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…..