Photo Essay: Chitral Through the Lens of an Eye Surgeon

INTRODUCTION

A sight saving miracle in the making

Armed with a special magnifying lens, some surgical equipment and plenty of courage and faith, Badrudin Kurwa set out on a mission to restore sight to people blinded by cataracts in a remote corner of the world – Chitral in Northern Pakistan. His mission was part of the Time and Knowledge Nazrana (gift) that thousands of Ismailis around the world pledged to their beloved Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee which was celebrated from July 11, 2007 until December 13, 2008. The Ismaili Imam’s wish is that the gift of Time and Knowledge that his followers have pledged him will enhance and strengthen his community’s institutional capacity, so as to better serve everyone both within and outside the community at large.

During his brief stay in Chitral, Dr. Kurwa treated almost one hundred people, instilling hope in the more than two thousand still afflicted with cataracts that they would be able to see again with additional help and support from experts in the field. This photo blog’s companion literary website, Simerg, published Dr. Kurwa’s story in his own words, and we encourage readers to click on the link provided at the foot of this page.

Dr. Kurwa was present for the Imamat Day celebrations, attended Jamatkhanas, participated in cultural events as well as joined a group of musicians in the singing of a qasida attributed to the great Ismaili missionary and dai, Pir Nasir Khusraw. We are pleased to provide the following photos from Badrudin Kurwa’s remarkable journey. 

CULTURE AND FAITH

Shogore jamatkhana

The Ismaili Jamatkhana, Shogore

Imamat day flag raising

Flag Raising on the occasion of the 56th Imamat Day of His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.)

The Ismaili Flag, commonly refereed to by Ismailis as "My Flag"

The Ismaili Flag hoisted at Shogore Jamatkhana on Imamat Day

Dargah of Nasir Khusraw

The dargah of the Ismaili missionary, poet and philosopher, Pir Nasir Khusraw, who is deeply revered in the Northern Areas of Pakistan as well as in Central Asia.

Nasir Khusraw Qasida

Dr. Badruddin Kurwa, a musician since childhood, playing the flute during the singing of a Qasida attributed to Pir Nasir Khusraw. Clip may be viewed at Simerg, see link below.

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PEOPLE AND PLACES

Chitral Village 02

An Ismaili village in Chitral

AKHC-Booni

The Aga Khan Medical Centre, Bhooni

Pakistan Tourist Center

The Pakistan Tourist Centre

Mountain Scene

Scenic Chitral

IceIce

Icepack Mountain 02

In the distant, some men are seen carrying ice packs, see next photo

Chitral man carrying an icepack

A man carrying an ice pack

Chitral Mountain Road

A mountain pass in Chitral. Pervez Musharaff, the former President of Pakistan, is very popular here as he arranged to build the main tunnel that has allowed the travel time from Chitral to Islamabad to be cut by about 4 hours. Thus one doesn’t have to drive around the highest and most treacherous mountain passes.

Rushing Waters of Chitral RiverRushing waters of the Chitral River

Chitral Hanging Bridge

And a hanging bridge over the river

Booni luxury hotel

“Say No More”

Chitral Farming Old Fashioned Way

Farming in Chitral, the old way. In terms of food, meat is a rarity in Chitral; they have chicken but mostly vegetarian food – lentils (daal), chickpeas (chana), and beans are very common. They own small plots of land on which farming is done and crops such as corn and wheat grow in rotation during summer. They preserve as much as they can for the severe winter months when they are pretty much isolated from the rest of the world.

Hitching a ride

A young boy hitches a ride – walking to school is 2 to 3 miles..

Chitrali fitness gym

Dr. Kurwa’s Fitness Gym

Time and Knowledge Nazrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam

Operation 'New eyes for old'

Dr. Kurwa at work on a patient

Can't wait to take the bandage off

Patients awaiting bandage removal

A patient in waiting

A patients rests before the procedure to remove cataracts

A riot when the word got out

A large crowd gathers at the Aga Khan Heath Centre as word spreads about Dr. Kurwa’s surgical procedure to restore sights to people blinded by cataracts

more post op patients

Post-op patients

Hopeful Ismailis….and hopeful patients

EPILOGUE

By Badrudin Kurwa

The trip was of course quite amazing. The people everywhere were humble, friendly and welcoming. If you greeted them “Ya Ali Madad” they broke out in a big smile and hugged you. At the Jamatkhana in Shogore (and Booni) people could tell I was not a local, and they came one by one and met me without hesitation. I was in Jamatkhana on Imamat Day and it also happened to be the 1st day of Ramadhan. They had a special gathering at the Jamatkhana in Shogore and the scouts did their honor-guard and conducted the flag raising ceremony (see photos above). They all fasted. Women wear veils and stay modestly covered as per local customs and tradition.

Typical Ismaili home

A typical Ismaili home in Chitral

Later, the past mukhi of the Jamat invited me home and treated us to tea and mulberries which were truly delicious. There is severe poverty but they treated me royally. The children there walk 2 to 3 miles each way every day to attend school.

Dr. Abdul Karim the resident surgeon is an amazing guy. He is an excellent surgeon and I told him he should be in the United States with his wonderful skills and his thoughtful response was “then how will the people here manage?” He showed little concern about his own well-being.

I was touched, and as I stood outside a tent I had that feeling where I wanted to say “My kingdom for your tent”.

My kingdom for your tent

“My kingdom for your tent”

Date posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013.

Photos: Copyright, Dr. Badrudin Kurwa Collection.

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Please click Stories of Ismaili Volunteers: An Eye Surgeon’s Courageous Journey to Chitral for His Nazrana of Time and Knowledge to Mawlana Hazar Imam

For a complete list as well as links to photo essays published on this blog please click on Table of Contents or visit the Home Page.

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