My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW DELHI , Friday—On Tuesday in Pakistan I visited the Thal project, which really is a very magnificent conception for reclaiming desert wastes by irrigation. The water comes from the Indus River and along the way some of it is used to produce hydroelectric power.

Villages are going up for refugees, towns are being planned, and I laid the cornerstone for the first of six small hospitals. Three larger hospitals will be built as the area develops.

Here I had my first sight of tent-pegging, and it certainly is a highly skilled sport. The Arab horses in this area are beautiful.

In this contest the riders first came one at a time and passed at full gallop, trying to spear with the long lances they carried a peg stuck into ground with about eight inches showing. Those who were successful were cheered loudly by the crowd. Later, the riders came four abreast and the horses thundering hoofs made an exciting noise.

We had lunch, after viewing a dam and part of the Indus River, at a country place where the porch practically hung over the river. It was very lovely. The owner told me that though breeding horses no longer was profitable, his grandfather had bred them and he had many valuable English horses which he had imported, so he could not quite decide to give them up. He did, however, run a commercial farm and had cattle and produced a number of products that are distributed in this area.

All day I was conscious of the fight of water against the desert. Wherever water and the work of human beings are brought together, the desert is forced to recede. It is not an easy accomplishment, however, and though the Thal project has magnificent possibilities and was conceived with great breadth of vision, there is still a long way to go before one can feel that in the returns there will be a good showing of success.

Many of the people of this area are refugees; many of them are just poor people; but some of them are leading a life they would not change. For instance, we saw one of the hill tribesmen who had spent the winter down in this warmer area and was on his homeward trek. He had probably lived on the sand in one of those odd little round huts they build with bent bamboo ribs and which open out like a folding basket to hold up the outside. The front is open and the family cooking goes on the outside. They inhabitants need only mats to lie on at night and their animals are herded around.

For transportation everything is loaded on donkeys, and the other travelers we saw who were on their way back to the hills were trudging single file over the roads that led there.

The faces of the people are extraordinary and their carriage is regal in its dignity for both the men and women, the women carrying large burdens on their heads.

We returned in time for a reception given at the Ladies Club in Lahore. Then I spoke to a group of students at Lahore University and later attended a large women's dinner at which some of younger women did folk dances for me. And in a very few minutes I taught them the Virginia reel, dancing it to their own Pakistani music.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New Delhi (India) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 1, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.