Sourcing Haidarabad – By: Kanak Mani Dixit
Even though PIA Flight 269 was bound from Kathmandu to Karachi, I was excited to visit the Sindhi Hyderabad. For too long, the Deccan city and capital of Andhra, with its IT glamour, had wrested the limelight from its humbler counterpart. Lo! Even the screen indicating the Pakistani Airbus’s flight-path showed the Deccan Hyderabad, but not the city by the Indus to which I was bound.
From the Karachi airport, ‘Haidarabad’, as it is properly pronounced, is a two-and-a-half-hour drive through the rolling desert along the M9 motorway. The city is reached after descending a plateau and crossing a rivulet – in actuality, the great River Indus in its emaciated present-day avatar. There, a traveller crosses eastward, over a bridge that seems too long for a flow this miniscule, even though it is supposed to be the consolidated flow of all six tributaries upstream. India has tapped the three eastern rivers under the auspices of the Indus River Treaty, and Pakistani Punjab takes copious draughts from the remaining three.
The inhabitants of Sindh seem impelled by the force of history to speak of their great past – the great Indus civilisation and its archaeological remains, the conquests of Iskandar, the rise of the Sindhi language, Buddhism, Sufism and the arrival of Islam. Those were the times when the Indus flowed with strength, and contrasts with a beleaguered present are unavoidable. With the river nearly gone, Sindhis seek to preserve their pride in the Ajrak block-printed shawls that are presented to visitors, and in the vibrant Sindhi press that challenges Urdu as the language of political discourse.