Thar, Payas Aur Pani

Reviewed By Sajjad Shaukatthar

Deserts have witnessed the decay of many civilizations. Although some people might have rendered their services for humanitarian work in those barren places, yet we do not have any record of remote history. But, in the modern age of technology, these services and relief-work of individuals can be preserved.
In this regard, Thar, Payas Aur Pani (Thar, Thirst and Water) is the latest book authored by Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah who is the founder of Customs Health Care Society established in 1998 at 449-Jehan Block, Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore. The details of medical and relief work so far undertaken under his patronage by the teams of Customs Health Care Society in drought hit areas of Tharparkar are given as below:-
i) Establishment of four clinics.
ii) Treatment of 50,000 patients in drought stricken areas of Tharparkar.
iii) Distribution of relief goods worth millions of rupees among the thousands of families.
iv) Installation of deep bore 20 hand pumps.
v) Repairing of old wells.
vi) Digging of 50 new wells providing fresh, hygienic, sweet and clean water to thousands of humans as well as animals on daily basis.
The book contains heart-rending short stories and is not only a travelogue but also a short history of culture, living style and humane service with dignity in the deserts and drought hit areas of Thar. The author is a medical physician, real historian, a writer who has synthesised facts with great precision and expertise. Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah and his companions, workers and supporters of Customs Health Care Society deserve congratulations for writing a new history of humanitarianism in Thar. The team of doctors, selfless workers and volunteers served the humanity in distress in the deserts of Thar without any discrimination of race, colour, creed and even religion. The members of  the Society provided edibles, medicines, water, cash and all sorts of relief goods to the poor and needy inhabitants of Thar. They repaired old wells and constructed new 50 wells with the result that Muslims and Non-Muslims of the area proclaim their services with fervour and zeal. The book points out the inside story how people of Pakistan and other NGOs like Flahe-e-Insaniyat Foundation, Alkhidmat and Malik Riaz served the humanity at large with sincerity and purposefulness.
“Thar Payas Aur Pani” is a book in Urdu relating to the catastrophic event of drought which shook the poor inhabitants of Thar. The title defies all attempts at translation because any translation will kill its alliterative effect. It is not a narrative in usefully accepted tone and tenor, as it is not intended to be a historical record of the eventful moments and yet it is history in its own way. However, it is more akin to notes in a diary.  The mischief done by the drought and deaths of innocent souls touched the inner most chord of the author’s  heart and he immediately made it mandatory on himself to snatch some time out of his onerous officials responsibilities and provide all possible succour to the drought stricken population which his limited resources could muster. He organized teams of doctors, paramedics and volunteers and this small caravan made a number of trips to the affected areas with supplies of medicines, blankets, tents, food stuffs and other articles of urgent human needs. Battling against hostile weather conditions, each trip found its way to far flung areas seldom visited by other similar teams in difficult and hazardous desert terrains, and his team contributed its full might to people completely cut off from humanity thereby enabling them to discover some twinkling lights in the enveloping darkness.
In this respect, Dr. Asif Jah writes in the book, “Since the first week of March uptil today, we are present in the valley of Mehran fully equipped with the gadgets of Customs Health Care Society ready to serve the affected people of drought and quench their thirst by digging of new wells.  On behalf of the Customs Health Care Society, we have visited every nook and corner of the drought hit areas and established medical camps in almost every Goth of Thar and distributed relief goods of all sorts worth million of rupees. We realised the depth of poverty where people have no house for living, nothing to eat and no clean drinking water. One has to live in the mud-houses or small huts full of reptiles, mosquitoes and snakes.”
He elaborates, “In Tharparkar, the biggest problem is the provision of clean drinking water. Thus we embarked on digging of new wells and repairing old wells and installing hand pumps. We were short of funds, but with the help of Allah Almighty we continued digging of new wells. 50 new wells have been dug so far which are providing clean and sweet drinking water to the people of Thar.”
Whenever any calamity captures Sindh, the beautiful peacocks become their victims first; two years ago after heavy rains and floods, hundreds of peacocks died due to viral disease (Rani Khet) of the desert. The book “Thar Payas Aur Pani” comprises three sections. The first section mentions the efforts of the selfless workers, sincere and patriotic sympathises of the Custom Health Care Society engaged in the treatment of hundreds of patients scattered all over the Thar deserts of district Tharparkar. The author is full of praise for friends from Pakistan and abroad who provided funds for relief activities and digging of 50 new wells. The book gives a vivid account of digging of new wells by Human Boring Machine. In this age of machines, the digging of wells upto 300 feet deep is done manually without the assistance of any modern day gadgets. The description by the author captures the sighs and tears and hopes and fears of the unfortunate victims of drought and their longings for life and water with poignant realism in the aftermath of the tragedy. The second section of the book describes the account of heavy rains and floods striking the inhabitants of the areas of Sindh two years ago. It also describes the rescue, rehabilitation and relief efforts of Customs Health Care Society during the year 2012. The third section of the book includes the articles published in the newspapers during the early period when the news of deaths of children due to malnutrition and shortage of food spread across the country.
The author is thankful to his wife Asma Asif and his children Yumna, Mahnoor and Hafiz Huzaifa Bashir who assisted him in the preparation of the book. He is also grateful to intellectuals, columnists and writers namely Dr. Anwar Sadeed, Jabbar Mirza, Asrar Bukhari, Dr. Ajmal Niazi, Aslam Kamal and Khalid Yazdani who appreciated the selfless workers of the Customs Health Care Society, working under his patronage.
Dr. Asif Mahmood Jah’s book is interspersed with a large number of pictorial illustrations of the visited locations. The compilation which spreads over 310 pages is hard bound with a tasteful dust cover of symbolic significance.
Published by Ilm-o-Irfan Publishers, Al-Hamad Market 40-Urdu Bazar, Lahore
Phone: 042-37232336 and 37352332, Price: Rs. 450/-.



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