Dr. A Q Khan
Mohsin e Pakistan

Pleasant Memories

Posted in English Articles  by draqkadmin
September 30th, 2009

Random thoughts
By Dr A Q Khan

In my previous column I wrote about Pakistan as I remember it when I came in 1952. There are many more pleasant memories to reminisce on. In this article I would like to dwell on our stay in the Sher Shah area near the Lyari river. We all recently saw on TV and read in the papers about the riots and disturbances there as a result of gang warfare and the murder of Rehman Dakait who was hailed as a benefactor by the local poor community.

I have already mentioned that I came to Pakistan on August 14, 1952, via Khokhrapar, took a goods train from there to Karachi where I reached about 10 p.m. From there I took a tonga to Nazimabad where my elder sister and brother-in-law were living. The next day my two older brothers, Rauf and Quiyum (who were both in the police department), together with their friends, Saeed, Rais, Ehsan and cousin Inayat, came to see me. They took me to where they were living in Sher Shah. There were three large rooms in their building, each with its own small kitchen and bathroom. My brothers had one room, their friends, Ehsan, Eng Qayyum and cousin Inayat the second and the third was occupied by a Pathan family from Bhopal. Their son, Iqbal, was an old friend of ours from school days in Bhopal. A very friendly Sindhi lady, a widow, used to come in the morning, prepare dough mixed with butter and take it to the nearby tandoor to have the rotis baked. These fresh rotis we took for breakfast with tea before going our respective ways for the day. There were many Pathans, Sindhis, Makranis and a few refugees living in the area. An extremely cordial atmosphere reigned. In the evenings the Pathans would sit outside, play daf and sing “Bhayya Qurban, Bhayya Qurban”. I can still hear their singing in my mind.

My special interest here is to tell you about the wonderful character of the Makrani people of the area at that time. They were in the majority; were tall of stature with short curly hair and dark complexion. They looked very similar to Bedouins and were probably descendants of the Arabs who came to this area centuries ago with the Muslim armies. They were an extremely jolly people, with shiny eyes and smiling faces. Most of the men worked at Keamari port, as guards at cinema houses or plied donkey carts for the transportation of goods. Those of us who have seen their donkeys have not failed to notice how healthy these are and how well they are treated. There seems to be an understanding between owner and donkey and this is apparent in every behaviour. I noticed at the time that they would stop work punctually at 4 p.m., return home to rest for a short while and then take their donkeys to a place near our building and let them roll in the sand. After this they would brush them down, often hugging and kissing them in the process. Never once did I see a Makrani mistreating his donkey. They used to carry an old cigarette tin in which they had collected a few pebbles. When they wanted the donkey to speed up, they would simply shake this tin, making a rattling sound. The donkey understood what was required and would trot or gallop. They also held donkey cart races on Sunday mornings from Khaliq Dina Hall to Keamari. The donkeys were decorated with colourful beads and garlands for the occasion. It came as a shock to me when I saw some of the painfully cruel behaviour meted out to donkeys, ponies and horses in this part of the country. They are beaten with long sticks, made to pull overloaded carts and work long hours, often with open sores. When they get old or sick, they are simply left somewhere out in the open to suffer and die.

One of the things I vividly remember is a moving moment that occurred in Lyari. We used to walk to Chaikiwara and catch a bus to Nazimabad from there. One day I took the bus and after only a short drive, when we reached Miran Muhammad Shah area, the driver suddenly stopped. He raised both hands, smiled and said: “Aray bheran (oh brother), what you think you are doing – taking a stroll in your garden?” I got up to see to whom he was talking and saw not a person but a kitten sitting in the middle of the road. The driver actually got down from the bus, carefully picked up the kitten with both hands and softly put it down on the footpath. After that we went on our way. I will never forget this show of kindness to one of God’s creatures.

Contrast this to the two following painful episodes that happened in our area upcountry. Once, when I was on my way to Kahuta and after having passed the airport crossing, I saw a truck in front of me frantically swerving from left to right. I thought that something had gone wrong with his truck and he was losing control. Nothing of the kind! A mongoose was trying to cross the road and the driver was trying to run it over with his truck. Just how cruel does one have to be to unnecessarily extinguish a life! The second episode relates to the unnecessary killing of a beautiful dove. Again on my way to Kahuta (I took that road every day) I used to regularly see a pair of beautiful doves pecking grain by the side of the road near Aliot. I was so used to seeing them there that I would look forward to passing by. One day when we were near the spot I saw the car in front of us swerve suddenly to the side, hitting one of the doves and killing it. I can’t describe the pain I felt. Why intentionally kill an innocent bird? It still hurts me to think of it. Doves, parrots, etc. mate for life. If one partner dies, very often the other dies too.

We lived at Sher Shah for about a year. It was considered a poor suburb of Karachi, but it was peaceful and the people were extremely friendly, jolly and helpful to each other. The Makranis were very fond of dates and one could find date stall everywhere. Whenever there was a plague of locusts, they would catch them, fry them by the side of the road and then sell them. I tried one once and found it to be quite tasty. Almost every evening you could find elderly ladies sitting by the side of the road frying small fish, just like they do in Chad, Mali, Niger, Sudan, etc. The smell alone was enough to tempt. Very often, on my way back from college, I would buy some. Though small, they were very tasty.

Makrani children are extremely cute (all small children are, but these were cute in a different way). They looked very much like African pikaninis with dark curly hair and shiny eyes. They were very playful and loved practical jokes. Near where we lived there was a depression in the road in which rainwater would collect. One day, after it had rained, our friend Ehsan was passing by on his bicycle while I was at the same place, but in a tonga. I saw Ehsan gain speed and raise his feet in anticipation of riding through the puddle. Once he was in the middle of the puddle, a Makrani boy ran out and caught the bicycle from behind, causing Ehsan to fall off right into the middle of the puddle. He ran away laughing. Ehsan was not angry, recognising it for what it was – a harmless prank.

These children were also very fond of playing football, which they were good at. Some of them even went on to represent Pakistan in international events. It was a pity that we did not have the facilities to groom this talent to the full.

Look now and see what this nice area and these friendly people have become. Is it their fault or have they been let down by successive governments and been forced to become terrorists, killers, kidnappers, etc.? How sad!

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