Harnam’s story: The river flooded often and we had to move

In loving memory of Harnam Badlani (2 October 1934 – 1 April 2022}

My mother Bhoji was Situ’s mother Devi’s sister. I was born on 2 October 1934 in my native village Banguldero in Larkano district. We had a big house and my father was a zamindar. In 1942 our river flooded, homes were destroyed and many people of our village drowned. My father worked with others to build small dams to keep people safe. In 1948 there was another flood. We left Banguldero and settled in Taib. I now had to walk three miles to school in Ratodero every day.
We continued to live in Taib till 1950. It was our home, and we were on good terms with the Muslims. We had mosques and tikanos; there was no feeling of difference. We had a Hindu teacher and there were many Hindu students, but the majority in the village were Muslims. We wore salwar-kurta, Muslim dress, to school. The Hindus were better off – they had become educated and advanced themselves. We owned the lands, but it was farmed by the Muslims. A few Muslims, like the Bhuttos, were educated, but the majority were not and we referred to them as ‘jata’ – a word that means uneducated. Khuhro was also an educated Muslim from Larkano. He was a staunch Muslim. In Sindh, it was the Muslims who did the tedious work of sowing rice seedlings. Khuhro used to say that he would make Hindus do this work or his name was not Khuhro! When Dada won his case I asked him why he had done it and he just smiled and said, “He was my client, it was my duty.” He got a lot of credit for Khuhro’s acquittal.
Even after Partition, Taib continued to be peaceful. Sometimes there was trouble, but the local Muslims were not against us. Then a Jaisinghani zamindar was killed by his farmer. We left the village and moved to Larkano. Things began to change. Finally in 1951 we packed our things and travelled to Karachi. Our uncles had moved to India so we spent a few days at Lakshimnarayan Mandir while we waited for the ship that would take us to Bombay. It was the middle of the monsoon when we arrived. It was pouring with rain – we had never seen anything like it. We settled in Ahmedabad. I passed my matriculation there but was unable to continue my studies.
Many years later, in 1985, I went with my brother Jawahar and cousins Padi and Putli to visit our village. When people heard that a Badlani family had come, they came to see us. They were very hospitable and asked us lovingly, “Why did you leave? Did we trouble you?” They gave us gifts to take home and told us to remember them always.

excerpted from Sindh: Stories from a Vanished Homeland by Saaz Aggarwal

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