The Mesmerising Tharparkar District

Thursday, November 07, 2019 Heba Moeen 2 Comments

Do you know what's it's like to be forgotten by friends in the middle of the desert, among people you don't know the language of? Well ... I know ... and when I say I know, I'm talking out of experience. Read on ...

Back in September, a group of us hobby wildlife photographers embarked upon a journey towards a majestic land, displaying a personality and unique cultural values of its own - the Tharparkar district.

The landscapes in Thar were breathtaking; the ebullience and contentment were quite palpable, for the recent monsoon spell did not only give a green cover to this place but also relieved the locals from the unforgiving drought of the preceding year. Hence the displacement as a result of the inevitable migration has been curtailed.

The rain finally allowed food to be grown as people; especially women were seen farming and managing flourishing farms by the sweat of their brow. Women working in the fields outnumbered men, in fact, we mostly saw men resting ... it was too humid you know. 

The livestock now has sufficient fodder and the end of 2019 seems to have done some justice already and there had been an unprecedented rise in domestic tourism as well, as witnessed during the long weekend that we spent there. Water still a scarce resource, has to be optimally managed as the ‘Thari women of steel’ walk endless distances in heat, carrying it in clay pots that they effortlessly balance on their heads. It really is an art and seems to be a mystery worth exploring.

The name of the Tharparkar district is derived from two words, ‘Thar’ and ‘Parkar’; the former means Thul used to describe sand ridges, while the latter means to cross over. Although used as two separate words, these were later merged to be called Tharparkar. Located in the Southeast part of Sindh, it houses 90% of people living in over 200 rural villages. Although some people speak Urdu and Sindhi, the language commonly spoken here is called Dhatki which is also known as the Thari language.

“We have received substantial rains after more than three years and you can see the happiness on people’s faces,” said Ramesh*, a village elder, “We have witnessed a very difficult period as cattle had been dying and people were forced to leave their homes because of the drought that prevailed. Nature has been very kind lately and we can now expect a decent crop yield, hopefully if it continues like this.”

The eco system seems to have taken hold of its equilibrium overall. It’s not just nature but the locals as well who dutifully take care of the wildlife surrounding them with peacocks being a significant part of their lives in the Tharparkar villages. It should come as no surprise that some villagers hand-feed these stunning creatures as given their bond, they are not afraid of their human counterparts of the majestic desert. 

Weehoo! Here I come!

These peacocks are seen freely roaming around or resting on the mud huts’ thatched rooftops. “We often feed these wild peacocks early morning when they come out in search of food and this has become a norm for us in these rural spots,” explained Vikram* in a matter-of-fact tone. While also explaining the role that education is playing in their lives, he proudly counted those in his family who are now engineers or those who have pursued medicine as a field. With schools set up by NGOs, the social uplift has been gradual but somehow result oriented.  Life in Thar is progressing although at a slow pace.
Chores for the natives commence even before the first streak of dawn as they head out with their cattle and later the women, adorning vibrant dresses carry water in clay pots and tend to the fields which are now green and lively. 

Our first day in Thar, specifically Islamkot was quite pleasant, given the light drizzle that refreshed all the greenery surrounding us. However, the next day was quite a test of our natural thermostats, it was indeed very challenging which made us realise how difficult life is in this heat which sores beyond average temperatures. The next day in Nagarparkar lead to historic places and a great cultural mix was witnessed.

It was too hot to have a proper meal and there was nothing better than to keep ourselves hydrated.

Green pastures of Nagarparkar
We wandered off to adjoining areas that's when our friend who was driving the car spotted a bird and stopped over ... we got out, took some shots, I continued snapping pictures, he sat in the car and started driving at slow speed, the speed increased - the car sped, I looked at the car in utmost shock and surprise until it disappeared leaving  behind it's trail like a soon-to-be-lost-memory. THEY LEFT ME! THEY FORGOT ME ... in Thar! And here I was thinking that the folks in the car may have spotted another bird some distance away and were making an angle to get the perfect picture. Yes, this is a terminology we use. 

Anyway, continuing in my 'whatever mode' I followed Mr. Jamal's (one of the two besties who forgot me) advice who told me that women here are more receptive to other women even if we do not belong here. Of course, while respecting the sanctity of their cultural boundaries we couldn't just pounce within their parda and start taking pictures! For obvious reasons, it was a big no, no for male photographers. Hence, I went down in the village and met children and a resident lady who allowed me to snap her pictures ... she posed for me. In the meanwhile, I asked the two children around to let my friends know that I am here if they come looking for me, though I doubt if these two understood my language properly.

This was the mini farm I wandered through

The entire supposed ordeal hardly took 10 minutes when my folks realised that I was in fact not sleeping in the back seat but physically absent, that's when they came back looking for me, asking others if they had seen me. I came out of the mini household farm and saw a car fly past which I waved at but to no avail. Obviously, if you forget me, I won't be standing there crying on the road, I would rather be photographing the place further which we had actually come for. I could almost imagine myself assimilating completely (though with glasses still on), elegantly dressed in a Thar style vibrant dress, wearing those white bangles up till my arms could allow and welcoming the same group when they returned perhaps a year later, had my status been 'lost and forgotten' that is ...


Bhodesar Mosque

Jain Temples (now deserted) and left in ruins

Jain Temples

Thar's locals' livestock is quite literally their life support which had been adversely impacted during the drought. Meanwhile, each animal also serves as the family’s companion, especially the children who have no other means for recreational activities; for them this is all they have besides some domesticated stray dogs that also serve as an imminent danger. Apparently, it's okay if people die in Sindh as long as someone is still alive and living in each household.

The next morning we left around 5 in the morning to capture the sunrise in Mithi that's when we saw glowing balls coming our way, on the road. Nusrat bhai who was driving the car slowed down a bit ... and there it was, an entire cattle!

Below is Mithi's sunrise.

Thar is also home to a lot of bird species including some scavenging birds, the vultures, most of whose population is found to be comparatively thriving here, recorded at 90% out of the entire Sindh province to be precise. Over the past few years, this species has faced habitat degradation as a result of vaccines being used on livestock in Sindh which are in effect toxic and hence fatal when they feed on animal carcasses. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through the imposition of a ban on such drugs (diclofenac), has thus recommended the use of alternate drugs which are non-toxic, given their formulation and hopes this would as a result bring down the plummeting vulture population.

Egyptian Vulture

A sunbathing vulture and another simply observing
Spotted Owlet

Our friend, Zeenat


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  1. A good detailed write up on Thar. Appreciate Hiba's effort of introducing Thar to her readers.

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