26. The reconstruction of Kashmir

house view1 1

 

Someone, after reading these pages, may feel the urge to do something, to participate himself in the reconstruction of Kashmir, to build a house for a family or to go personally to help.

 

house view3

 

 

There are three sizes of houses and soon I shall be able to communicate their prices.
Air Commodore Shigri always welcomes visitors and whoever desires to go personally in order to give help. In going to Shigri, this person will probably find himself in the same situation as I was; coming to help, I found myself helped into resolving the problems of my life.

 

house view2

 

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25. Farewell to the family of Fayaz

The house is now ready, the cement will dry up within a few days and the family will move in.

12 days have already passed since we started the cement platform. We have been working continuously often during the night as well, and it is 2 and half months that I am in Pakistan.

Everyone here speaks about the reconstruction of Kashmir, because there are 400 000 houses to rebuild after the earthquake and 2 million people living in tents. The money promised to the people has not arrived yet and neither engineers nor masons have arrived either.

The house that we have built is the first one of the “Prefabricated home” project of our friend Shigri and his project is the first one to have started reconstruction by building a house for a roofless family.
All other projects around are still waiting for instructions from the government before starting, but Shigri is not one who waits for authorizations, and the home of Fayaz is indeed the first house of the Kashmir reconstruction.

This makes me most happy because my small daughters will be even more proud of their daddy, and I hope that when they will grow up they will help the poorer ones just as my own father showed me to do when I was small.

Today I give farewell to the family of Fayaz, I am going back to Islamabad then I shall fly to Italy. The whole country is feasting because today is the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birth, and this is for us as a sign that destiny is accomplished.
There have been very strong rains and we have verified that not a drop of water enters in the house. I can go away with peace of heart, Mr Agha has done a good job.

For the first house of the reconstruction I have fixed a plate with the number one, hoping that soon Shigri’s houses will be many on the mountains of Kashmir.

 

addio targa

 

We all were happy and sad at the same time, because the house is completed but I have to go away. I have slept under the tent with the family of Fayaz and they have shared their food with me.
I have told them that the house was offered by the mosque of Rimini because I did not want them to feel in debt to me but even so they showed their gratitude to me in such a simple way that it was not embarrassing.
Aline presented me with some gifts for Mariam e Fatima.

 

aline

 

We took some pictures with all the family members who will live in the new house.

 

addio family

 

There is no happiness in keeping everything for oneself. Happiness is making others happy.

 

addio family2

 

The father of Fayaz narrated to us how he realized after the earthquake that for rebuilding his house it was going to take an amount of money larger than he could afford. So he prayed to Allah with all his heart for a solution, and Allah brought him Shigri and brought me to Shigri.

I have met in Kashmir persons who came from all over the world only to help. They have arrived well before me and they have seen the worst; children dead or wounded, the pain of the parents and of the orphans. They have not been able to eat or sleep for days, they cried alone in the night thinking of what they had seen.
They stayed here out of love for these mountain people who have suffered so much and they work everyday to help them.
We have become like brothers here, it is as we knew each other before we met.

Life in the mountains of Kashmir after the earthquake has a perfume unlike any other.

 

addio sceicco viso

 

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24. The perfumes of Kashmir

We are working immersed in perfumes. The mountains of Kashmir are full of flowers and of aromatic plants which make fragrant the air that we breathe with so much joy.

The roses of Fayaz grow all around his place

 

fiore rosa rossa

 

Fayaz has planted orange trees, grape fruit and lemon trees, they are all blooming and their perfume makes us euphoric.

 

fiore arancio

The acacia trees as well are in full bloom

 

fiore accacia

 

There are some perfumed plants which release their perfume when the sun heats them, like the Kashmiri tagete

 

fiore tagete

 

The Bhang grows everywhere and its perfume is the more characteristic of Kashmir because it lasts from spring to autumn.

 

fiore erba

 

Carpets of mint produce intense fragrances when the are trodden.

 

fiore menta

 

But for me the most beautiful flowers of this mountain are Aline and her friends, their perfume is the joy that springs from their laughter

 

aline amiche

 

 

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23. The new house of Fayaz

It has not been an easy job to transport the pieces of the new house to Fayaz’s place. The truck could not reach because the road was too steep, and we had to make many trips with tractors to bring the panels up to the path that leads to Fayaz’s place.

 

prefab trattore

 

prefab sentiero

 

Mr Agha has invented some instruments to make the transportation on the path easier, but even so it is a tough job to carry the walls of the house.

 

prefab hooks

 

prefab sentiero su

 

It has been necessary to employ all ofShigri’s team and we have been working the whole day and in the night until late.

 

prefab squadra

 

The day after that Mr Agha’s team took over the work of assembling the house, and the first wall went up when the night was already well over.

 

prefab walls inizio

 

In the following 2 days all the walls were assembled.

 

prefab walls

 

The ceiling was then fixed over them,

 

prefab ceiling 2

 

then the roof was mounted over the house.

 

prefab tetto

 

prefab tetto 2

Then the windows were inserted

 

prefab window

At last the water pipes for the bath and the kitchen are installed, then the shower and the sink, and a floor of fresh cement all inside the house will seal everything

 

prefab bagno

While the electricians are installing the wires for light and appliances.

prefab elettrico

 

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22. A prayer for the new house

The notice came that the house will arrive in Bagh within 2 or 3 days.
Fayaz has already prepared the place where it will be installed, building a platform with the stones from the rubbles of his old house.

 

gettata sassi

 

Now we have to put cement over the platform and Shigri has send a team of workers to do this work.

 

gettata 1

 

When we were about to start the cement work, Fayaz’s father said a prayer for all of us and for their new home, then they brought us some local sweets.

 

gettata dolci

 

gettata dua

 

We have worked day and night in order that everything will be ready when the truck arrives from Islamabad with the house.

 

gettata notte

 

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21. Baba Farid’s restaurant

Everyday in pakpattan arrive many people coming to pay visit to the tomb of Baba Farid, to greet him, to pray in his mosque and to invocate God with the hope that their prayers will be answered by virtue of the nearness with the saint’s tomb.

pakpattan derbar2

 

All these persons are considered guests of Baba Farid, and everyday food is served continuously in the mausoleum and in the streets, so that everyone who came will go back with his heart satiated with peace and his stomach satiated with rice.
Baba Farid’s guests are poor and humble, they eat without spoon and fork, and instead of plates they use plastic bags or the veil or even the prayer carpet.

 

riso plastica

 

riso ciaddor

 

The food that is been served is prepared in big pots by people whose profession is to cook for Baba Farid’s guests, and for little money they will cook the rice the rice for the persons who wish to offer it to Baba Farid’s guests.

 

riso cucina

 

On Friday many more guests come to Baba Farid’s mausoleum because this is the day of congregational prayer, and he Muslims wear fresh clothing and they perfume themselves for praying all together.
I have decided to have a pot of rice prepared and to offer it in the name of my father, instead of bringing expensive flowers on his grave, so that he will have the merit of having fed so many people.

 

riso pentolone

 

This has been the occasion to learn how the rice was prepared in Pakpattan, and now that I know the receipt I shall be able to prepare it for my own guests.

The receipt needs:
10 kg of Basmatti rice
10 liters of water
2 kg of oignons
250 gr ginger
I kg tomatoes
100g spices
8 kg of meat
250 gr of salt
2 liters of oil
1 kg of yogurt

First, all the spices, the meat, the vegetables, the ginger and the spices are made to boil for 20 minutes in the water with half of the salt until the meat becomes a little soft.

 

riso carne

 

All the boiled things are then taken out of the water and fried in the oil together with the yogurt.

 

riso yogurt

 

Then the water is poured back into the pot with the other half of the salt and when it boils the rice is added.

 

riso acqua

 

The food will be ready after 15 minutes of cooking over a very slow fire.
The last ingredient necessary for the feast are the 60 persons who will clean up the pot of all that rice.

 

riso distribuzione

 

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20. The Sheikh of Bahawalpur

bahawalpur strada

 

We proceeded until Allahabad where is buried the Sufi sheikh who was our friend. When we were young he had much love for us mystic and new Muslim youngsters. It is a long time that I had the desire to pray for his soul on his grave.

 

bahawalpur strada2

 

After six hours traveling through arid landscapes of wildness and deserts we arrived in a small perfumed oasis, the Mazar of our friend Captain Wahid Baksh Sial Rabbani, The Sheikh of Bahawalpur.

 

bahawalpur mazare

 

The trees that surround the Mazar are flowering and the perfume that impregnates the atmosphere is delightful.

 

bahawalpur fiori

 

There is so much vegetation and so much peace, the place is wonderful.

 

bahawalpur mazare2

 

We recited Surah Yasin for the Sheikh, as is customary to do for friends and relatives who have passed away.
Although I was not one of his disciple, I always felt that he loved me like his son and he has always treated me as such. Until now his love and his behavior are often for me a fount of inspiration for doing the right thing.

 

Yasin

 

To the mazar people also come for their daily prayers in the contiguous mosque, and the children come for learning how to read the Quran in Arabic.

 

bahawalpur bimbo

 

The son of the Sheikh has brought us some food and on our way back we stopped by his sister to give her the rose perfumes that I had brought for her from Italy.

 

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19. Travel to Pakpattan

The road to Pakpattan is long and as renting a car is quite cheap I have decided to do so and to travel with comfort.
In Pakistan the cars are hired together with their driver so that I won’t even have to drive.
My driver’s name is Riaz, he is from Punjab, he has a kind face and is molto discreet. He is always ready to help. He does not speak English and I have started to learn Urdu, which is the language of Pakistan.

 

riaz macchina

 

I ask him the name of things we see and I have learned to say “have you eaten already?” and “please stop here”.
The car is fast and has the air conditioned, which is fine because it starts to be hot in Punjab.

 

autostrada

 

The highway to Lahore is really good, but in order to arrive to Pakpattan we had to go also on small roads where we saw some very strange things.

 

pakpattan autobus

 

Bahawalnagar strada asino

 

Pakpattan is a small city but it is famous in all Pakistan for the Mazar (mausoleum) of a sufi saint named Baba Farid. The mausoleum of Baba Farid and it’s mosque have been for hundreds of years a place of pilgrimage for those who admire or follow the Way of the Sufis, the Way of the heart and of Love of God.

 

pakpattan derbar

 

I arrived for the first time in Pakpattan 27 years ago and in the years that followed I often returned there and I lived with the Sufis in this small town for about a year.
This travel is for me like a pilgrimage to my roots, to the spring of inspiration of my life, after so many years living in Italy away from Muslim countries.

 

pakpattan derbar retro

 

Pakpattan is made of narrow and steep streets, I have never seen a city resembling so much to Jerusalem.

 

pakpattan strade

 

My old friend Hassan Chishti has build his house near the Mazar of Baba Farid in a rather unusual way; instead of raising walls he dug the place for two month with a team of workers, in order to find the freshness. The donkeys of Pakpattan carried away the earth and the rubbles.
He told me “My intention was that when it is hot in summer I stay down at the fresh and when it is cold I come up to take a sun bath”. Nevertheless he is a very jolly person and with him we laugh continuously.

 

hassan2

 

Hassan is from the family of Baba Farid and is very respected in Pakpattan. In his village at Kotha he is the King and the people who have disputes come to him for judgment. His wisdom is renowned.
He has my age but he seems much younger because he dyes his beard red with henna.

Hassan has left the village life and has come to live in Pakpattan. He has send his elder son to take his stead in Kotha and has decided to dedicate himself to the religious life.

When he dug his house I imagine that his intention was to burry himself in order to leave the worries of the world, and in fact he has also dug a kind of small cave in the house, where he spends much time in prayers, and he has ordered his 5 sons to burry him right there when the time will come.

 

hassan hujra

 

“Dear Brother, I told him, you have made ready your grave in your own house, it is not normal. I think that you have a problem. Make a travel and come with me to Italy, maybe you will find a solution to it.”

He answered to me: “Brother Abdussalam, stay with me in Pakpattan, here there is peace and the Way of the Sufis, what is better than that for the soul?”

So I promised him that I would come to die here when I am old because anyway I cannot afford to die in Italy, it is too expensive, I would be ruined.

We spent a day enjoying the happiness of having met again and the next day we took my car and Riaz to see his house in Bahawalnagar where all his family stay, his wife, his five sons and his daughter.

 

Bahawalnagar strada

 

Hassan has never used a computer because he thinks that he will not like it. In order to show him how much fun it is, I made him play with my lap top. His sons instead, are already used to that.

 

hassan con figlio

On reaching Bahawalnagar I checked the map and told him: “let us proceed our travel until Bahawalpur and Liakatpur to visit the grave of our old friend Sheikh Wahid Baksh Sial, and offer a prayer for him.

 

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