Historian Faqeer Natho Lund’s Forgotten Existence In A Land Forsaken By All
After crossing Bahdami as I moved onward, I felt that the road was leading towards ‘hell’. The blows of scorching winds were getting faster and faster. At last, the damnable road ended and I reached the right bank of Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD). It was dirty, black and had fetid fluid flowing through. It appeared as if the drain was dumping the entire country’s dirty water into the beautiful and blue Arabic Ocean.
“Nobody knows how long the same modus operandi to harm both the marine and human life, including the environment of Larr belt’s coastal life is being damaged by this callous drain,” I thought to myself before resuming my journey along the right bank of LBOD.
I was desperately looking around for any form of life (human or animal) or at least a tree where I could rest for a while. But it was a deserted place with salt marshes spread before me, seemingly roaring with the words: “This place is no longer habitable for living things”.
Suddenly, I came upon a bridge. I crossed it and continued my journey towards south. After a few minutes, I saw an Otaq where some villagers were sitting. They looked much older than their actual age. For many people of this region, the appearance of an outsider is as welcome as sudden rainfall in the Thar Desert.
After formal greetings, I anxiously asked them ‘Where is Faqeer Natho Lund?’ A man replied ‘Sain is ill so he avoids going outside his house but you can meet him at his own Otaq which is positioned inside the village along his house’. After a few seconds the same man said, ‘come with me’. Soon we were walking through the streets of Faqeer Natho’s village.
I finally reached the Otaq after completing a journey of 52 kilometers all the way from Badin city.
No one was present at the Otaq when we arrived so the man who brought me along said, ‘you sit and wait, while I call Sain’ and then he left. A government primary school, GBPS Shadman Lund is also located near the Otaq. As the time was two in the afternoon, the bell signaling the end of the school day started ringing. Around 20 to 30 students, both boys and girls carrying their note books under their armpits were rushing towards the straw huts they call home.
The school’s building is the only cemented building ever constructed in this village but the more deplorable tale is the unavailability of a proper teacher since the school was initiated by the Sindh Government. A ninth grader boy from village Bahdami teaches the village’s kids. He is an NCHD (National Commission for Human Development) hired teacher, but hasn’t received his monthly salary of Rs 8,000 since the last six months.
While I was talking to the young teacher, Ibrahim, Faqeer Natho Lund arrived at the Otaq. The down to earth soul, welcomed me in his typical gracious manner, uttering the well-known Sindhi greeting: ‘bhali kary aya’.
After seeing almost 100 springs, Faqeer Natho Lund still possesses the same degree of knowledge regarding the rich history of Larr belt and shares it with anyone who wishes to know it.
It is sad that this old man, who has been quenching the thirst of hundreds of knowledge seekers for a long time hasn’t received the reverence and respect he deserves.
He still lives in the same straw hut in village Shadman Lund where he was born. ‘I still remember the day in 1991 when the veteran Sindhi historian Doctor Nabi Bux Khan Baloch came to me and asked for some assistance regarding the history of Larr belt. and I did. I also gave him a gold coin (free of cost, worth Rs 2000 at that time) but when it comes to acknowledging my services, he too like many others turned a blind eye’.
Faqeer Natho, along with Soomar Shaikh founded the Larr Museum in Badin. The credit of discovering the graves of sons of Bhoongar, Shaheed Dodo Soomro and Chanessar Soomro also goes to these two legendary giants but despite such achievements, they were not only ignored by government officials, but also got condemned from Sindhi people.
While having tea at the Otaq, around 15 school-going local barefooted children arrived carrying water pitchers and bottles. They were going to Bahdami that is situated twelve kilometers away to fetch water for their households.
“Since the 1999 cyclone, gradually all the fresh water bodies that used to provide water to the village have dried up. Moreover, due to close proximity with the Arabian Sea the ground water of this entire area has turned brackish and as a result we have to walk daily to fetch water to survive. This practice isn’t new, we have been doing it since 2010”, Faqeer Natho explained.
Shadman Lund is situated at the left bank of LBOD, 3 kilometers from the Indo-Pak border. This is one of the oldest settlements of district Badin but owing to administrative negligence and severe effects of climate change more than 20 big villages of this region have relocated since the 2010 flood.
“Village Gul Muhammad Lund (150 HHs), Village Murad Lund (60 HHs), Miyanji Darya Khan (50 HHs), Mato Mandhro (45 HHs), Qabool Shah (70 HHs) and Bakho Khan Lund (100+ HHs) were some villages which once existed in this area but the villagers left and shifted to Kadhan and Badin towns.” Faqeer Natho said.
“Why didn’t you migrate?” I asked him. He sorrowfully replied in a low pitched voice: “We have been hopeless since a long time. My sons work as daily wages laborers and what they earn is only enough for survival. . I have 60 acres of land in the area but all is dead since 1999. We are disowned by the governments so why should we go and beg for our children’s’ survival. We will die on this land but never leave it.”
“Sain what’s your wish?” I questioned him. “What could be the wish of a 100 years old man? Whosoever is in power (PPP) must realise that we are also humans and they have to be answerable to Allah one day regarding our rights. We need all those facilities which are being provided to the people living in the cities,” the old man said.
I couldn’t dare question him about the historical knowledge he possesses as he had already said: ‘”People have been stealing my work for a long”.
His statement is a reality. Faqeer Natho has written around 8 books but no one wants to assist him in publishing them or respecting his services towards exploration of the history of the Larr belt.
It was time to say good bye to him so I started my journey back to Badin. Near Bahdami, I saw the children of Shadman Lund village, who had left to fetch water for their households. “We will reach our village after sunset”. Their last words to me echoed in my ears.