Like many other cities of Pakistan, Quetta also cherishes a handful of popular myths that have been transferred by the word of mouth over the generations. With due exaggerations of course, many of the known mythical stories fall into different genres, some inspirational, some legendary and some horror.
Perhaps, the most widely known myth of town that even today lies in the memories and conversations of residents in Quetta is the tale of ‘the Mum’. The legend says that the Mum was a monstrous creature having an upper body of a human female and a lower body of a lion or some other wild animal. People relate seeing the Mum either on two legs or on four, having long nails, black curly hair and a very long bushy tail.
Mum lived in dark caves in the mountains of Quetta and would mostly be sighted in the Hanna Valley or the Koh-e-Murdar mountains. As the elders told us, the Mum, preyed upon mischievous children or on people who would stay on in a mountainous area after the sunset. It was also said that the Mum mysteriously disappeared goats and sheep from local farms to fulfil her hunger.
It was so widely believed that during the 1900s, families in the city would especially be careful with their doors after the call of Maghrib Prayer so that the Mum may not enter their houses. Children were specifically told to stay inside after dark in fear of the creature sighting them and eventually eating them up after carrying them away to her cave.
Interestingly, this myth like most others also has a retrospective link to regional history which almost accurately explains how the story of Mum probably started and how the details of the appearance of it were hugely similar no matter who you heard the story from in Quetta.
It turns out that the story links to a Sphinx Statue that was located on Zarghoon Road Quetta near the Miri (Quetta) Fort in the 19th century. This statue was built in the 1880s in a Christian Graveyard as a memorial for the slain soldiers who had participated in the Second Anglo-Afghan war between 1880 and 1883. The memorial was labelled ‘Mum’ by the locals who were fearful of it being a demon because of the way it looked with a human face and body of a lion. Over the years, the statue turned into tales and eventually the myth of the Mum started propagating in the city. The Quetta Sphinx Statue was later destroyed by a mob in 1992 as a reaction to some socio-political unrest in the city.
Nonetheless, in recent years, Mum has become quite an old talk, living mostly in the memories and nightmares of the millennials of Quetta. This is probably because of a story that surfaced years ago according to which some military personal shot the Mum dead outside her cave. The Mum had apparently taken one of their troop members up her cave in Hannah Valley compelling them to follow her to rescue their partner. When they reached the suburbs of the cave, they were able to target the Mum with their weapons. The legend says that they found their lost partner unconscious in her cave while another says that they found him half-eaten by the vicious Mum.
However, no one for sure knows how authentic the story of the death of Mum is, maybe she still lives in those mountains. Maybe she is just hibernating and would appear back soon on a suitable time (Pun intended).
Author’s note: The author takes no responsibility for any nightmares as a result of reading this blog especially to those who might have forgotten about the Mum and were reminded of it again by this blog.