HUNZA THE PEOPLE THAT DON’T KNOW ILLNESS

HUNZA THE PEOPLE THAT DON’T KNOW ILLNESS

  1. HUNZA THE PEOPLE THAT DON’T KNOW ILLNESS

I once discovered a book written in the thirties about the Hunza, a people living in an upper valley of Pakistan (see the bibliography at the end of this book). High up in those mountains lived a people that did not attend the health centers of what was then the British Empire!

 A few villages were perched at about 3,000 m. where they benefited all-year round of the water flowing from the glaciers. They cultivated the land and raised cattle, goats and sheep. Winter was cold, dry and rough; food shortages frequently occurred at the end of winter when spring is about to start.

 From now on I shall express myself in the present tense of …1930.

 They don’t eat much and, in winter, have to fast. They mainly feed on barley and on apricots which are put to dry on their roof in summer.

 It is said that young women refuse to live (marry) with a man living in a village that lacks apricots; they consider the fruits are essential for the oil they extract from the pits and put on their skin. As everywhere, women care about their looks!

 The Hunza also feed on the butter provided by their goats and their cows; these are so small they have been compared to Saint-Bernard dogs and they give less than two liters of milk a day. Occasionally they will also eat meat, particularly when an animal has had an accident in the steep mountains.

 Men walk a lot in the mountains until an advanced age; running after the cattle, climbing, cultivating terraced fields, maintaining irrigation channels, everything is a pleasure for these tireless people until the fifth generation for the Hunza do not retire.

 Relationship between ancestors and children are very important since part of the education is given in the evening by the elder who, in some cases, may be a centenarian. It implies the latter call by their surnames their own ancestors whom they may also have known up to the fifth generation. If I am not mistaken, this means a span of nine generations. All those nouns of magnified loved beings are just as many roots for the growing youngsters.

 Women have only a child every four years after a boy or three years after a girl. This is because girls are less tiring for their mother and easier to raise; Hunzas have also observed that close together births are often conducive to jealous siblings while a four-year-old boy will naturally ask for a little brother or a little sister. In the Hunza society, everyone has his own place: a six-year-old boy will take care of his two-year-old sibling, carry him on his back and be responsible for him (this is quite different from the individualistic and egalitarian culture we have in the West).

 The infant does not walk before he is two and will not be encouraged to do so because his bones are not fully grown and walking could induce spinal or knee deformities.

 Mothers breastfeed their babies until they are two years old.

 By the way, how do they manage to have a child only every three or four years?

 The whole community leads a tribal life in a very large house. There is a place for men, another place for women and mothers with babies and a third location for couples for whom the darkness of the night is the only intimacy they can enjoy. When a woman is pregnant, the couple separates; she joins the women’s group and he joins the men group until breastfeeding ends. Social life is not based on the couple!

 How do couples form?

 Marriages do not occur within a village because Hunzas know the dangers of inbreeding. In summer, two fifteen or sixteen-year-old youngsters chosen by their families will be invited and brought to a small isolated house to live together two or three days. If it works out well, they will be wife and husband. If not, the girl will return to her home. Nothing is forced upon them: everything is just suggested.

 As for the marriage themselves, they will all be celebrated in the village on the same day. This allows for big festivities while sparing food which is scarce.

 On another subject the Hunza do not produce what we could call Art; I feel like saying their way of living is Art. Neither do they have religious feelings since they don’t seem to have lost the secret bonds that link them to the elements, the seasons and the laws of Nature.

 Photographs illustrating the book show a merry people respectful of everyone whatever their age and particularly of women during their periods. Women are surprised to learn that European women that come to visit them do not lie down, even occasionally, during the day especially during their periods.

 All what described above produces cheerful and nimble centenarians.

 I had planned to visit the Hunzas during one of my trips to India in 1988. Unfortunately, it was amidst the conflict between India and Pakistan that led to the closing of their common frontier.

 I do not know what they have become. What’s more, I do not find any more at the health-food market the Hunza apricots, small, dry, brown and with their pits.

 The Hunza way of life has, to a large extent, influenced my research on health and … good humor! I have occasionally advised young mothers to space out births. But it is not always feasible.

 A young forty-year-old mother answered me that fertility declines, which is true; she therefore wanted a second child who was born fifteen months later. It so happened that the eldest started immediately to vomit; what’s more, the parents had to watch him closely when he got to be two or three years old since he started saying he wanted to kill his little sister.

 Another mother, thirty years old, wanted to have her children in quick succession. She wanted to be spared being again “involved in diaper problems” and be able to return quickly to her professional life. Fifteen months between her two daughters and her baby blues actually amounted to a severe breakdown which needed her to be hospitalized.

  The Hunza refuse to eat any food from outside their homeland. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer but only the water coming from the glaciers because it is enriched with minerals extracted from the rocks it goes through and therefore conveniently fertilizes the soil. Their good health has sometimes been ascribed to that water. No pesticides, no herbicides, no preservatives. Very little salt. No industrial products.

 Children climb up the trees to lop off small branches that could be attacked by parasites.

 As you undoubtedly will have understood, Hunzas ignore excess weight; they are on the contrary very slim.

 The only pathology described in the book is an eye irritation due to the fire they maintain during the six weeks of very harsh winter when they sleep indoors. The rest of the year, they sleep out in the open where they set up their bedding.

 It is to be noted Hunzas are not subject to tiredness.

 They do quality sports: fighting simulation without ever hurting each other, stylish dancing. They are extremely courteous and capable of such efforts that Europeans cannot follow them when they walk in the mountains. When walking, they seem to be floating. All that, together with a cheery nature and a lot of patience.

 In other words, Hunzas are the artists of a simple and whole life.

 When they see a European, they “pity him for his useless shoes.”

 … I resume reading the book for the seventh or eighth time…

 Meals are taken squatting down thus preventing venous stagnation.

 Old men tell all about their youth with numerous anecdotes and legends about heroes, kings and bandits.

 The author of the book stresses the excellent behavior of youngsters and elderly people. This has me regarding sadly our western civilization and its segregation by age.

 The author also stresses their cleanliness.

99% of Hunzas are illiterate and when they meet Europeans, they are shocked to learn our children go to school when they are five and until they become teenagers. “How is that possible? That is precisely the age when they should be learning life!”

 And I cannot help thinking: when education became mandatory in Europe at the end of the 19th century, the rural world insisted on having children take an active part in farm life, learn traditional chores, help their parents and as a consequence benefit from summer holidays. In Switzerland, a special day is reserved for that in October every year; Swiss call it the “potato day.”

 They make flutes out of willow wood.

  As already mentioned, no plastic arts, no poetry, no mysticism, no paradise, no golden age.

 No nervous gestures, no anguished look.

To sum it up: healthy spirit (mind), healthy soul, healthy body

 One of their songs: “Be next year blessed, Yahia; may our houses be free of illness, Yahia…”

 The floor of the largest room is made of trodden earth. This reminds me that in my grandmother’s house, part of the floor had been cemented or paved in the thirties; when children ventured on it barefooted, they would be lectured: “Don’t walk barefooted, you’ll catch death!”

 What do you think of that?

 Cement and pavement seem cleaner, shoes make you look richer.

That’s modern well-being and progress!

 Before a baby Hunza gets its first tooth, no masculine being is allowed to touch it.

This may be a shock to unisex supporters of our times. When such an important day comes, he will be transferred to the arms of its great-grandfather, its grandfather, its father, its brother, etc. Why is it so? How did the Hunza come to that? In my opinion, it is a symbol: the liquid element, milk, is femininity; on the contrary, a tooth is hard and prepares the infant to enter the concrete world, solidity, masculinity.

 And now, something that may shock still more: on the wedding night, the groom’s mother will assist the young couple to help them make it more enjoyable. This is a good point to ponder knowing the sexual misery the majority of western couples live in.

 At some moments of the year, the Hunza hunt birds for food with slingshots. They are particularly skillful at it.

 They eat wheat germ salad.

 They keep cereals as grains that are quickly eaten after grounding.

 Oil is extracted from flax and mustard seeds.

 In short, they mainly eat fruits, cereals and just some vegetables.

 During the grape harvest, they eat as many grapes as they can; this reminds me of the grape meals taken in wine-producing regions of Germanic countries during the 18th century, a habit I indulge myself in every year.

 Brandies are forbidden because they cause quarrels.

 And, above all, no industrial sugars (otherwise called refined), white sugars, brown sugars colored with caramel; no white super dressed flour, no canned food!

 Their food consists of living substances. Goat milk is directly sucked by children so there is no need to boil it and no infection risk.

 When a child has fever, they wrap him in a warm blanket and make him lie in the shade.

 The Hunza people enjoy eternal youth. Hunza means source of life.

 

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