RECENTLY I had been to Thar desert. While driving there I noticed how beautiful the place is: a series of small sandy hills and shallow valleys. They are dotted with green trees, shrubs, dark green wild grass, deep purple-coloured dry bushes and sparsely located beautiful single-room houses.
The houses have a wide entrance into the single room hut which has neat clay walls and conical bush-covered roof. They have no doors, no windows, no curtains and no boundaries around them. Their animals are herded into a bush-covered wall adjacent to their houses with makeshift doors. These houses and their occupants seem so open, so inviting, so welcoming.
Herds of cows casually stroll on and along the roads as if they own them. Large bells hanging down their necks create beautiful symphony, and life almost comes to a standstill. People seem to enjoy their majestic stride and this moving orchestra.
On the way we crossed small towns and cities, and the road typically cuts across their centre. Shops sell Chinese items, including solar panels with lights. Every fourth shop is selling mobile phones. Despite these modern items, there is no hustle-bustle of a typical city life. Old buses and vans ply these roads. Like Karachi they are crowded and people sit on the roof braving 45 degrees centigrade dry winds with shawls covering their heads and face. Despite all this, every one seems to be patient, accommodating and calm.
Rain is most revered. Tharis have made small cement kerbed curbs at the edge of metalled roads and use road surface as a catchment area for rain. The water thus arrested is guided towards the lowest point of the road and a small cement culvert takes it into a natural pond. Sweet water thus collected is enjoyed by humans and the cattle alike.
Cultivation of crops is dependent on the rain. When the rain is not forthcoming, the Tharis and their cattle survive on the saltish water from their wells. I tried to taste the water from three different wells which they said were ‘miththo’ and ‘suththo’ meaning sweet and nice. However I could not even take a sip as they were all quite bitter. I guess we have a different meaning of sweet water A newly-installed water purification plant at Jindro Dars village has operated for just 79 hours only in the last two months for want of diesel for its generator. Still no one complains, they are happy living within their limited means.
We saw an old coal mine site which was abandoned in 2002. The mining company left their equipment including generators, pumps, and lathe machine at the site, but nothing has been taken away from the site.
We were told Tharis never steal. Their animals roam freely without human handlers, their harvested crop lie in the open unguarded and they have no doors in their houses.
Bheels, Kohlis, Dewans and Thakurs live in harmony with Rahims, Halepotos, Sammos, Legharis, Lasharis and Bhamboros. They live in the same village compound, wear similar clothes, share the same salty water from their wells, and jointly protect their peacocks.
Is this not what the Quaid dreamt and wanted for Pakistan. He talked about it in his maiden speech as the first Governor- General of Pakistan. Tharis have shown what religious tolerance, good neighbourly relations, and contentment means. One wonders why this can’t be duplicated all over Pakistan.
S. NAYYAR IQBAL RAZA