day 112

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Dear mother and father

Yesterday I fell asleep after school and by the time I woke up, the sun had already begun its descent, it was cold, the tea was staring at me and I didn’t feel like doing the laces on my boots, so I didn’t go down for my daily visit to the Bakarwaals. She’d told me the other day that they were headed to Jammu soon with the sheep and goats, but I figured they wouldn’t leave on a Sunday and so I decided I would deliver the stuff I had kept aside for them in the morning. Only, when I woke up this morning, I could not see the top of their blue tent from the balcony and my heart sank with the realization that days of the week really mean nothing to them.

Bakarwals are a nomadic people who move with the seasons in search of green meadows for their sheep and goats to graze in. They spend the summers in high lying areas and as soon as winter starts to set in, they move down the mountain with their herds to warmer and lower lying areas. On average they walk twenty kilometers a day and the whole journey can take anywhere from 20 to 60 days with herds ranging from a few dozen to a good few hundred sheep and goats. They walk along the roadside with the herd and the females walk a little ahead so that they can set up camp somewhere along the side of the road for the night.

So really, considering my basic Bakarwal knowledge, I guess I knew that they had to leave eventually, but I honestly don’t understand why they didn’t say goodbye. Sabbah seems to think that them saying goodbye would have been more abnormal than the alternative and cannot understand for the life of her why I think that Bakarwaals are in the habit of such pleasantries. Either way, I decided that I was still heart broken and so I spent the rest of the day on the couch wrapped in my blanket, with my box of chocos, which I have started eating as a recreational snack and a constant stream of Yash Raj movies playing in the background to further fuel my depression.

While I wouldn’t go quite as far as saying we were bffs (best friends forever), I definitely think we shared a magical bond, even if it was a bond based largely on her interest in my worldly possessions. I am especially sad that I will not see Afroza anymore, mostly because she was insanely cute and admirably self sufficient for her age, but also because she was too young to realise that I could not speak her language and judge me for it.

Anyway, as I was making wudu for magrib, it struck me that Afroza and her mum, very much like my goat Billy, would not want me to sink into a depression on their behalf and in a moment of inspired brilliance, I stumbled upon the greatest idea my brain has ever had the privilege of thinking up: I will return home and perfect my (non existent) Bakarwali and animal clicking sounds. I will practice 20km roadside walks and prepare myself for showerless fortnights. I will brush over tayamoom techniques for when I need to pray when there is no water available. I will train my bladder to comply with a strict organized schedule, google foolproof fleabite remedies and THEN I will return to Jammu in March and join Afroza and her family on their return trip with the herd back to the village.

While I am still working out the logistics, details and mandatory pit stop arrangements with Saleem Uncle and sometimes Sabbah, whose enthusiastic encouragements are laced with a distinctive layer of mockery, I am rather excited about the prospect of a Bakarwaal walk. I realise that this is probably not the best way to inform you of my plans, but I didn’t think that it was an ideal topic for a phone conversation and since you’re both always complaining that I never blog, I decided I’d blog it instead.

Mad love to you both
Your (soon to be Bakarwaali) daughter

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2 responses »

  1. Mian Muhammad Bakhsh a sufi poet who belonged to nomadic tribe wrote
    “Deegar Te Din Hoya Muhammad, Odhak Nu Dhoob Jana”

    Every afternoon sun, O’ Muhammad, will finally set in the evening.

    Hoping you would take the trip and blog about it.

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