Tuesday, January 06, 2009
2009 Happy Pakistan Series – Finding Comfort in a Sindh Village
[Author Sehba Sarwar writes exclusively for Pakistan Paindabad]
I grew up in Karachi and some of my fondest memories are based on slow walks at the city’s seawall, the shopping excursions to Saddar in downtime Karachi and breakfast trips—thanks to my mother’s energy—to nearby sites such as the Chowkandi tombs and Bhambore.
I’ve also been luckier than most who were raised in Karachi: I actually (again, through my mother’s persistence) got to explore Sindh, and as children, we visited the Haleji Lake bird refuge, and the mosques of Thatta and Makli. Now that I am no longer based in Pakistan full-time, I have deep regret that I have not explored more of Sindh, a province rich in Sufi culture and art.
Recently, however, I got to spend a day driving out of Karachi and visiting Hala, a small village in Sindh where handicrafts such as classic Hala pottery, soosi and tie-dye fabrics are created.
After spending a delightful afternoon in a friend’s home, where we relished a home-cooked Sindhi meal, we drove out to the shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. This was a spiritual experience. The shrine is about 300 years old and is located a little away from the Super Highway that cuts through Sindh all the way up Punjab to the north.
There were musicians performing Sufi music. As I sat back, listening, watching, breathing, I was aware of a sense of peace. In one corner of the large arcade, a group of children were dancing, practicing for the dhamal that takes place in Moharram that has just begun.
Earlier that morning, as I left Karachi, I had read the newspaper headlines and there were more stories about bombs and the military build-up between Pakistan and India. But somehow, sitting on the dirty mosaic floor of the shrine, that world seemed so far away, and irrelevant. Wars happen, governments change, people die. But the heart of a country’s center remains the same.
And that is certainly how I felt sitting in Bhit Shah, 150 miles away from Karachi. No matter what happens over the next year, I know that I will be able to return to the shrine and will once again sit cross-legged on the floor and be aware of a deeper sprit that has prevailed over centuries.
All around me will be people who might be different because of our life experiences, but in that moment, I know that we will together feel peace and serenity. Some things don’t change and I am grateful for that.