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Afghans Among Us – Pathans Posted by on May 25, 2021 in Culture, History, Travel & Geography

The Pathans are Afghan tribal communities आदिवासी समुदाय that originally come from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and north Baluchistan. They are one of the largestसबसे बड़ा tribal communities in the world. According to oral traditionमौखिक परंपरा of history, they believe they are the descendantsवंश of the biblical King Saul.

History of the Pathans

Image by Ashish M. on Flickr; the two actors on the left, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra, starred in a famous Hindi film called “Sholay” in which one of the most popular songs was called “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Torenge” (“We Won’t Break this Friendship”).

The Pathansपठानों traveled to India after the Anglo-Afghan war. They would bring spicesमसाले, dried fruit, and other items from their world into India. As time went by and laws got tougherमुश्किल, they found it difficult to go back and forth and many would remainरहना and marry within Indian communities. They are fiercely loyal वफादार to their tribe and even though they migrateप्रवास and marry within Indian communities, they remain true to their loyalties and culture.

The Pathans are tall, imposingप्रभावशाली and well built. They work in Mumbai as laborersमजदूर in the petroleum factoriesकारखानों and at the dockyardगोदी. Many wealthy businessmenअमीर व्यवसायी  also employed them as security guardsसुरक्षा गार्ड.

Pathans have a universalसार्वत्रिक code of conduct आचार संहिता called Pukhto or Pashtunwali with values of honorसम्मान, hospitalityमेहमाननवाज़ी, and reciprocityपारस्परिकता. They live by these codes and appoint leaders who hold them accountableजवाबदेह. The Jarga or tribal councilजनजातीय परिषद hold them accountable at the communityसमुदाय-भावना level.

They live around Jacob’s Circle and Ballard Pier in Mumbai. This is an area close to the docks with many warehousesगोदामों. Typically, a group of Pathans would rentकिराया a large space and hire a cook. Their food is not spicyमसालेदार although it has assimilatedआत्मसात many Indian spices over the years. They eat on a dastarkhan, out of a big commonसार्वजनिक क्षेत्र plate.  They eat mutton cooked with gravy, accompanied साथ with soft baked bread.

Famous Afghan Pathans

Mumbai’s underworld गिरोहों kingpin, Karim Lala was the head of one such community. He cooperatedसहयोग with the local Mumbai police and would regularlyनियमित रूप से visit, the Pathan branch of the Special Branch CID (Criminal Investigation Department). He was responsibleजिम्मेदार for renewing the residential permits आवासीय परमिट of the Pathan community.

Some Pathans like Salim Khan, the scriptwriter, Adnan Sami – musician, and Dilip Kumar, one of Bollywood’s famous actors have made it in Bollywood. Dilip Kumar helped scriptwritersपटकथा लेखक with the nuances of Urdu during the transition to talking films.

Also, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, and Shahrukh Khan, taking their cues from their predecessors speak both Urdu and Hindi. Urdu is like Hindi but has more literary nuanceसाहित्यिक बारीकियों s that are perfect for the stageमंच and screen.

Salim Khan, Salman Khan’s father, is from the Swat region in Pakistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He wrote the screenplayपटकथा for Zanzeer, a Bollywood hit that is about an underworld don who runs a gambling denजुए की मांद – albeit with honesty. The principal character मुख्य चरित्र was based on a Pathan.  He wrote his story based on his observations of the Afghan community.

Today’s Afghan community in Mumbai is considerably less than in the previous years. Many have taken up jobs in West and South East Asia. However, there are still people who continue to trade and do business in Mumbai.

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About the Author: Nicole Herbert Dean

Language, Region and Culture Consultant


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