A reason to hope
I was stuck. I had managed to come within two feet of the huts I had been aiming for but now I was on a grassy edge of the mountain with four large goats and the huts were on a level above with no way to get there.
Then the lady appeared. Like an angel with wrinkled skin and orange hair, she was startled to see me with my army green shoulder bag and sneakers, a dupatta perched on my head. “Where’d you drop from?” she asked in surprise and then called over her family. It took two women and four arms to haul me up from the goats to the makeshift shelters where a few families were staying.
The year was 2008 and I was part of a team trying to assess rehabilitation work since the 2005 earthquake in Balakot. This was one of the many mountainous villages that had been razed and clusters of people were living in temporary shelters for almost three years now.
Men, women and babies with grey eyes huddled around me. The old woman petted my head when I told her why I was there.
“Many of you have come here,” one of the younger men remarked, leaning on the pole. “Nothing changes afterwards.”
I tell him I can promise nothing either but I would still want them to answer a few questions…
They do, the hard ones about how many family members they lost, the personal ones about income and assets, and while I have nothing to give them, those people give me the thing that helps me survive.
They give me cake, they give me water. Like the villagers in Sindh and Punjab that I have visited, these people were poor, many of them with no steady source of income. But even if it is just kalay channay that they have, they spread them out on a charpoy to share.
And while they have complaints, they’re not bitter. They joke about ‘city people’ and they tell me it’s great that I had come to see them.
And whenever the news around me gets me down, I think of these people and I feel that if there is any hope, it is in the resilient people across the country, with big hearts and unshakable faith.