Gwadar – Land of my Ancestors
Gwadar – a city that is familiar to me in unfamiliar ways. It is a city that harbours the house where my paternal grandparents resided. It is a city that acts as a haven to the graves of my great grandparents. It is a city of unheard voices and unheard stories that are yet to be narrated. It is a city that I am not a native of but still feels like home. Gwadar – the land of my ancestors.
As a child, I was oblivious to the fact that my dada and dadi (paternal grandparents) were from Gwadar, a place in Balochistan. Even later on in my life when I became aware of the fact that I am a ‘Gwadri’ things remained unchanged for me, as I was least interested in knowing more about my familial roots. With all the news about CPEC and Gwadar, an interest aroused, and I kept pestering my dad for a trip to Gwadar, which is a 6-hour drive from Karachi. CPEC, for those who are not aware, is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that promotes bilateral connectivity between the two countries through bilateral investment, economic and trade.
Gwadar, back in 1900s had still a large Ismaili population. The first ever jamatkhana in the present-day Pakistan was constructed in Gwadar and the first Aga Khan School was also established in Gwadar in around 19051. Keeping this in mind, when I visited this beautiful place last month, I was disappointed; run-down houses with only a few Ismaili families residing in the area where once laughter and dreams of the future were shared in the streets that are now nothing but desolate.
Despite that, I experienced a moment of unfamiliar familiarity. All the buildings in the vicinity where Ismailis inhabited, narrate their own stories. Experiencing the nostalgia of an inexperienced past was overwhelming. Witnessing the house of my grandparents that is over 150 years old, still standing firm, is something that I will never be able to express. On a happy note, I pictured how my grandparents used to go about their daily life. But, on the other hand, I feel nothing but the regret of never really getting a chance to hear their stories about Gwadar, but from what I’ve heard, it must have been pretty amazing.
My short trip to Gwadar proved to be a key to the door of my ancestral roots and the Ismaili heritage. Now that I am back in Karachi, all I’m left with are the stories of djinns and my ancestors that I was told, along with a strong longing to return back to this place, to my home.
Shaheera Pesnani is a 3rd year student at Habib University. She is pursuing a BSc (hons) in Social Development and Policy, with Ecological Justice and Social Movements being her thematic concentration. Images © Shaheera Pesnani & family.
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