Sohni: Story of a young girl from the flood survivors in Pakistan
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
1. Jhongal, my small village
Millions of shimmering stars gather upon Jhongal, my small village in the heart of Rahim Abad, as the night settles in. Lying in my cot in the veranda of my open house, with the leaves of our large neem tree swooshing in the calm breeze, I imagine the world in the shape of a bowl, with stars falling in it for all of us.
I am always the last one to fall asleep – Even this soothing breeze and the night with its glimmering of stars have me awake. Besides me Sajid my six year old brother peacefully sleeps not looking a bit like he was the one who stole my clay dolls. Near our cot is Amma, Baba and all of my 4 sisters’ cots. When the breeze hits cold, Rozina and Naseema sleepily snatch the rili - blanket - from each other, finally agreeing – Still sleeping, while I am awake.
I lay there in the calm of the night, listening to the utter silence and then to our neem tree, as in the nights stillness its leaves start speaking to us slowly, telling us so many things quietly, and in the perfect rhythm of its leaves singing to us, everything and everyone is lulled to sleep … but I am awake, always there to listen, smiling, listening and slowly drifting to sleep.
Mornings are the best in my village. The breaking of dawn brings the loud and shrill morning calls of the roosters along with it the clattering of tea cups, a faint scent of the tea that Naseema my second eldest sister makes. Though I liked Tahira, my eldest sisters’ tea best, but after her marriage and sending her off, Naseema’s tea is what we drink only.
Sajid is the one, who brings the Chabi, and together we look for broken pieces of left over rotis’ from the past night. Sajid tries to trick me by hiding some of the rotis’ in his side pocket but I am always clever to sneak up beside him, snatch the roti and run. He bawls and I don’t care. Only Amma cares and runs after me to beat me. With the sudden death of my elder brother, Amma seems to have found jewels stuck in Sajid, caring for him more then any of us six sisters. I being the middle one at the age of 11, ought not to care but I despise the fact that my two little sisters, Sumera and Naimat who are only 9 and 7 years old don’t get that attention.
As dawn fades in Jhongal, heat starts to grab us. These are the days of summer in my village, hot and sweaty. That is one of the reasons I dislike going to Masjid, so many girls packed together in the heat chanting loudly from their Siparas, I would rather play marbels with Sajid. Amma beat me once with Jharu, until it left marks on my back, and I decided never to go to Masjid.
Its that time of the day I run to Puphi Hajra’s house, passing through the dirt roads, with walls crammed with round patties of cow dung that neighbors girls make and leave for them to dry. Sometimes I find the streets dusty and know that the herd of cows just moved and churned up the dust, I run through the streets to find the herd and lope behind them making the cows dart faster through the small dirt road leaving huge mass of dust flying in that makes homes of my nostrils and eyelashes and I laugh even louder scaring them away, and the poor shepherd tries his best to calm the beasts and swears on top of his lungs catching after them.
That is when I reach Puphi Hajras house, to carry her little newborn. Samra with her toothless smile is perhaps the cutest kid I have ever seen, carrying her in my arms I love to feel the soft small hands touching my cheeks or sometimes clutching a few strands of my hair. I love her small fragile body, in fact I love all the little newborns of my neighborhood, when ever I know there is a new kid born in one of houses nearest to us, I rush to go carry the fluffy thing in my lap, telling them everything thing about me, laughing with them, singing to them.. until it’s time to go home.
Towards the noon my little sisters arrive home, with their scarves tied tightly around their heads, and Siparas in their hands, I know what Amma is going to say then, one word: “Nibhag”, my sisters, and Amma always tell me that I have Nibhag – misfortune - that I don’t go to Masjid, don’t wash the dishes or even when I refuse to wash my face.
Amma, always promises to tell Baba about my being a Nibhagi and as soon as Abba comes, she forgets. In fact we all forget everything and run for our duppatas. Everyone assumes my father to be a mullah, with his long beard but I would have disliked it if he was a Mullah, that way I would have been forced to go to Masjid. He rather is a peasant working on Zamindars – landlords - lands, sometimes he takes me and my sisters at the time of Labaro – harvest - for us to help him and all of us have fun together. That I think is the happiest moment of my life. But for now, we sit silently trying to sound like the good behaved girls he wants us to be, until he calls “Sohni”, and I run to give him his dinner, after he finishes, we eat, then all of us go to bed on our cots in veranda and I lay awake.