a conservative and extremist society can celebrate a new year. What are the main factors of these cultural changes? 

I saw fireworks from four different villages, in which two fireworks happened in my native village. I observed that all the villages where fireworks happened are dependent on foreign remittances. Among four houses, two households were totally dependent on foreign remittances. Migration is the main source of income of the people of District Dir. The people migrate mostly to gulf countries. Many villagers are also residing in European countries. In recent days, many youngsters also tried to go abroad through irregular migration. Migration has become an accepted way of life for adults above the age of 18 years. Almost all the households have at least one or two male members working abroad. So according to my own reflections, migration is a basic adaptive process, which modifies competition and selection in areas of origin, exposes migrants to new habitats and cultural patterns, promotes new genetic combinations, and, generally, induces changes in the areas of origin. Currently, the two external factors which imply and accelerate a change in the local culture of Dir, which is migration and globalization. The families which are dependent on foreign remittances invest their money on the education of their children, overcome their family expanses, they buy land, new cars which is a sign of prestige in the area. In today’s life, the people of the area are also in search of identities and caste system has also been changed due to migration. We have seen political changes in the area which all leads to migration patterns in the area. The novel consumption patterns by return migrants, or due to remittances by their families, not only enhances the already mentioned change of the local economic culture and landscape, but also directly alters the social culture of the local communities. The migration not only changed the social structure in Dir but also had profound impact on the behavior of the people.

The author is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Sociology, Quaid-I-Azam University. He is currently working from home and writing reflexive notes on the celebration of a new year night in Dir Lower while his colleagues and friends are enjoying new year night in Islamabad. Happy 2021, Hope things will take a turn for the better in so many ways. Wishing you the best of health, happiness, and peace of mind. Happy New Year

The writer can be reached at [email protected]