Paat – A remote village of Dadu District of Sindh
My Paat Visits
By Dr. Yasmeen Kazi
This month, I went for my fifth visit to Paat. Paat Sharif is a village in Dadu district. It is our ancestral village.
My parents were settled in Karachi much before the birth of Pakistan. They were not fond of travelling and did not go to Paat. Some lands there were looked after by other people, who occasionally sent some wheat or rice.
This village had 100 % literacy, even in those days. It had given rise to some illustrious persons, such as Allama Imdad Ali Imam Ali Kazi, who was the founder and first Vice Chancellor of Sindh University and Aftab Ghulam Nabi Kazi, who was State Bank Governor. There were several judges also.These people had settled in the big cities. My paternal uncle and his family livedin Paat. They would visit us sometimes and tell us about village life. I longed to visit it, but didn’t get the chance. I would hear about Old Paat, where old coins and other artefacts were found. My cousin taught in the girls’ school there. There was a girls’ school and a boys’ school. The children of peasants also studied there.
An interesting historical fact about Paat is that Mah Afroz Begum, the mother of Humayun’s wife, Hamida Banu was from Paat.
After my uncle and aunt died, their children also left the village. Only one or two families related to us were left there, who also abandoned their village homes and moved out in the Eighties, when dacoities and kidnappings were rampant.
Working as a doctor in the National Institute of Child Health, I met Prof. K.A. Shakoor, whose family also belonged to Paat. His family had also moved out, but they maintained their links and kept a house and servants there.
A few years agao, Prof. Shakoor told me that he had started taking medical camps to Paat, and asked whether I would like to go. I was very excited, as I wanted to see my roots and also help the village children.
We went in an ambulance van belonging to Ghani Hospital, named after Prof. Shakoor’s late brother. On the way, we passed Sehwan, the resting place of Shahbaz Qalander. Two of Akbar’s Naurattans, abul Fazl and Faizi also belonged to Sehwan. There were the Khirthar Mountains, in which a railway track had been made in the time of the British. The road to Gorakh was pointed out. This is a hill station like Murree, which is surprising in Sindh. Some earlier governments talked about developing it as a tourist spot, but this has still not been done. This year, we saw pictures of snow fall in Gorakh.
We also passed Khudabad, which was the capital of the Kalhora dynasty, before Hyderabad. There is a beautiful old mosque there, which was under repair. I hoped that they would preserve the original design. I don’t think it is registered as a protected heritage site.
There were camels laden with goods. I saw fields with plantations of wheat, rice, sugar cane, mustard. Small, natural lakes were seen, with buffaloes and children bathing. In some natural lakes, I saw birds. There were white herons and terns.
At Dadu, there were numerous Qingqis. This was a change from when I visited it once in the Sixties, to attend my cousin’s wedding. At that time, It was full of Tongas.
On one visit to Paat, we went to Sehwan to see Shahbaz Qalander’s shrine. There were numerous small shops selling souvenirs and snacks as Tabarruk. The shrine was under repair. It was full of beggars, young and old, male and female. The grave was cordoned off by a brick structure with a design through which one could see it. This has been done to stop devotees from going too close to it.
Reaching Paat, we went to Prof. Shakoor’s family home. His servants escorted us inside. It was a proper house with gas and electricity and tiled modern latrines. The electricity is off most of the time due to load shedding. In their compound, I saw two grey squirrels, which scuttled off and climbed a tree as I tried to get a better look at them.
Whenever I go, the village people are informed beforehand, and there is usually a crowd of people waiting, including women and children. I examine the children and give them the drugs I take with me. Mostly, the children are well and I give them multivitamin preparations, iron, zinc and a bolus dose of vitamin A to under five children. They ask for treatment of fever, cough and cold. I give them simple medicines for that. I advise them regarding feeding and hygiene. It is good to see that they are all vaccinated. Vaccinators go there regularly. I also give out medicines for worms, treatment for diarrhea and skin conditions. I go there about once or twice a year.
The village has narrow streets, not properly paved. I saw a bullock cart pass, carrying straw, some of which dropped on the road. There is a mosque there and schools. I saw some girls there and asked if they went to school. They said that their families do not educate girls. That is a pity. The village has been inhabited by people from neighbouring villages who have come to settle there. They are mostly peasants.
The homes of my relatives are not there anymore. Other people have taken over and build homes with bricks and mud. I especially asked to see the graves of my uncle and aunt who are buried there. I was taken to a compound which had a locked gate. We went in through a gap in the wall. There were mud and brick rooms in the compound. I saw the graves in one corner and offered Fateha. They were not properly maintained and the head stone was broken.
Prof. Shakoor says he feels sad to see how the village was once clean and well maintained and now, it is shabby with the old homes gone. His family has also maintained their family graveyard there.
For lunch, we had delicious fresh fish cooked with green spices, with potatoes and lotus stems. We also had fresh Lassi. Another time, we had mustard greens with Roti made of rice flour Prof. Shakoor’s servants got the food prepared for us. After tea, we left for Karachi. It is a journey of about five hours by road.
I feel that one should maintain a link with one’s roots and try to do something, however little, for the people living in one’s native place.