By: Sarfaraz Memon
SUKKUR: The nomadic tribes of Sindh have roamed the land for over a thousand years. They move from one place to another, in search of livelihood, temporarily setting up camp wherever they find convenient.
“We are the ‘Fakirs’ of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai,” explained Popri Bagri, while talking to The Express Tribune. Popri and her family, along with other members of the community, currently live in tents near the Sukkur bypass. “We have been on the move since the times of our forefathers and begging is the only skill we have mastered,” she claimed.
A visit to the nomads’ tents at around mid-day revealed that they were only inhabited by men. During the survey, it became apparent that the women and children had gone to beg, leaving the men to laze in their makeshift abodes. Asked why the men were complacent in sending their women to beg while they stayed at home, Popri responded with a wry smile, “Women earn more than men.”
One of the younger men at the tents, Kirshin Bagri was quick to defend the ways of his community. “Our women are very active and earn much more,” he reasoned. Kirshin added that sometimes, the men did go out to sell cheap toys and balloons, but mostly depended on the women to make a living. The women, he said, left in the morning to beg in the city’s main districts and returned to their tents just after sunset.
The tents, which had worn an abandoned look in the daytime, were full of life at night. Women and young girls were preparing meals while the younger children ran around playing games. Without a trace of fatigue on her face, Popri cooked a spinach curry while her mother-in-law kneaded wheat flour to make dough. Women in the other tents followed the same routine. “We have been moving from city to city for as long as I remember,” recalled Popri’s mother-in-law, Shanti. “We put up our tents at any vacant plot in the city’s outskirts and move to some other place when the owner asks us to leave.” The women have, in all aspects, taken charge of their family’s economic and social burden. This has come with a heavy price for some, though. A young woman, Keerti Bagri, complained about the attitudes of men who treated them as mere sex objects. “It is true that some women do encourage men in this regard but not all of us like this attitude,” she lamented.
Keerti recalled how a man had frequently stalked her when she went about the city and often ended up escorting her home. That same man, accompanied by his friends, had raided the tents one night and tried to kidnap her. “Though our men had overpowered the perpetrators on that occasion, we were forced to relocate,” she recalled.
Not all women mind the advances though. The women’s flirtatious attitudes have earned them the title of ‘kabootris’ (pigeons). These women, under the guise of sympathy, try to lure and deprive men of their hard-earned money. Their husbands, meanwhile, are happy with their lives of ‘luxury’ and prefer not to interfere in their ‘private matters’.