A visit from my Pathan ancestor…

Daily Prompt: Modern Families

If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?


My ancestral knowledge is sadly pathetic. I recently commented on a post by a fellow blogger innate James at The Relative Cartographer saying how I wish I had more knowledge of my rich ancestral background. That’s what a Pathan culture is all about. A deep set heritage that boasts of pride, love, passion, independence and a lot of heart! The only fact I knew until I turned sixteen was that I was essentially a Pathan, from my father’s side. Then my family was visited by a long-lost uncle who told us we were specifically ‘Ghilzai‘ Pathans. Whooppeee deee! Identification cards were changed. Names were updated. So what follows next is a large part of my assumptions, a lot of exaggeration and some parts truth. But this conversation at dinner would evoke more than just a raised eyebrow from my dearly departed ancestor.

  1. You don’t speak Pushto“!!!  Yes, that is as unbecoming as a bird purring like a cat. Not that this is a huge issue now. I know many birds who purr, I mean Pathans who don’t speak Pushto. We take pride in that. Mostly because if you are a Pathan, you will take pride in just about everything you or your family does. So seriously, I know so many Pathan folk who have successfully assimilated into other cultures etc. My father,his parents all spoke Punjabi, Urdu and English. Pushto never really fit into the equation. Though I admit, it is a soft and poetic language, fit for Kings! This almost makes me want to take some Pushto lessons.
  2. “Wait, are your eyes brown?!” Pathans are known for their gorgeous looks which encompass the stereotype assets like fair skin, colored eyes, great height, striking features etc. Ever heard of genetics and the inherited traits my dear, departed Ancestor? Maybe,my children’s children will have green eyes! *Note to self: next time wear colored contacts.
  3. You married a non-Pathan?! Just to make things clear, my immediate family and their families have all married within different races and cultures. That is no longer a big deal. In fact this is an age of diversity and acceptance. Besides my husband’s grandmother and her side of the family were all Pathans. Does that count?
  4. “Ah! So you love food! That’s my child!” Finally some acceptance. Somebody hand me a handkerchief please. Sniff.
  5. “When was the last time you had a sword fight?” Wooo hold it right there! What century did you say you came back from? We ditched swords long ago great-great-great-great-great-great…….great (stopping for a water break) great great…..grand daddy!!!

Or so the conversation would have gone (or not).  I love being a Pathan mostly because along with it comes a long, unbelievable and colorful history. A history that sadly, I may never know about. But hey, I am a Pathan…and a  proud, mixed Pathan at that!

*** I was lucky enough to get some precious information about my ancestors from my aunt…Ayesha Khan over at http://aishakhan0208.wordpress.com/. LOVE IT 🙂

My dearest niece, I wrote a detailed answer to your query, and lost it somewhere! Typical of a Khan Sahib or Khanum Sahiba…Well let’s pick up the famous Shahrukh Khan line:
My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist!
The story goes like our ancestors were invaders in Mahmood Ghaznavi’s army, during his umpteen attempts to conquer the great infidel temple of Somnaat.Thence they eventually settled in the present day India, in the vicinity of a town called Jallandur.They were granted lands and there was a village which was established by the name of Qillay Afghana.They gradually adopted the language and culture of Punjab. After 1947 they migrated to the Land of Pure.Now the only vestiges of Pathanship (a new word coined just now) are seen; firstly ,our innate pride,then our quarrelsome nature and of course our good looks!
(Yes, modesty is not of much use to us!).
I relish to tell the world, at every possible opportunity, that our Pathan Afghani brethren have put the fear of God in every Super power, be it the British Raj, the Mighty Soviet Union or the United States of America. They are unbeatable at the war games since their male infants play with pistols instead of toys.Their forthrightness and integrity make them totally trustworthy. That’s why in every major city of Pakistan they are the desired-for guards.Our transport system would fall apart without them. Right from rickshaws to the long distance truck drivers , who carry containers from the Karachi port right up to Kabul, transport is manned by pathans.
They have the undesirable trait of being ultraconservative in today’s world. But also they have been scapegoats for the mercenaries and the drug mafia forever, maybe a bit of truth is present in few accusations….
My greatest grand dad was probably a literary giant from Qandahar.Maybe this explains the reading and writing penchant in our family…..



  1. innatejames · May 15, 2014

    Thanks for the fun read on the Ghilzai Pathan. I love learning about other ancestral lines!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NS · May 15, 2014

      I have been fascinated about learning more about my roots ever since I came across your blog :). Some day I guess.


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  3. Archita · May 15, 2014

    NS, You have a great family history. I have pathan friends and I know they not only look great but also have big hearts, and amazing Biriyani recipe. 🙂


    • NS · May 15, 2014

      Archita you are too kind. We are an interesting lot that’s for sure. I hope you haven’t heard many pathan jokes though.


      • Archita · May 15, 2014

        I’ve heard a lot, read a few books too. Plus here, all of my friends are fan of one great Pathan- Shahrukh Khan, Bollywood’s only romantic hero. 🙂


      • NS · May 15, 2014

        aaah he was my first love. I am still a HUGE fan : D


      • Archita · May 15, 2014

        This world seems so small sometimes no? 🙂 We all are his fans; that reminds me to dedicate a post to that love. 🙂 Have a great week, NS.


      • NS · May 15, 2014

        Oh you must! I’d love to read it:)


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  6. faryal · May 16, 2014

    i really enjoyed reading about your ancestral family origin and specially the fact that PATHANS are so much important in our country as they are the most what is called patriotic people i ever seen…. and i love the thing about Americans scared of KHANS..:D


    • NS · May 16, 2014

      Thank you for reading and commenting Faryal:)! haha yes, Khans can be rather intimidating, but reality is usually very different;)


  7. bik1012 · May 17, 2014

    Yes Pathans my dear. Apart from a lot of talk about it, even your father knows little!! And fathers are supposed to know everything. A big come down huh?? Fact is I never knew my grandfather; never knew about my roots. Wish it otherwise but you can’t turn the clock back. I guess more important than our ancestry is what we are. What my children become and their children in turn. We can always start afresh. And hopefully we did our best to not only place our children on the right path but also to make them responsible citizens of whichever nation they choose to become part of. Having spent a lifetime in pursuit of an elusive goal one feels very inadequate when confronted by the argument that things could have been better had this or the other had been done in time! Agreed.


  8. Holistic Wayfarer · May 24, 2014

    So interesting. =) (I like no. 5, btw.) How awesome you’ve been able to trace your lineage. Glad to know you better, N.


    • Nida S. · May 24, 2014

      D. thank you for reading :)! This was a fun exercise. Makes you appreciate where you come from


  9. Khurram · May 8, 2015

    It is good to know that you have the same history as me. These days I am doing a bit research on our family tree as well. Just for correction, it is ‘Kiri’ not ‘Qillay’ and it is near ‘Gurdaspur’ farther from ‘Jalandhar’.


    • Nida S. · May 15, 2015

      Appreciate your insightful comments. Sadly I didn’t have access to more authentic sources. How’s your family tree getting along?


      • Khurram · May 15, 2015

        Got upto 5th generation on ghilzai (Dad) side and 11th on mohmand (mother) side. Would love to get leads to go back to ghaznavi period. Have couple of relatives in mind who claim to have whole shajra.


  10. Khurram · May 15, 2015

    Well, a thought came to my mind reading ur blog again. Do u know a person named Babar in Pak army


  11. bik1012 · May 16, 2015

    yes. this is me. who is khurram


    • Khurram · May 16, 2015

      Nice to meet you again. I am Khalid Saeed Khan’s eldest son.


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