THE DISPLACED SINDHI AND HIS MISPLACED LOOK
By Arun Babani
In Chhatrapati Shivaji museum an entire floor is devoted to the display of fine robes, attires and headgears of kings and queens of yesteryears. There are magnificent flowing robes of Maratha warriors, Mughal kings and Persian priests. In our Sindhi community there is a growing trend to bring out from the closet and adorn the pure Sindhi costumes on Sindhi gatherings and occasions. On the cover of the last issue of Sindhi Shaan, two well-known Sindhi gentlemen from Hong Kong display just such an attitude by wearing a Sindhi look, complete with Sindhi topi, Sindhi sherwani and Sindhi jacket. These original Sindhi souvenirs are kept handy , to be worn on Sindhi events, thereby committing oneself and honoring one's culture and roots. Apart from this, on many occasions Sindhi dignitaries are honored with Sindhi shawls and caps, imported directly from Sindh that carry an emotional bond to the motherland.
The next question that arises is 'How long?' How long will the next generation continue this laudable but rather sad practice? The Sindhi look has now attained something like an antique souvenir look, which some lovers of Sindhiyat wear on certain special days like Cheti Chand and so on. And that look – complete with dress and behavior is worn to appear to be in solidarity with the Sindhi community. The intention behind this practice is quite admirable, but don't you think it borders on sentimentality and emotional appeal?
When the dress, language and behavior of a community becomes obsolete and antique, only to be displayed occasionally to feel genuine, it becomes theatre.Today Shivaji's clothes are seen only in films and TV, Akbar's pagdi is as rare a sight as peacocks! The Sindhi dress on the cover of Sindhishaan may meet with a similar fate soon. But is it such a big loss to be sad about? Dress and mannerisms are bound by time. They change, grow and improve with passing time. Today even saints, sadhus and rishis are clean-shaven and wear western clothes. To use the look of your ancestors in order to align yourself with them is to make a mockery of them. Its like making a customized uniform out of it, a kind of a fancy dress to appear and feel closer to one's roots.
This happens when a particular culture and civilization is on the way of becoming a relic and starts disappearing. This happened to Mayan, Egyptian and Greek cultures and to the Sindhu Valley civilization. Then it becomes an antique and a museum piece, only of interest to archeologists and historians. This has happened a few times in the history of man and it is happening to Sindhi culture now. The Sindhis have been displaced along with their tradition, roots and looks. One can see the loss written large on older Sindhis and this pure Sindhi dress code is perhaps the result out of this desperate feeling of loss. It seems to say, “Baba, you can't save Sindhi Boli, atleast try to save the Sindhi topi!”