AT the time of partition, my village, Guff, was a remote area with no roads, access to public transport or electricity. Our village was at the top of a hill and it was extremely difficult to move from one place to another even on foot. However, people used to cooperate with each other and managed their daily chores.
Around the village there were two ‘nullahs’ (steep rainwater passages) which used to be flooded during the monsoon season.
A man we all called Maulvi Bagga established a school in the village for children which lacked basic amenities. But it was a beginning and better than nothing. It was situated across the rainwater passages. The school children including myself, had to walk along the nullah and cross it and then walk up again.
One day I told some of the village elders that in the absence of a pathway, it was difficult and dangerous to walk down to the nullah bed and then climb up all the way to the school as the passage was slippery with no steps for a foothold.
One of the elders promised that he would fix the problem. He built steps all the way from the top of the hill to the ‘river bed’ and up to the school. He did this with his bare hands using stones, rocks and whatever he could get hold of.
Such efforts must be recognised and honoured. I am personally indebted to the Maulvi sahib for taking the initiative to establish a school and the man who constructed the passage so that children could reach the school safely.
Those were the days when people in villages did not wait for help to arrive from the government. They cooperated and worked together to find solutions for whatever life sent their way.
Everyone worked hand-in-hand from sowing of crops to harvesting to building mud houses. The entire village would care for the elderly and the sick.
Seventy years later, our village now has electricity and road access. Movement is easy and things are way better in terms of facilities, but the spirit of cooperation and collaboration has disappeared. People are now more self-focused and expect the government to do everything.
I wish we could have a fraction of the spirit our elders had to work hard and find solutions collectively to solve problems.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2020