KHAIRPUR: Young survivors at the Indus Resource Centre’s (IRC) tent city are learning to say “I love you” – literally.
When young Zeba shouts that she knows how to say ‘I love you’, four other voices pipe up with “I love you too”. All the children are excited about learning English.
The children at the tent city, adopted by the IRC are ecstatic as they talk about their school. At least 600 children, under the age of 15, are going to the two camp schools even though most of them have not been to one before.
One child jumps at the opportunity of explaining what she is studying and runs to get her blue folder. “I know how to write ABC,” she says, proudly, and flips to the pages to show her latest work of art.
As I walk through the camp, signs of celebration are visible from a distance. Coloured streamers hang high in the trees, marking the festivity of Eid. If only for a day, the trauma seems to be left behind.
Greetings of “Eid Mubarak” come from all around. Young girls, with glitter-smeared faces, kajol and lipstick welcome visitors, eager to show off their shimmery, new clothes and shoes. At this relief camp, the stage is set to make the most of life.
Seven-year-old Shafiya with a heart-shaped bindiya laughs as she talks about the floods. “When the water came, we thought we would die, we thought everything was over,” she says and giggles as if remembering something silly from the past. “Now look at how things are,” she adds as she shows off her new home. As she walks to it, her gold necklace bobs up and down as if to confirm her happiness.
Her friends join in. Palms and arms are thrust forward to show off henna and bangles. Shy smiles accept compliments. A few children translate from Sindhi to Urdu to keep the conversation going. Of Shafiya’s group of 10 friends, only three have gone to a school before.
The children want to boast of their other talents. “We also sing,” Zeba tells me. It takes a few seconds of persuading and the girls start singing an old Shahrukh Khan number. They have been performing at the concerts in their tent city for two days now.
“We want to involve people in music and dance to help them get over their trauma,” says Aamir Abbas Mangi, the IRC’s regional manager north.
Soon enough, the concert begins. Steel trays are used for drums and the men start singing. The women join them and within minutes all frowns disappear. Some people, who earlier looked devastated, smile as if they have forgotten the horrors of the floods.
When the music plays, no ethnic differences matter. “The Sindhis and the Baloch do not interact usually. The Sindhis avoid the Baloch side and vice versa,” Mangi says, adding that, “it’s only when they sing and dance that they come together.” As the music continues, the girls get up to dance. They appear engrossed in their moves but pause every now and then to make sure that people are watching. Their dances tell a tale of resilience and how to live life even after all is lost. For those few minutes, there seem to be no flood victims. Everyone is a survivor.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2010.