Person who once read my blog. Do not let the lines of worry crease that brow any more! Rejoice! For I am returned!
Do not for a moment think that I was taken ill or became unsound of mind. Ok, think it for a moment but no longer! My hiatus was voluntary and for a cause most noble. Nobler than mindless rambling on this web of deceit, nobler even than the twiddling of the thumbs; philanthropy! Yes indeed, the devil you know proved worthier than the devil you don’t, the great floods awoke in me a spirit of duty, brotherhood and other boring words which compelled me to personally journey into the devastation to aid my people. Nay said I, no longer would the self-absorbed man remain absorbed in himself, this infidel would show the pious what real virtue is.
Ok, so I was sort of dragged into it against my will by certain soon to be former acquaintances, but I went didn’t I?
So off we were to Southern Punjab. Now the only thing I knew about Souther Punjab was that well, it was south. The furthest south I’d ever been before was Okara and that too by mistake. The first time I went down there was in early August, when the floods were still under way. On the way I saw ravaged roads, desperate people and complete social chaos, but that was just Lahore. On the Multan highway there was a surprising sparsity of relief trucks. Especially since we weren’t accompanied by one either. We were just six people going down there to take photographs and do surveys. We were just six people going down there to be assholes, basically.
It’s a six hour drive to Multan, but we told the driver to hurry up and he got us there in eight. We set up camp in Multan amidst the wilderness of a two star hotel. That first night was very tough, the place didn’t even have cable. We got up early the next morning and decided to check out Kot Addu first, as reports were coming in that the Taunsa barrage had recently flooded that area. The reports were confirmed to be true, when we got to Kot Addu the roads were collapsed and there was a steady stream of water flowing at a height of at least eight feet. We could see the tops of sunken houses, and the tops of sunken trees, and the top of a sinking truck together with the horrible screams of it’s drowning passengers. It was lovely.
We had to get to a place called Mehmood Kot and the only available route was via the till like pathways alongside the Muzaffargarh canal. So we braved our Hi-Ace along that route. Unfortunately about a hundred other people had the same idea, so we were stuck in traffic for the next two hours. Eventually we got to our destination, which was a freshly leveled village where the water had receded enough to let us assess the damage. I assessed the damage. It was a lot.
Some houses had collapsed, others had fallen down. People were hungry and miserable and sitting alongside the road in the scorching sun. I asked them if it was because of the floods but they said no, that’s how they spent their days anyway. A local doctor had set up a relief camp there, they were distributing ration packs. I tried to get in line for one as I was hungry and miserable too (we hadn’t had any breakfast), but they kicked me out. Our next destination was Thermal road where an official irrigation agency was doing rescue and relief. As we stepped into their rented kothi, I could smell the delicious aroma of cooked meat but after offering us lunch, the guy in charge started giving a lecture about their ‘humble’ efforts in the face of such destruction.
“Four boats do rescue rounds six hours a day”, ahan, “rescued over a thousand people”, wonderful, can we eat now?
“Oh it’s time for prayer, you will accompany us to the mosque”.
I think you missed a question mark at the end there buddy, you phrased that sentence incorrectly. Stop pushing me, I’m fragile. No! I don’t want to go to the mosque, why are you shoving me into the back of the car? And where did all these big bearded men come from, all of a sudden? Lucky for you I’m outnumbered, otherwise I’d be making very rude remarks about your mother right now.
Now how did ablution go again? Are you supposed to wash your hands first and then your feet? But wouldn’t you have to wash your hands again after that? Put water on the temple, on the eyes, ow! Can’t see a thing. Behind the ears, inside the ears. Why has the world gone silent? Right arm down to the elbow, oh sorry didn’t see you there. Left arm down to the elbow, should have taken off that watch. Right foot upto the ankle, left foot upto the ankle, oops, that wasn’t my foot! Now where are my glasses, oh, there’s the call for prayer.
Everyone’s standing in rows, alright, don’t panic, don’t panic, just pick a spot and do what the guy next to you is doing. Guy to the left is putting his hands to his ears, guy to the right is putting his hands on his knees, guy at the front is scratching his buttocks, what to do, what to do! Someone up front is chanting verses now, great.
Everyone’s down on their knees, now they’ve got their heads on the floor, better do the same, wait now they’re up again, good that was an uncomfortable position, now they’re down again, they’re doing this just to mock me aren’t they? Sit with your knees underneath you, raise a finger, no the other one, turn head to one side, ouch, neck sprain, neck sprain, turn head to the other side, there, done! Try and get up only to find legs have gone asleep, fall back on behind like a toddler.
Shoes, shoes, where are my shoes. Excuse me you’re standing on my shoes, now you’re standing on my feet, can you go stand somewhere else please? Thank you. My shoes look like they were caught in a stampede, bend down to pick them up, get pushed to the floor, get up. Now I resemble my shoes.
Why is it so fucking hot here down south? Is this where bad people end up when they die?
Back to the office and the food. No, the flood.
“The last rescue boats are leaving for the day, you would like to accompany one of them”.
Hey buddy, I think you missed another question mark there, hey, hey buddy? Why are you shoving me out the door? This looks suspiciously like an oar and not a spoon. I would like to be fed now please. I hope we’re going fishing? Oh alright, I’ll row this side of the…fine I’ll row that side as well.
Yes, I can see the water. I’m right in the fucking middle of it aren’t I? This used to be a village we’re floating over? Oh…tell me, are these floods often accompanied by water? This has happened before right? Happens every year? Just to a minor extent? Were you warned that this year would be disastrous? Then why didn’t you all run away? Oh you did, you’re from another village. Tough luck.
That’s a lot of dead animals, aren’t buffaloes supposed to be expert swimmers? It was just a question, yes I understand the water was very fast, yes I know it came with enough force to knock down a house, I’m sorry for questioning the aquatic abilities of a buffalo, are you married to one or something?
I think I see a man who needs help. No, he definitely looks marooned. So what if has a goat, I think we can make room for the goat. Sir! Sir, stay where you are we’re coming to rescue you. Do what? Stick this oar where? Is he alright? Well you could have told me he was mad before I embarrassed myself like that. You don’t much like me do you.
So the round is done, should we go back now? Uh, just one question, which way is back? Right. the direction we came from. I suppose you wouldn’t mind pointing that out would you? Yes, I can see you’re not a compass, I didn’t say you were. What’s the temperature out here anyway, I feel like I’m getting a stroke. Forty seven!? You row this boat now, I’m going to go over there and be sick.
Are we back? Yes it was a very informative ride. No I can’t come back again tomorrow, I have someplace else to go. Like the hospital. They’ll have to inject some food into me, I can’t eat anything now, my throat is so dry it hurts when I breathe.
To be continued.