There are lessons in the first landscapes of every one's life. Mine was a vista of green paddy fields, smoking with Salt Range mist, against a setting of ribbon of River Jhelum which from distance looked like a shore of another land altogether. The rough, rugged hill range appeared uninviting against a sky withering with the morning, interrupted by the dawn's red and blue brush strokes. My first learning in life was also in the village.
In villages, people still live without assessable roads or other civic amenities of this modern age. No telephone or the Internet, even the electricity is a recent phenomenon; some are still without it. You see one village, and you have seen all. This was the setting where I spent the first twenty years of my life savoring the freedom of adulthood. It is where I decided what (and how) I wanted to do with life. It is where my mother, brothers and friends live. It is where I return whenever my active life allows me to. It is where I want to settle and spend my future.
My village is awe inspiring — pollution free and quiet. Different shades and colors of waving crops and trees - solitary, in groves or avenues - beautify the landscape. The scene changes after the harvest. The air is always fresh and fragrant with the smell of earth. The only sound is singing of birds, ringing of cowbells, and sighing of wind or some youth loudly singing Heer Waris Shah, Sassi Punun, or Mirza Saheban at night. One sees butterflies fluttering, ladybirds creeping, and squirrels jumping around. To me the place feels like a paradise.
My roots are in the village where nobody seems to be in a hurry. Every time I go there, from the different cities where I happen to be living, I take small things like candies and toys for the kids of neighbors and my family in the village, and they are so happy that words cannot explain their delight. From the village I bring everything, and more than every thing, I bring a lot of love.
"I help my neighbors and my neighbors help me," is the philosophy of life in our village. Faith, sharing, contentment, grit, hard work, and humor are a few others. There are no marriage halls or other renting places. Daras (community centers where cultural diffusion takes place) are very useful 'institutions' for functions or for elders to sit and teach irreplaceable heritage of ideas to the younger generation. The learning that passed on to me in Dara turned out to be very precious: it was the legacy of the fable. Tandoor (an oven for backing bread) is still a meeting and talking place for women.