Irfan’s Secret Love

Today was a nice day, I got up at 7.  Alright, it was 7.30 or 7.45… but close enough!

Tackling the cold shower was a struggle, I’m so spoilt with hot water in Islamabad.  And even in Sukkur, the water was hot, admittedly the shower head didn’t work in Sukkur so I used a cup and bucket shower routine… But I would take a cup and bucket shower over a cold shower any day of the week.  In Jacobabad the water flow and pressure are great, but the water is freezing cold!  I got through it, one limb at a time.  Reminds me of the nursery song, one finger, one thumb keep moving, one arm, one leg… That’s all I could handle at one go…

Downstairs, the cook was preparing some bread and milky coffee for me.  I went and ate it in the kitchen with him and chatted in Sindhlish.  The security man at the gate, and the driver sitting with him, kept standing up to attention everytime I walked through the common area.  I kept asking them to sit down and relax, but they are so well mannered, they can’t help themselves.  It made me feel guilty for walking through the area!

I went upstairs after breakfast to work on yesterday’s blog in my room.

At 9.15 I went downstairs to see if Irfan had arrived yet, we were due to leave at 9am.  He was there, but he said we were still waiting for the police escort, so we sat, had tea and waited.

We left shortly before 10am, heading to this central plaza area where there had been a child lying on the edge of the road yesterday.  The child looked fine, but was just resting and lying on a blanket on the road!  He wasn’t on the path where he would have been relatively safe, but instead lying right near the edge of a busy road where people could accidentally run over him.

He was there again this morning.
Sheheryar joined us just as I checked to see if the child was there.  I wasn’t expecting him to join us, as he had said that he had plans to go to Sukkur today.

We talked about the child and he said that the parents employed that tactic to get more sympathy out of passers-by.  We discussed the fact that we seem to reward parents for poor behaviour by giving them assistance.  How often does somebody give money to a young mother who is struggling to bring her children up well, and within the limits of her means?  Instead, we feel sorry for a child who is put in an unsafe place – DELIBERATELY – by it’s parents in order to garner sympathy and make us pay up… And it works!  I will report the child’s situation, so that they can see what intervention they could make, the mother’s marketing ploy has worked!

We headed down the road with a truck police escort initially – I believe!  But, again, this baton was passed on to a pair of police men on a motorbike further down the road, where the jursidiction changed.  We drove down past the Salinas of Jacobabad, past a Railway Station in the middle of nowhere that looks like it serves nobody!  In fact, it looks like it has been untouched since a relatively recent build.  Maybe somebody planned to have a plantation of rice or a rice mill or something there at some point, but for now, it seems completely empty… like a new ghost trainstation.

After the Salinas, there are mudflat kind of areas, with a bit of salt residue and slight ponding visible, they look like areas that previously would have had agriculture, but over the years they’ve declined to the point that they are at now, which is virtual desert.  We continued down a narrow road which is built on a levee above the existing ground, it is being upgraded / rebuilt as it was almost completely washed away as a result of the 2010 floods.  The work is being done by a combination of expensive machinery and equipment and incredibly cheap and hardworking physical labour.  I saw the men today place the fine aggregates over the coarse aggregate by hand using mixing bowls for placement, one bowl at a time, and then hand patting the fines into the road… Backbreaking, hot, painful, dry, thirst work.  The temperature is in the high 20s or early 30s centigrade, and the bright sunlight on the white lime rock and pale sand that they are using must be radiating most of the light back into their faces and eyes.  They have large excavators, loaders, trucks, rollers and graders but I guess they feel they need to employ some local labour, so rather than give them some decent money for some decent work they give them work that nobody in their right mind and with any other option of livelihood would ever do.  Blinding them hour by hour.

When we got to the end of this stretch of road, which was a narrow little strip between two stretches of waterlogged land, we turned left, following the motorbike up an even narrower road.  The new road was piled high with earth on both sides, mud that had been excavated from new or newly repaired channels for water either side of the road.  The mud piled high either side limited the width of road to a very narrow lane, allowing our car only stilting progress along the road.  I can’t understand what they were thinking with their new canals either side of the road, as once the rain comes, the canals will erode into the road width, rendering the road completely impassable.  I’m sure there is some logic, but I can’t see it.

We saw a village ahead and thought that we might have arrived at Pandhi Khan Khoso, but alas, the motorcycle ahead of us continued on around the village and further on down a narrow road between some beautiful fields.

This stretch of road was stunningly beautiful.  There were yellow and bright green crops growing in the fields either side, and there was beautiful golden hay piled up high in stacks along the side of the road.  We saw an eagle land at one point on one of the haystacks and snapped his picture.  We travelled further on, and stopped at a number of locations to ask for directions.  We entered a small village in this little bit of paradise.  It appeared to have the same name as the village we were looking for, but unfortunately, it was not the one.  We were lost.  Not only were we not in the right village, we weren’t even in the correct Union Council!  Now a Union Council, or UC as it is commonly termed, is similar to a Parish in the UK or Ireland.  It is a smallish area consisting of groups of many villages.  It turns out, we were quite remote from the UC were were supposed to be in, so we turned around and headed back out again, along the same path we’d come from.  However, we were all congratulating ourselves that we would not have seen such a lovely place and such beautiful things if we hadn’t taken this little detour.  It took us probably another hour to get to where we had originally wanted to be, along the way we drove down an incredibly sandy dusty road, past more of these beautiful fields full of gorgeous greens and yellows.
When we got to our next jurisdiction point we stopped for a few minutes to wait for the next escort to arrive.  I got out of the car and had a small stroll to see what was around.  There was a great solid mud wall built as a boundary fortress wall around somebody’s house that looked amazing.  It was only built with mud, but it was probably about 10 foot high, and looked really solid.  Every 20′ along it there was a butress rib to reinforce the wall and prevent it from overturning.  These were also built out of mud.

Our new escorts arrived on their motorbike, looking resplendent with a woven scarf wrapped around the driver’s head.  They were covered in a thin film of dust.  I grabbed the opportunity to take their photo, but sadly the driver removed his most excellent turban for his pose.  He put it on again for the second picture!

Probably about 20mins drive down the road we reached our target destination.  At first glance, it looked like a more affluent community than yesterday’s communities.  There were loads of cattle near the entrance to the village, the houses – not ours, but others, looked well built and made of brick.  They had electricity and television.  I wasn’t entirely sure why we had selected this place in the first place.  We entered the village and met with the people who had received houses from our 2010 response.  Most were happy, which was great to know.  There are a couple of issues though which I’ll have to discuss with Senior Management and see how they want us to proceed.  It’s a difficult one, because, as I said, the people are certainly not the most deprived that we have met, so how much we should assist is a matter of opinion.  Certainly, they need the opportunity to grow, get educated and develop, but if funding is in short supply, shouldn’t we look at the worst cases first?  Or is that similar to the situation with the woman and her child lying on the road?  Are these the people who are trying the hardest with what they’ve got?  Shouldn’t we bolster and reward their initiative in getting on the first rung?

One particular beneficiary was very angry and upset, he didn’t want to know about any solutions to the problems with his house.  He asked us for solutions and then said, “Never mind, I’m a skilled mason.  I will buy burnt bricks and build my own new house.  I’ll knock down this house you built, and build my own.”  I said to him, if you have money to buy burnt bricks, off you go!

We wandered back towards the car, but were asked to sit and drink tea with a few of the people from the village, so we sat under a nice building while people brought us tea and things to nibble on.  I was offered some fried rice that had chicken pieces in it, it looked yummy, but I’ve been a fish eating veggie for about 20 years now!  It looked nice and I wanted to try it, so I tried to get a piece without any chicken on it, but as I looked at the little clump of rice in my hand I saw a tiny, tiny piece of chicken… I was being observed by loads of people so just wolfed it down!  Choking on the thought of chicken and a piece of chilli as I swallowed!  Hahahahha, I was a mess over the smallest piece of chicken you’ve ever seen!  Lesson learned, I now will eat what people offer without making a song and dance about it!  I’ll avoid the meat where possible, but not to the extent that I choke!  Hahhahaha.  Silly girl.

Irfan and the driver took me back to the airport in Sukkur, a 2 hour drive or so.  On the way our conversation took a more personal tone, and he told me about his true love that he had fallen in love with years ago.  Sadly, she was from a different denomination of Islam to him, so even though they were very in love, her brother would not allow them to marry.  Her brother had whisked his sister off to the United Arab Emirates so that she would not be tempted by her love.  To safety in the UAE! Please!

Both of them are still single and still very much in love with each other.

I hope they get to find each other in the end.

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