اےعُمر! چھوڑدےمیں جاؤں گی
Sur Marvi is one poetic composition by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. It tells the story of a beautiful girl, Marvi, from a humble household of Thar, the desert of Sind. The story unfolds to tell us of the abduction of Marvi by Umar Soomro the king of Umarkot, a move inspired by the reported stories of her beauty. Umar persuaded the girl to be his queen and rule by his side, an offer plainly refused by Marvi. The story tells us of the love Marvi had for her land, the people (Maaroos of Thar), the landscape and the lifestyle to which she belonged. Shah Latif through his verses beautifully narrates the patriotism and the simplicity of Marvi. If I recall back, the first time I truly got the feel of the story was through a translation of Sur Marvi by Shiekh Ayaz, as the same was part of our Urdu Textbook in 12th standard. The verses of Sur Marvi are simple, ecstatically poetic and musical and have kept a lasting imprint on my heart.
Before my readers develop an impression, I must humbly intervene to clarify that the current post does not aim to explore the poetry of Shah Latif. It’s not about the folk tale of Umar-Marvi either. This post is about something different altogether…
Though my parents did not belong to the place, I was born and grew up at and around Karachi, a place they had migrated to owing to my father’s job who is a veteran from Pakistan Railways. The late seventies and early eighties of the twentieth century were eventful years for me as I spent my early life at places where my father stayed posted as Station Master on Karachi-Hyderabad section. The places we inhabited during these years is this vast stretch of land extending from Karachi further up towards north and east. It’s a land where the tidal mouth of the great river Indus widens to embrace the Arabian Sea and forms the famous delta. Towards the sea, the coastal strip weaves a beautiful network of lakes and creeks with associated attractions of tiny islands, mangrove forests, aquatic and semi-aquatic plants and surf-birds. Towards the land it’s flat with occasional mounds and isolated hills. The earth is sandy, mostly barren with scanty green patches like oases are found in the desert. The landscape further runs north-east and embraces the desert of Thar, the land of Marvi. There is nothing particular or worth mentioning about this stretch of land that is scarcely inhabited, but there is something about it, the strings of my heart are tied to and rejoicingly feel that painfully delicious tension, whenever I think about it…
If I have to identify my childhood, I shall identify it with two things; railways and this coastal land of south-eastern Sindh. Railway Stations, tiny and isolated with the interspersed network of rail-roads were my early romances with life. The colors of Mehran, the sweetness of the land of Sind and the ever simple and carefree souls of it’s people is what I have been clothed in so that it has become a part of me. It was with this background that this recent visit of mine to my parents was eventful, as it was nostalgic. On the very first day I grabbed a copy of the Urdu Book for 12th standard published by Sind Text Book Board Jamshoro and there on the last pages resided with eternal pride “Sur Marvi Teesri Dastaan” (Third Chapter of Sur Marvi). My heart dearly recited every verse of it; in a silent hymn, with all the due sombreness. (Though it was painful to find that nothing, absolutely nothing had changed in the Urdu Syllabus even after 20 years. Ironically the only change was in the quality of printing and binding that had gone quite sub-standard). The next thing for me was to find old family albums and painstakingly trace the old pictures of the childhood days when my father was posted in railways of this part of the world. With excerpts from Sur Marvi already shared above, below my readers would find some selected photographs of good old days.
Having theoretically revisited the past, it was time for a practical journey out to explore the old and forgotten delights of the wonderland and I did that with all the curiosity and innocence, Alice had at the gates of “Underland”. I explored the border-less vastness at Gharo, Dabheji, Gaddar and Bin Qasim, immensely losing myself to the slope of ground, criss-crossing the railway track in between and coming across folks relevant and strangers alike. I must admit, it was like being afloat the ‘magic carpet’ of “One Thousand and One Nights” navigating around as Sultan of my dreams.
The places I visited that eventful day, re-affirmed by bondage with the landscape and the people I very dearly own. Post studies, during my employment I never got to stay here and for all these years I have been visiting this native piece of earth as a guest, but never for once I have let loose the love I possess and that painfully delicious tension in the strings of my heart. I have been to places; places that attract through crowds and fun during day and lights and glitter during night. I for no reason, whatsoever, shall trade my rugged land and simple folk for all the gold and silver of these palaces. My ordeal, dear readers, so much resembles to the one penned in the verses of Sur Marvi !!!