In 2011, following the massive floods that devastated northern Pakistan, I wrote an article, “Remembering Swat Valley’s Madyan,” which was published in the online Pakistan Forum. Among other things, the article spoke about Moambar Khan, the man in Madyan who owned a shop and also rented rooms to foreigners in 1978, when I first discovered the village on the Swat River. The article was written in memory of not only the location, but of Moambar Khan and his family, who were my gateway into understanding Pashtun culture. I came and went to Madyan intermittently throughout the 1980s, to 1990.
One day in 2019, as I happened to check my Facebook Notifications page, which I was only just discovering, I found a message: “Hello, I am Naveed Khan, son of Moambar Khan from Madyan. I would like to meet you.” The message had been sitting there over a year.
My article had found its way to the Madyan school teacher, who stopped Naveed Khan to tell him about it, saying that the author had spoken highly of his father, and asking if he knew me. Naveed was born after 1990, so I never met him, although I had known his older siblings as children. He brought the news home, where his siblings recognized my name, and showed him an old photo they had kept of me with their father, taken in 1988.
We began communicating, and I learned that both of Naveed’s parents had passed away, and that his older brother had married a French woman and was living in Switzerland. I even spoke over VOIP with his older sister, who is now a grandmother like me. It was truly a heartwarming reconnection.
The long and short of it is that, insh’Allah, Naveed Khan will visit the U.S. this summer and visit with us in Pennsylvania. Despite all that you read about Pakistan in the Media, the country is made up of real people. This exchange remains, and if anyone ever wants to visit the beautiful Swat Valley of Pakistan, I can guarantee you a warm welcome and hospitality to make your experience memorable.