Sunday, June 16, 2024

Professional Journeys’ Narrative – 17

(An account of journeys exclusively based on true picture of areas and the people there. No poetic or romantic false expressions are included, Excerpt from a book in process)


Dalbadin Railway Satation

The project works had been progressing from West towards East, i.e. from Iran’s border to Quetta. It was the time to shift the camp headquarter from Nokkundi over to Dalbadin. The agriculture officer of Dalbadin was courteous enough to accommodate us in his office building, situated right on the Taftaan Highway and also near the local Bazar area. The officer basically belonged to Sargodha, (Punjab Province). He chose to serve the people of Baluchistan wholeheartedly. He married the daughter of a respectable Baluch and settled down in Quetta. He had four lovely children who could fluently speak Baluchi, Pashto, Urdu and Punjabi. Children were very healthy and stout. The officer, in his late forties, was jolly and humorous. He was very fond of company of educated people.

During 1970, Dalbadin was a small town. Being Tehsil Headquarter, it had Agriculture Office, Metrological Office, Water Supply System, Telephone Office, Tehsil Office, Hospital, Microwave teams’ Office, Primary and High Schools and Railway Station. There was, and must be ‘is’, 35/40 foot wide bazar which was about 300 feet long. All necessities of life were available including smuggled Iranian articles. There were two big shops or general stores owned by citizens of Hindu community. These two shops stored all necessities of life in sizable large quantities. Rations supplies of all our teams were managed from these two shops. Owners of these shops were very civilized and well behaved. Among other shops tea points were most popular and most visited. Here tea meant tea. Adding milk was considered polluting tea. This also proved Baluch link to Iraqi culture from where they had migrated thousands of years before. Even today Baluch citizens and Iranians always take tea without adding milk, like Iraqis. Taftaan Highway divides the residential and commercial area of the town on left and right. Bazar area stands south of the highway and the railway station on the north side. The highway, the bazar and the streets / lanes were all unmetalled and even unpaved. State’s corrupt employees were busy in constructing luxury bungalows and kingly dresses elsewhere in the country. Baluch people have been deprived off most of the basics of life. The most sincere, benevolent, courageous and honest people remained neglected since 1947. Their patience and tolerance were considered weakness. Social atmosphere of the town was perfectly peaceful. People of all faiths lived in harmony. You could leave your rations and new households by the roadside and go to your Killy (villages) for arranging camels for loading and carrying over to the village next day or even later. Nobody touched your articles. These were considered Amanat.

In Dalbadin there was a personality that cannot be forgotten. Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed was head of government primary school. Years before, he came over to Quetta but finally made up his mind to serve in Baluchistan. He was a happy social figure and a very good Badminton player. At school he used to invent toys and devices to make the schooling interesting for Baluch children. He loved children and was deeply interested in their welfare in all respects. He always hesitated even to frown at a child. Even on closed Sundays he used to call some of the children to school and helped them in their studies. He had established a game club which was regularly attended by so many members. After rigorous exercise most of the club members accompanied Mr. Mukhtar for refreshment at the tea shop. There Mr. Mukhtar used to tell ever new jokes which pleased everybody with smiles and laughs. In such beautiful atmosphere I sometimes thought of never to leave Dalbadin and Baluchistan.

In small town of Dalbadin, posted government servants belonged to various parts of the country including East-Pakistan. After duty hours everybody used to have a joint association with all others. Nobody ever thought of the varying particulars of the others. All appeared to be belonging to one family and that was Pakistan. I was the only person who used to visit the local Baluch Tehsildar belonging to Murre Tribe. Apart from management of lands and forms, his duties included the responsibilities of a Magistrate for social disputes and various other cases. It was very unusual for me to see common Baluch interpreting themselves with courage and argumental stress before the Tehsildar. In Punjab even the adversely affected people appear to be timid. Baluch people are born free. Visiting Quetta is not enough to understand them fully.

In one of the meetings, Tehsildar told me that he was on a duty tour of remote areas of Dalbadin and it was two days program. Then he instantly offered me to accompany his if possible. I readily agreed to accompany him for that tour. Next day early in the morning we started journey by Tehsildar’s vehicle. We had our midday Baluchi meals in a village. Meals consisted of bread pieces soaked in meat in a large bowl. Everybody including the host shared the contents of the bowl. There was no discrimination of Tehsildar, driver, the host and his village companions. I really enjoyed the simple and tasty food. Years later I enjoyed the same meals so many times in various parts of Iraq which confirmed my knowledge of Baluch and Pashtuns linked to Iraqis. Then we continued our journey and having stops at various villages we reached program’s last village. A few minutes before sunset we reached on top of a hillock. I saw beautiful carpets and pillows spread on the ground. Moments after we released ourselves against the pillows, a gentleman appeared with a very large tray containing full length roasted goat’s ribs, and placed it before us. The Tehsildar brought his mouth close to my ear and informed me about the meaning of this tray and its contents. He told me that it meant that a goat had been put to Zabeeha in our honour. In Baluchi it was called Sajji. After we enjoyed Sajji, the host brought tea. Tea contained good amount of Sugar which we enjoyed very much due to fatigue of the long journey. Sometime later we had the evening Baluchi meals. The weather became considerably cool after sunset. After meals the Tehsildar started his formal meeting with the locals which lasted for about two hours. As matter of official etiquettes I was not supposed to attend the proceedings of meeting. Next morning we had our breakfast consisting of roasted bread and tea, started our return journey and reached Dalbadin in the evening. ——— To be continued…


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Category: Travel

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