Hundreds of sheep get navigated across flat lands, hills, forests, and highways with the swish and twirl of the herder's stick. The Maldhari speaks in many languages with the stick, even as a range of feelings, instructions, and messages get expressed through it.
The flock of sheep and goat are at rest, dispersed and spread out in the grazing lands having grazed and browsed to their heart's content.
Slowly, the herder stands with the stick held straight at arms length from the body; within a few seconds, word gets around the flock and they begin to gather around their herder.
The Maldhari then holds the stick across her head. The herd understands, and they begin to move to their next grazing site.The stick swings clockwise, then anti-clockwise, as the maldhari negotiates traffic on the highways.The flock hurrying ahead cannot see their herder walking behind them, but the swishing sound of the swinging stick in the air, tells them that they need to get out of harm’s way, and they start stepping away from the road!
Even hunger was communicated silently, with a stick, amongst the Rabari Maldhari in the past. When a Rabari Maldhari would visit another Rabari home and place his stick vertically, in a corner, against a wall, the host would know he was hungry, and food would arrive for the hungry visitor; nothing said or asked. On the other hand, if he placed the stick beside him as he sat down, it meant he had eaten!
They call it ‘Lakadiya Tar – the stick telegram!
When Maldharis make their way far and away from their homelands, information amongst them, along the length and breath of their route, happens at the speed of lightening!
Any herder with a stick is their ‘Lakadiya bhai or behen’ (stick brotherhood), each carrying messages and information to the other with ease, swiftness and trust.