Sohni 2: Flood Came in Middle of the Night
This is the story about a young girl from the small village of Jhongal in Upper Sindh. She among the thousands from her village who was baldy effected by the floods in Pakistan, and hence having lost everything to water she and her family now live in a flood camp in Shikarpur, until life decides for them what they ought to do. Now as she shares her life with me and I feel like there couldn't have been a better way to look at the life of flood survivors in camps through her own eyes.
Sohni is a short series of blog posts which would bring forward the life of this girl to every reader and would be the window to what disasters struck the flood survivors after the major disaster of "floods in Pakistan".
A tale of survival from the floods in Pakistan
I couldn't believe it was here, after waiting so long for this day, so badly that I had forgotten to even fight with Sajid for my marbles and only counted days and hours, until it was here! Amma and Baba saw the moon first and they gave away the happy news. "Tomorrow begins the first day of the month of Ramazan", they announced and I almost started jumping up and down in front of Baba.
I along with five of my sisters await this day, to be able to fast in the holy month and then comes the Eid! with its glorious day of celebration, when for the first time in the year I get a new dress. A brand new dress, even bangles and henna on my hands. I shriek with joy as I remember the past eid, I had darted off through the streets of my small village, showing off my dress with its pretty yellow and red hems to my Sahiris - Friends- and had been the envy of all of them. I couldn't possibly wait for this eid I thought.
I live in a small village called Jhongal, which I love the most. Along with its dirt roads, the houses of all those whom I love surround our large haveli. A huge neem tree decorates the middle of the haveli close enough to the veranda where we sleep and listen to its leaves rustling in the nights breeze. This is my world that I knew and understood all of eleven years of my life. On rare times when amma fells ill and baba takes her to the hospital in the nearby city I am the one desperate to go along. But other then those occasional visits to a world different then mine I never could dream of leaving Jhongal ever....until....when I was forced to leave.
That Midnight it happened, it was the second day of Ramazan and the night of 12th August as Baba says. That night too I had slept the last, this time not listening to the neem tree or wishing the stars in my hand but this time dreaming about the coming eid festival. I had promised my self that I would be a good girl this time and would wash and clean myself and make two braids to look even more beautiful in my new dress. And then there are those mithais - sweets- we eat, The warm chewy and surgery balls of Gulab Jamun are what I love the most, I forgot the promise and planned that I would trick Sajid and snatch his piece of mithai from him... I had been laughing to myself that night.. feeling happy about my plans and not knowing exactly what time I had drifted to sleep.
It was a noisy rattling that I heard, or no it was more of a moan and then a shrill cry and everyone seemed to have started shouting all at once. I jolted off my slumber with hazy eyes starring at a mob of my family in the middle of the night running around frantically. Before I knew it Baba took hold of me and my brother and started running towards the door. Everyone did. The flood is here! Those floods we heard about, never assuming they could ever reach us and here it was... every single person in my village ran out to the main road making their way out of the village. Where we were going was out of my knowledge but all I knew was I was afraid, my lips had gone dry with fear and my eyes seem to bulge out. Sajid was worse, he hadnt stopped crying from the moment baba grabbed him, if it hadn't been the time of trauma I would have laughed my head off at his scardiness. But this time it wasn't just him, all of us... my sisters, Naseema my second last sister who is known to be poised was in a bad conditon, her duppata almost off her head and her hair a mess she held the hand of Rozina, while Amma had held Naima and Sumera.
My heart hammering in my ribs, I looked behind me towards the door of our haveli, our neem tree which was visible enough from the walls to wave a sad good bye to us and I had a feeling I would be crying so much about this very moment of my life. The dreams of my eid dress vanished into thin air and even the hope of fasting the other morning was gone... all I could see was my house, my village and my world left behind us as we moved far away. From the bend in the dirt road I could see the final outlines of the neem tree until dust clouds closed off of this sight taking with them every desire I had and forcing me to close my eyes with the advent of fresh tears.
We were on the main road now, my sisters and Abba, Amma panting from the run. In hurried paces we walked along the length of the road past hundreds of people on either side, some were lucky they rode on vans and wagons and roared past us, some rode on tractors while some moved slowly on donkey-carts. All others walked along with us. Baba lowered me on the road now, still carrying my six year old brother Sajid on his shoulders who made a crown of his arms on his head now sobbing quietly. Amma still carried my two sisters while two walked along. My Puphis' (Babas sisters) followed our family with their children and husbands. Chachi Sadora and chacha Mushtaq (uncle) walked close to Amma with quick paces and near her walked Tahir (my fiance), This was causing me to hold my eyes glancing towards Amma. I cursed Tahir silently and kept walking.
It was slow breaking of dawn, our caravan was taking pace as rumors came flying like fire that water can even catch up with us. Amma was almost fainting with fatigue, my Phuphis with stricken faces walked very slowly now, I felt like crying and crying for this sad night, two of my sisters were weeping quitly hiding their faces from Abba who would shout on them of course if he sees it.
Flickering lights were seen, two round lights, A van, it was a van! Baba ran towards it before it could drive past us and waved his hands in frenzy, Puphi Qulsoom started crying uncontrollably. The van slowed down and all of us rushed towards it like tied off horse suddenly released. It was packed, even women sat on top of it, along with dozens of men! inside the van I could only see faces, many faces, peeking out from windows, and from the door of the van. Amma and Puphi started begging the driver for a ride out of this town, they could barely be heard as wails of children had filled the morning air along with baba almost shouting and trying to get the driver to understand our bad situation who probably had heard a lot of that with the look of his filled wagon.
But then driver agreed and all the women started praying for his long life, Puphis went in first, amma, then my sisters and then me and Baba and chacha. I was sitting on Naseemas' lap, Sajids feet on top of me while his half still on babas shoulders, he was crying again. Amma sat in a twisted position and it broke my heart the way she tried to make space for my puphis and chachi who too were stuck in the midst of bodies. if it weren't for the windows in this van I thought, all of us would have suffocated to death.
I was glad when we were thrown out of the van after 40 minutes, inside a busy street. even though it was still morning but the street looked lively, people strolled along it, some walking towards a mosque, children stood at the end of the long paved street watching us. I saw the sudden contrast in their condition, with their smoothly braided hair and clean duppattas, I knew at once we were in a city. Which city I couldn't tell, but a city which I always had loved to visit but now I was making the worst of faces I could ever manage. Soon Abba and Chacha came hurrying towards us and ushered us all to the nearest Masjid - Mosque-."The Mullah have allowed us to live here for some time" they told us, "we are in Shikarpur".