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Tharparkar without rains, lavish food but not for Thari people


KARACHI: “Menu propagated on media is a news for us as well. The actual menu is quite simple and completely different. Amazed at the concoctions,” Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted on Saturday regarding the menu arranged for ‘Zardari-Nawaz Raiwind power lunch’ arranged to defuse the political tension due to the presence of marchers in Islamabad.
Media had earlier reported varieties of lavish dishes including deer dish in the menu. Hours before this whether-or-not lavish lunch between two power custodians of Sindh and center, some thousands kilometers away from power corridor, Neetu had arranged lavish dinner for her family in Murre Ji Wand village Tharparkar.
Neetu a twenty-something married lady preparing meal, her children along with neighboring kids queuing in ‘Dharna-style’ in open patio-kitchen were waiting anxiously as they had assembled for party celebration, Neetu has arranged this. She was cooking round gourd.
At lunch we ate homemade red chilli sauce with loaves (roti). This is a regular meal for us, said Neetu veiling in traditional ‘ghunghat’ covering her face.
Such a lavish dinner was being offered after a long time. Even my two-year daughter is used to take chilli-sauce now, told Neetu. The family has six kids-four daughters and two sons.
My husband is jobless. The only resource of the family is cattle farming, the lady informed.
We had six goats and a dozen sheep. Now we have two goats and around ten sheep left. What else could have we wanted if we would have cows, she said while putting firewood to switch fast fire besides putting together steel pots.
Whether it is wheat, tea or sugar or daily items, we are borrowing these from neighborhood shopkeeper. We are already indebted by nearly Rs 100,000, as we do not have any other source to pay him back. Shopkeeper is good enough but how long he would bear this, she lamented.
‘Now we have decided to migrate from here in couple of days,’ Neetu said in a decisive mood. We would move to Shahdadpur where we have relatives. Hopefully my husband would find any work there.
Tharparkar also considered as the only fertile desert in the world has a population of around 1.5 million. It is estimated there were about six million livestock including cows, goats, sheep and camels. Between January and March 2014, some 200 children lost lives in Tharparkar due to malnourishment and waterborne diseases as a result of drought and scarce clean drinking water. More than ninety percent Tharis (locals) depend mainly on rain-fed agriculture, which is often affected by drought and on livestock rearing for their livelihood.
The desert is facing drought-like conditions this year because of erratic rainfall during the previous monsoon season. When there is no rain by August 15, the area is declared as ‘calamity-hit’, a pattern being followed from the days of Britons.
Not too far from Neetu’s patio, Sahaki a lady clad in eggplant ghaghra choli was busy in grinding wheat in chanwro (hut).
We grind wheat at home which is operated by hand, said Sahaki adjusting white choora (bangels) in upper arms.
Her husband Kheengo (40) looked a worried man. We had around two dozens sheep but all died. Now we have one option to survive to migrate, said Khhengo.
We would also migrate to Shahdadpur like our neighbours. Nine families have already moved from here, he told.
For disappointed locals waiting for rains seemed to be over now. For Tharis rain means life. Rain in Tharparkar is important in two aspects, for livestock and agriculture. Animal is first thing which is affected by drought. People migrate to barrage areas like Badin, Umerkot and other areas.
Local Thari families have started migration along with their cattle in search of food and fodder.
Cash crops in Tharparkar are mainly cluster bean and millet and others. Even it rains now, locals cannot cultivate their fields for crops, as it is too late.
Most of the villages in the area are built on the top of mound (bhit). Dev Ji Bheel (55) resident of Machiyaoo village some forty kilometers away from district headquarters Mithi towards South, hoped there would be rain soon and he could hear his peers singing Hamarcho (a traditional song of the desert).
During cultivating the fields with the help of camels and donkeys Hamarcho is sung by the local farmers in groups of 10 to 15. Once a group completes a stanza, in-waiting group takes it turn and responds them.
‘Hamarcho, Tajliyo, Cholio are favourite traditional songs of Tharis, which they sing in time of cheerful mood, said Dev. For Tharis what else a moment of joy could be other than rains, he said while puffing up cigarette.
Locals are seen busy in Aakho Payo (a tradition waiting for rains). Aakho-Payo is exercise carried out by kids to collect food items or roti from home-to-home before organising alms at Tarai or water-well.
In local language it is said ‘Aakho payo, meenh jo sahyio’ means Aakho payo is preparation for rains.
There are around 125 houses of Bheel community in Machiyaoo village. Tharparkar is the only district in Pakistan where nearly 50 percent of the population is Hindus.
Bheels are followers of Shiv. In Machiyoo village eight to ten families have shifted towards barrage areas.
It is called good rain if it can store the water in tarai for a month or more.
Word ‘Tarai’ is used for natural pond found in the bottom of mound.
If it is elbow high rains, which is around one-and-half foot, then it is considered good rain. This is the old local way of measuring rain intensity.
Three months ago Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) distributed nearly two thousand bags of wanda feed fourteen for each family for three months. Just eighty families were distributed in this village only, said Bharumal Amrani of SCOPE.
We also conducted training for the locals so they could identify different diseases in cattle. There are around eight animals’ related diseases, which are vaccinated, he told.
Locals should also be taught time in which crop could be cultivated in minimum rains. Regional office of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council should also be established in Mithi, stated Bharu.
From January 2013, livestock is facing different diseases. Goats are infected with Anthrax, while infected by sheep-pox.
‘Acho Wago Manjay Bhai ro, Bakhmal Madd Manje Bhanbhal re,’ (white suit for my brother, velvet fabric for my sister-in-law) a group of ladies standing in circle putting hands on their cheeks were signing marriage song in Dhatki a typical thari style. The song was dedicated to groom who got married from nearby village. What if we could not arrange Bhatt (marriage banquet) due to poverty but it cannot stop us from celebrating, said jubilant Maaho, groom’s mother. Hardships are there, but we have history of not giving up.

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