Ali Bux Chandio’s verses reflect his inner turmoil
Ali Bux Chandio, 43, lives with his seven family members in a two-room straw hut in the Muhammad Yousif Chandio village that has more than 150 households. The village is situated 16 kilometres away from Kunri city, east of Umerkot. Born in 1977, Chandio did not receive formal education beyond the eighth standard due to financial restraints. Instead, dropping out from school, he began working as a labourer on a construction site in Kunri.
Recounting his childhood, he says, “After clearing grade five, I was sent to a high school on Nabisar Road. It was six kilometres from my village. The bus fare was Rs 2 one way. My family could not afford the fare, so I would often go to school on foot.”
Chandio vividly remembers that his ailing father could not keep the household afloat. He says he was forced to start working as a labourer at 13. “I have been working ever since to fulfill family’s needs. I am aware that I have not been able to do much for them,” he says.
Having battled hepatitis B for six years, he has finally recovered. Chandio’s mother had suffered from liver disease too. His younger brother died of blood cancer in 1999. “I remember all the tragedies that befell my family,” says Chandio.
The 43-year-old has two sons. He has not been able to provide for their schooling. “Our circumstances are tough. It is difficult to put bread on the table twice a day. Education is an expensive business,” he adds. He currently works as a labourer at a private company in Digri, in Mirpurkhas district. He makes Rs 300 a day.
In 1999, he wrote his first poem on the death of his younger brother. Since then he has penned many on varying themes. In 2016, when he recited one of his famous poems about drought in Thar at the annual Thar Festival in Umerkot he was judged first among 180 participating poets from all over Sindh.
“I have wandered all over Sindh in search of bread and butter. In 2002, I went to Gujjo, Gharo, Mirpur Sakro, Buhara, Gharho, Ghulamullah and several other towns of Thatta district, where I used to work on muskmelon farms for a meagre monthly salary.” For seven years, from 2005, Chandio worked at various textile factories in Karachi. He had to return to the village to look after his ailing parents. “I opened a vegetable shop, but it did not take off. Then, I went to Hyderabad, Jamshoro and Kotri, looking for decent work only to return to my village in the end.”
Ali Bux Chandio is a gifted Sindhi poet. In 1999, he wrote his first poem on the death of his younger brother. Since then he has penned many on varying themes. In 2016, when he recited one of his famous poems about drought in Thar at the annual Thar Festival in Umerkot he was judged first among 180 participating poets from all over Sindh. In 2018, when a poetry competition was held at Roohal Wae, Umerkot, to pay tribute to prominent Sindhi poet Hassan Dars, Ali Bux Chandio won by reciting a poem on Dars.
“Around that time, the Culture Department announced a stipend to provide for poor poets of the province. I, too, sent in a form. A few days later, I was informed that the department had approved a payment of Rs 250,000 for me. To this day, I have not received a penny. I met with the provincial minister, Sardar Shah, many times. He belongs to Umerkot. I sought his help. Nothing came of it”, he says dolefully.
“In between breaks, I find time to write some verses. I have written almost two books worth of poetry. It is all handwritten. The publishing costs are another concern I have,” he says. Chandio says he wishes to be a published poet and be remembered long after his passing. “Gurbat Gunah Naahy (Poverty is not a sin) is a favourite with many of my colleagues and friends,” he says.
Chandio says he wishes to see his sons and other children in his village carrying schoolbags.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Sindh, and he can be reached at [email protected]