“The world is like a naughty child and Mohen Jo Daro is a school!” When asked once by visiting school children why he protects these old stupas, remains, and relics, the Baba Chahtoo replies cheerfully and meaningfully.
Soldier of Civilization is one of the rare novels that attempt to glorify the significance of ancient Civilization of Mohen Jo Daro. The story revolves around ‘Maag’ at the site. Although there is a special department of Archaeology octogenarian Babo Chahtoo is the sole and sincere admirer guarding the remains of the magnificent site. Official politics, uninterestedness, lack of funds, negligence and non-professional attitudes of officers force him to take matters in his own hands. His love and binding with Mohen Jo Daro is organic. He fantasizes his fellow villagers doing their businesses in the old ways of Mohen Jo Daro habitants; children playing cheerfully in streets, women fetching water from wells using buckets and men doing trades and routines. He is anti-technologist and anti-modernist which is understandable as these pose a threat to his beloved relics. He never uses modern utensils but earthenwares. He rises to international and national fame by organising a successful resistance and sit-in on the airport’s runway for the closure of flights as runnings and landings of planes cause damages to nearby weak ruins.
The colour and culture of rural Sind, especially weddings have been told beautifully. Description of old man’s attire with a turban, Ajrak, his trademark cudgel (which never disappoints in any danger or calamity thus becoming a symbol of strength and defence of Mohen Jo Daro) and waist-length hair is interesting too. The vivid details of unity in rural life and values are visible evidently.
The old man’s father had participated in excavating relics along with some English Archaeologist who imparted him their knowledge about one of the oldest and glorious known Civilizations that taught human race the major lessons of architecture, art, knowledge, handicraft, trade and above all the humanism and peacefulness. He adhered to save the residues in his life and passed on the sacred legacy to a son, who does not disappoint either by a lifelong and resolute commitment to preserving the heritage for future generations. He believes that Mohen Jo Daro is not just a regional or national asset but a global heritage which should be protected vehemently. In his efforts, he inspires people around the globe inherent of old civilizations such as Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Chinese through TV, Media, YouTube etc.
At age 85, he leaves no stone unturned in the safety of the ruins. Be it retrieval of artefacts from dacoits or defence against the encroachment of neighbouring farmer, security against natural enemies like heat, salinity, rain, thunder, wind and flood, he never surrenders. Babo Chahtoo’s physical labourings and mental toughness are reminiscent of ageing fisherman, Santiago, whose goal is to fish the large Marlin, in “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. One can’t resist comparing both character’s task i.e. resoluteness to fish a ‘large Marlin’ and firmness to protect, preserve a ‘grand Civilization’. The sole purpose of life for him is a determination to protect the unique Civilization at any cost which he reiterates.
He dies a devotional being on the stupa of ruins. He is illiterate but knows the most important lessons of life i.e. peace, love, humanity and knowledge. Another aim and driving force of his determinism are that he thinks these aren’t mere relics, remains or residues but roots of his ancestor’s culture which must be preserved and promoted.
Grammatical mistakes, misspellings and misprints are to be found frequently in the book (and leave a somewhat unpleasant effect. Hopefully, will be heeded in the next edition) but the novelist has tried to tell a tale of a strong, sincere and shrewd character and significant Civilization which should be read, talked and praised in literary circles. T. S. Elliott once said “literary-ness of a writing can be measured with literary standards but its greatness can not”