Return to Rural Life

Living in an isolated environment and working for hours bothered me. I decided to take some annual leave and go to my ancestral village to spend some time. It is situated near Hyderabad, Pakistan.

Fortunately, my application was approved. By the next day I had packed. You do not need too much stuff to tour rural areas in Pakistan. You do not even need to do lot of homework—like booking hotels or fulfilling the requirements of tour operators. I checked and packed my digital camera with few Shalwar and Khamees.

When I lived in a village, we used to dream about having a home in a big city. But that day, I wished to reach a village as soon as possible. When you travel there, buried memories of bygone days come to you (like your parents debating increasing fares for public transport!). It makes my eyes tear up.

Urban lifestyle moves very quickly, but villages take a long time to embrace change. When you enter a village after years, the first thing you notice is the people. They look at you as if they have been waiting for you for years. A light smile from your close and distant relatives makes you happy. Children raise their cricket bats toward me to say welcome. As I approached them, they shook my hand and stood together for a photograph.

I reached the town by evening. Some villagers were coming home with grass for their cattle. Women were sitting together on water streams, a father was carrying his daughter in his arms and taking her to be checked by the nearest doctor. Here, doctors run clinics in the evening time. A lack of health facilities has had negative consequences. Many precious lives go into the mouth of death, due to improper treatment and sub standard health facilities.

There was no school in our village for decades. Many generations lived in the darkness of illiteracy. Now, The Citizen Foundation (TCF), a welfare organization, has founded a school with help from the community. Children are being enlightened with education. A beautiful red building has enhanced the charm of the village. You feel as if you are on another planet when you meet with school children of rural areas. Students from these areas need our attention to grow and show their mettle.

Fresh breezes, simple healthy food, tall trees and char paee comforted me; and for a while I felt as if I was in heaven. People like me stricken by the hustle-and-bustle of the city can be refreshed by natural scenery. Our village can attract many tourists, and it might boost the economy, if our law and tourism departments pay some attention.

People of such areas are deprived of basic facilities. They have no easy access to big cities, roads are damaged, and elected assembly members visit every five years, never to return within their tenure. But still, they live happy lives, and in many ways they are healthier than citizens of metropolitan cities. They live smart-phone free, they sleep without tablets. I lived more than four days in the village and captured many portraits. No one asked me to send them to photos on WhatsApp. They are ‘like and comment’ free people.

I observed that things are changing. Urbanisation has quick feet, and is reaching rural areas. New mills and factories are being built in surrounding areas. Poverty and inflation-stricken villagers are selling their ancestral lands to survive, due to a water shortage. It’s an alarming thing to think about, as we may not be able to inhale fresh air and listen to the chirping of birds, even in our rural areas, in the future.

Returning to rural life was an amazing experience. It gave me a chance to see local and traditional ways, meeting with many talented people. The way they ask after the health of each family member particularly stands out for me.

I returned to my work after four days. As I stepped into the smoke-filled colony city, my mood turned sour for a few hours. There is no place like my ancestral village. The pictures I took will keep me refreshed until I go there again.

*Khamees: ‘shirts’ in Urdu (a language spoken in Pakistan)