Anil Kumar Baloch. Courtesy: India Narrative
Now that he has settled in India, he is working in medical tourism as an interpreter and a medical tourist guide to people who come from half a dozen countries.
"I know Russian, Hindi, Sindhi, Baloch and Pashto. I can also converse in Dari, which resembles Persian therefore I can interact with people from Iran as well", says Anil with a sense of justified pride.
Struggle in New Delhi
Life wasn't as easy in New Delhi. "My initial life in Delhi was a struggle. I tried my hand at many jobs – made credit cards, did odd jobs in shops and worked in a bank. None was easy," says Baloch.
One day, whiling away time with friends, an Afghan recommended him to utilise his multilingual skills to help people coming from Afghanistan as they faced problems in interacting with medical staff.
"I began translation for Afghans coming to India for treatment. Some wanted my help in taking them around as a tourist guide also. There used to be one weekly flight from Afghanistan to India. I would rush to the airport in the morning and wait for the passengers to come out. I would ask them if they needed an interpreter or help in hospitals. If an Afghan family wanted help, I would come back with them in their cab as I often did not even have Rs2 for a DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus ticket."
Baloch says that he struggled for four-five years before a tsunami of work hit him.
"After the initial five years of struggle, I began getting people from Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Iran. My friends in these countries would alert me to patients coming from there. Many patients upon recovery would stay back as tourists. I escorted them all over the country – Agra, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Jaipur. Once the Russians started coming to India for treatment, there was no time to sleep. I began to manage several people simultaneously. Finally, I was able to eat properly and pay rent as well."
After the deluge of work came the coronavirus, followed by the Russia-Ukraine war.
Now Baloch spends his time wishing that the virus goes away, and that the war comes to an end. He has had no work for the last two years. "Though flights have restarted, my work is slow to pick up. All the rich Afghans have fled to the West and things are uncertain because of the Russia-Ukraine war."
Life in Balochistan
Baloch was born in Sibi, Balochistan, close to the Sindh province. Like most people from Balochistan, he continues to suffix Baloch to his name.
He completed his schooling in Sibi and went to Afghanistan for some time. He came back to Balochistan and then proceeded to Russia for higher education. "I had to spend the first year learning the Russian language. Then it was a five-year course in journalism from Almaty, Kazakhstan. As a student I worked in Russia for some time. Finally, I came back to Quetta, the capital of Balochistan."
He adds that many Baloch people from the Marri tribe went to Russia for further studies.
"I tried to find journalism work in Quetta but could not. I worked for private companies for two years but it was tough. I barely managed to earn enough for survival. Life was tough and scary in Quetta. Kidnappings, robbery and killings were common. It was unsafe so I decided to come to India," says Baloch.
He misses Quetta. Not just for its salubrious climate but also because his family is settled there.
"It is a valley like Kashmir with snowfall, clean water and good air. It is good for your health with plenty of orchards and dry fruits. My hometown of Sibi is a desert close to Sindh where life is tough.
Anil says that his parents and siblings are now settled in Quetta. "There is nobody in Sibi even though we still have an ancestral home there. They do not want to migrate to India. They say, 'kitne desh chorrenge' (how many homes will we abandon)? You know, resettling is not easy."
In Balochistan, Anil Kumar Baloch is also known as Anil Marri.
"People can trace three generations of my ancestors because of my name. We were closely associated with Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and have spent generations with them," says Baloch.
Baloch says that the Baloch 'quom' is not getting its due. There is no gas, no water either. Places like Sui, which is the main hub for gas for all of Pakistan, and even Dera Bugti do not have enough schools.
"There is very little progress. I went to Pakistan in 2016. I saw development in Punjab – Lahore, Islamabad and Multan. But in Balochistan there is no development. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is worse. The Baloch community are struggling whether they live in Balochistan or outside it," says Baloch.
He adds that the Baloch living abroad yearn to go back but the circumstances are such that they are forced to live in exile.
Baloch keeps getting calls on his mobile. In most of them, he speaks in a variety of languages – Balochi or Sindhi. Some of the calls are from abroad as well.
Hindus in the subcontinent
Baloch says that even now Balochistan harbours Hindus. For generations, the Hindu families have been closely associated with the chiefs of local tribes — Marris, Bugtis, Mengals and others.
Besides his home town of Sibi, the Hindus are present in Macch, Noshki, Kalat and Quetta. They also follow the Baloch tribe system of christening their names, despite Hindu surnames they will affix the name of the local tribe or the area. Baloch says: "This is how people are identified and traced in Balochistan, through their tribe affiliation."
Talking about the migration of Hindus from Balochistan, he says it has been happening continuously since 1947.
"All Hindus think of Hindustan only, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh. All Hindus think of India as their homeland. They feel safe in India.
"You know any kind of Hindu can settle in India. The poor and the middle-class, the educated and the uneducated. 'India hum sab ko apni sharan me le leta hai. Indian democracy USA se bhi aage hai kyonki yahan koi bhi aa ke rahe sakta hai' (India gives shelter to everyone. Indian democracy is way ahead of the US because anyone can come and live here). You can't think of moving to the US if you are poor. But in India, anyone can come and live," says Baloch.Indo-Asian News Service
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