A Culture with a 1000 Shades – The Sindhi Culture
I was born in Karachi, the seat of province Sindh. My grandparents migrated to Pakistan when my father was a wee little boy. He married his childhood sweetheart and I opened my eyes to the world a year after. Despite being born in Sindh, my family nor my education ever served to spark interest in me of the culture around me – the culture of Sindh and It was not before I entered grad school that a Sindhi friend of mine lifted the shroud from the Sindhi culture for me.
During my first semester in a private university, our instructor divided the students in groups of 5 and assigned each group a province of Pakistan besides the capital for the final project. Our group was assigned Sindh, and I was not very confident going into the showdown. Fortunately, we had Mazhar in our group, who is a Sindhi and that was when our endearing friendship began.
None of our group members were remotely familiar with the Sindhi culture and hence having Mazhar in our group was a real blessing. I remember he was an interesting character; intriguing and shy at first. However, it was not long before he started opening up to me about his Sindhi heritage. His stories were fascinating to say the least and he was a very adept story teller.
Eid Ul Fitr was around the corner, we checked the dates and it was falling on midweek, plus the mandatory weekend off. This meant we had a whole week. Our project date was right after Eid, so Mazher proposed I go on a trip to interior Sindh and explore its various fringes – a proposal I said yes to.
Exploring Sindhi Culture
Mazhar asked me to keep light clothes with me as the weather is generally warm and dusty. We took off to exploring Sindh on the 3rd day of Eid. We booked a bus from Sindh to Keenjhar Lake, Sakhro, Gharo, Thatta and finally to the historical ruins of Mohen-Jo-Daro. What I was looking most forward to was the mixed and varied culture, as rural Sindh is home to the biggest population of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan. Sindhi Culture, here we come.
Upon reaching Sakhro, the very first thing we noticed was the greenery. All we could spot were long grass fields supplanted by open water canals. There was no noise, no pollution; just a straight, endless road with corn and wheat fields to our left and right on which cattle were grazing.
It was a tiring journey and the urge to have tea was stronger than ever. We stopped by a tea stall to refresh our senses. We sat by the charpai and were greeted in the local Sindhi language. I remember how nice and hospitable the people were at the tea stall, something I could never imagine happening in Karachi. They were all Hindus yet the warmth and courteousness with which they treated us was remarkable. To top it all off, our ears were treated to some beautiful, somber traditional music.
I had a very stronges and the rich tasting doodh patti. Every sip was a bliss, but the best part was yet to come. Before leaving Mazhar had a chat with the tea vendor and he told me that he refused to accept payment from guests. What a moving gesture! We shared hugs and went ahead.
Our went to see the Keenjhar Jheel, a popular tourism spot. Our stay was not a long one at this place since it was filled with people who were holidaying. We moved ahead to explore more of Thatta, which truly embodies the rustic beauty of interior Sindh.
A local hotel welcomed us to get some much-needed sleep. The hotel’s interior was designed in the true spirit of Sindh. The walls were adorned in red and black fabric, reminiscent of Ajrak’s color. We had a good 8 hours sleep before setting out on our next destination – Makli Hill.
All of us, except Mazhar (he is very superstitious) went to see the supposedly haunting hills of Makli. While on the way, we saw some spectators surrounding and cheering for a gentleman, who was playing a tune on his flute. We asked our guide to park the car and we jumped straight into the scene. All of us witnessed 2 snakes dancing to the tune of the gentleman’s flute. I captured the scene on my camera, just like the rest of our journey for our course work.
We reached Makli Hill and saw with with our eyes the much hyped Makli necropolis. As a result of negligence from local authorities, the land was partially submerged in water, nonetheless, we went ahead, right into the thick of things. The tombs looked as if they were constructed during the classic period, they were amazingly detailed. Pre-historic text was inscribed on the tombs, I used all the camera tricks at my disposal to embellish the shots. There are reports that the place is haunted, hence we thought it was wise to leave before sunset.
Moen Jo Daro – Epitome of Sindhi Culture
The journey from Thatta to Moen Jo Daro was a long one. But our spirits were high and some good music with strong tea kept us motivated. We saw a number of streamers and boards informing us of what lied ahead of us.
Entering the ancient ruins of Moen Jo Daro was a feeling I cannot put into words, it felt as if I had become one with my surrounding and the people who used to live there. This legend of the past was sleeping silently when we paid it a visit, but felt more alive than most of the places I have been to.
The wind was blowing fiercely, a welcome greeting perhaps? I made my way to the narrow corridors and pathways of the structure which was in a surprisingly pristine condition, considering the condition of our other monuments and heritage sites.
I took out my packet of Benson and Hedges and lit up a cigarette. My mind was now completely absorbed by the effects of tobacco and the surrounding ambiance. It was enchanting. Instead of palaces and majestic tombstones, one finds order, cleanliness and handmade artifacts at Moen Jo Daro,
All this while, my camera was saving the ruins of a once glorious civilization. Moving ahead with Mazhar, we saw a watertight pool which was placed on top of a mound of dirt and held in place with baked bricks. It was possibly a place for men or women to take a bath or maybe where the inhabitants could store water.
We then went to the compound where the recovered relics were on display. It became apparent that the city was inhabited by wealthy individuals, as evidenced by ivory, carnelian and gold beads.
What struck us most was how disciplined and organized the inhabitants of Moen Jo Daro were. From the drainage system to their artistry on clay and ivory; it was an enlightening experience. After spending roughly 2 hours at the ancient site, we packed our bags and headed for home. Even my camera’s battery had died by that point. It was a scintillating experience visiting Sindh culture, what I had assumed to be an exercise in dust, debris and heat turned out to be one of the most eye-opening expeditions for me. Oh, and by the way, we all scored A in that course.