G E N E S I S
by - Ranjit Butani
There were times, when not yet in my teens, my parents and peers prevailed upon me to accompany them to community gatherings and functions; which I would most reluctantly attend; get thoroughly bored and vow never to attend again. The same faces; the same speeches – “We lost our homeland; we faced enormous difficulties; youngsters must communicate in Sindhi; etc. etc.” That’s fine I always thought – BUT THAT IS PAST.
The community at large is now well established and prosperous. Moreover where was the youth at such gatherings? Maybe one or two like me, coaxed by their peers. But the majority always consisted of the pre-partition generation.
I belong to the first post-partition generation and having been educated in English at the school and university levels, was unfamiliar with the Sindhi script. I could not read or write in Sindhi, although I spoke the language quite fluently at home with my parents and elders. Outside this restricted circle my language of communication was English and even my thought process was in the English language. I even dreamt in English!
After marriage I communicated with my wife and kids in English or Hindi with the result that my kids are unable to speak Sindhi although they understand it reasonably well; because my mother almost always conversed with them in Sindhi. As my parents lived with me, their only son, there was always Sindhi going around.
My father expired in 1990 and a few years later my mother was struck with a paralytic stroke which affected her speech. There was no more Sindhi heard at home; no anecdotes about Sehwan; no stories of Karachi; no Sufi ‘Kalams’ to relish.
It was not a sudden realization but a gradual gnawing at the guts about the feeling of the loss of identity. I came to the conclusion that my generation is the in-between generation and has to do something if Sindhi culture, heritage and identity has to survive; as the next generation seems to have little or no need for preserving links with our roots or Sindhyat, in what is now considered a ‘Global Village’.
It was apparent to me that whatever our elders preached regarding Sindhyat could not be forced down the throats of the present generation. What was essentially required was to generate interest in our history, roots and identity. The rest would follow as a natural consequence.
In mid 2000 my mother’s health took a turn for the worse and started deteriorating rapidly. One morning she instructed me to discontinue subscription to “HINDWASI” a Sindhi newspaper published in the Arabic script. THE REALISATION STRUCK! The last link in my household with my culture, heritage, tradition was about to be ruptured. With Mom gone I would no more hear Sindhi at home! This was the catalyst that spurred me to action. That was the impetus for hosting www.sindhishaan.com – the virtual state; in absence of a physical geographical one.
I decided that the language of communication to the present generation would be English and the medium of communication would be one with which the youth was familiar. Sindhishaan.com (India) Pvt. Ltd. was registered in Mumbai in November 2000 and work on the website www.sindhishaan.com soon began in real earnest.
On the auspicious day of Chetichand 26th March 2001, the portal was fully operational and the quarterly publication Sindhishaan – voice of the Sindhis was launched by Shri J. T. Wadhwani who has been a friend, philosopher and guide ever since, besides being a tremendous source of encouragement. The monthly newsletter ‘Prerna’ also commenced its circulation from 2001 amongst the members registered on the website. The main objectives of Sindhishaan being :-
1. To revive and nurture the feeling of identification.
2. To revive and uphold Sindhi traditions, culture and value systems.
3. To establish a global platform for enhancing interaction and debate within the community.
4. To showcase the achievements of prominent Sindhi individuals and associations and give exposure to the potential of low profile ones.
To get a first hand experience and feeling about the Sindhi diaspora I decided to attend the 8th International Sindhi Sammelan held at LA – USA in July 2001 and was immediately floored by the affection and sense of unity & bonding experienced with the delegates. I was also pleasantly surprised by the enormous response from the youth – which was my focus all along. I quickly struck up lasting and enduring relationships with Dilip Butani, Kishor Lala, Prem Lalwani, Gope Gidwani – all active members of the Alliance. Besides I got the opportunity to strike friendship with several others like Murli Tolani from Indonesia, Pat Bijlani, Gobind Bhojwani, Haresh Demla to name a few. I also covered this event in vol 1 issue 1 of Sindhishaan.
Once again I visited Vegas in July 2003 to attend the 10th International Sindhi Sammelan and London in July 2004 for the 11th International Sindhi Sammelan.
The bonding has only grown with time, taken deeper roots and everlasting relationship established with Bhagwan Gidwani, Vimla Tewari, Nand Belani, Raj Daswani and many others.
Presented with the gauntlet of hosting the Sammelan this year in Mumbai in December, due to certain unforeseen circumstances forcing the nominated hosts, who were originally given the mantle, to decline, I immediately responded in the positive when asked to shoulder the responsibility after getting reassurance from my dear friends Ram Jawhrani, Chairman of Sahyog Foundation – who has vast experience of hosting such events, and Shri Chander Manghnani, an equally endearing stalwart of the community.
I can assure one and all that the 3 of us are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that this event is a grand success and becomes a benchmark for all Sammelans in future.
On Sindhishaan – I conclude by saying that having produced the first Sponsored Sindhi TV serial “Sindhyun-Ja-Mela” consisting of 13 episodes which were telecast by Doordarshan during July-Sept 2002. Sindhishaan has on the anvil for 2006 a 52 episode TV serial – ‘Discovery of Sindh’, based on “The Sindh Story” written by Late Shri K. R. Malkani, which would be similar to the TV serial – ‘Discovery of India’ which was directed by Shri Shyam Benegal based on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s book. The background/research work is in progress and the requisite financial resources are in the process of being raised for this production, which would be telecast in Hindi to ensure wide viewership, and create awareness about the Sindhi community amongst the others. It would also be dubbed in Sindhi and English and later marketed in DVD format. The objective is to make this a collector’s item, available at universities, libraries and archives.
May God give me the strength to pursue my goal without wavering and stay totally focused in the cause of SINDHYAT. So far it’s been a glorious journey, an enriching experience with wonderful opportunities to make friends.