A Visit to the Fatherland

This past weekend I visited what can only accurately be described as the literal Fatherland. My Phuppi, Taya, Dad, and I drove out to Makhad, a village few in Pakistan even know the name of. It’s in the boonies of Pakistan where civilization disappears and the simplicity of humanity reigns supreme. The closer we get to the village of Makhad, that sits on the shore of the Indus River, the bumpier the roads become. They’ve only recently been paved, a three to four hour drive from Islamabad used to be an entire day journey for my dad and his siblings only a few decades before.

The road at some points was so unbearably bumpy that we had to slow to a complete crawl to get over railroad tracks and patches of unfinished road. Goats, cows, and the occasional stray dog meandered across the road or trotted along the side, roaming unbothered by anything. When you arrive in Makhad the roads become narrowed as storage unit buildings line each side. These hold the shops and vendors within the village. Before going into the city we stopped to pay respects to my grandfathers and uncles graves before going to the house. It gave an important sense of realness and closure for their deaths. This was the first time I’d been able to even go to my uncles grave.

Finally we park and walk up the hill to where the house is. The house is almost a hundred years old and was built for my grandfather.

The house was eventually inherited by my uncle, Shazi-chacha, the youngest of the siblings. The times I visited as a child I remember being embraced in a warm hug every time I saw him. Shazi-chacha tragically passed away in 2013 when I was in my second year of college. Visiting now has become harder as the house stands as an empty reminder of his life, taken too soon. The walls are decaying from water damage, and flecks from the ceiling fall now-and-then. Ancient pictures sit in the same positions they did years ago, covered in a layer of dust and grime. It’s hard to be in a house that is uninhabited rather than filled with lively chatter of family.

When we got settled and it cooled down, as Makhad is out in the desert and about five degrees warmer than Islamabad, we went out on the Indus River. We were dropped off briefly on the opposite side and were able to sit on the shore and drink tea as the sun set. It was eerily peaceful as the only sounds were the call to prayer and one motor in the distance.

We had dinner and dad and I explored the closed rooms of the house. There was a living room shut up with sheets covering the seating from the dust and falling debris, and the walls had pictures, artwork, and swords. The connecting room was my grandfather’s library. It was filled with books and magazines. As a bibliophile it was exhilarating to dig through shelves of dusty novels, textbooks, and journals. It was disheartening to see these books rotting away from bugs and water damage. I scooped up some old novels for my collection, because I couldn’t help myself. Every book my grandfather owns has his name stamped or written in the front along with the location and date he purchased them. In one cabinet I even found his old typewriter, the leather case is a bit worn, but the machine itself is in pristine condition, no surprise knowing grandfather.

Not only was my grandfather an avid reader he was also an amazing photographer. Dad and I spent hours looking through every photo album we could get our hands on. There were family photos, landscape photos of Pakistan, and photos he’d taken for his work as a photo journalist. In another post I’ll write about a few of the photographs, because many of them have great stories to go along with them. I never got to meet my grandfather, so his books and photographs are the only connection I have with him aside from stories from dad and his siblings childhoods.

A front page photo taken by my Grandfather.

On Sunday we waited until a bit later in the evening to go out for a drive and see the land our family owns. It’s quite a bit of land, but it’s all just a large rock farm. Not much you can do with the land out there. It’s literally so far out that even trying to construct something, and all the materials it would require is basically impossible. While we drove it started to downpour as we made our way through what my Taya refers to as the Pakistani Grand Canyon. We were able to get these great shots of the rainbow.

After navigating some more treacherous roads we stopped for chai and looked over at a bridge that had recently been completed making the journey between two villages significantly shorter. Even the journey from Makhad to where we stopped for chai would have normally been a two day trek by horseback.

On our way home we stopped by one of the servants farm house.  It was as simple as life could get.  A rather expansive hut made of mud and pillars that stretched farther than most.  The one thing that set it apart from the olden days was that they had solar panels on the roof to supply light, while the kitchen sat outside, and their beds were also in a row under the stars. Everyone was lean from lives of hard work.  Would I survive that lifestyle?  Not a chance in hell.  It was crazy to think that they were using technology that my dad used as a child, and they were using it as their norm.

As I sit and reflect I realize that it was a strangely quiet trip.  There weren’t all of my siblings and family crammed into the small house, with food, laughter, and splashing in the river.  Instead it was a peaceful journey where at night you could see all the stars when the daily power outage occurred.  I see that I am so lucky, when tourists come to Pakistan it is to Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore, it is to the mountains and the ocean and the markets.  Not many people are able to see Pakistan the way it used to be, when life was simple and without the interference of technology.  I’m so happy I got to see Makhad as an adult, it made me appreciate the life I live now, the way they lived then, and the beauty of Pakistan in it’s purest form.  It made me feel connected to my family and culture in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

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