By Arun Babani
‘Money is the mother of all evil’, so says an ancient proverb.
And lack of money?
That seems to be the mother of most of Sindhi literature!
Most Sindhi writers have been poor, ever struggling to keep their families out of bad weather. The partition made Sindhis rootless plus homeless and penniless. Scores of post partition stories centre around shanty towns and refugee camps. But inspite of such abject poverty and suffering, or perhaps because of it, Sindhi writers of the early 50s and 60s created sparks; the fire in their bellies gave their art an impetus towards rebellion; the artificiality of life around them pushed them towards the discoveries of truth; only a hungry man is best able to imagine the choicest of cuisine.Raj Kapoor sang in the 50s about being ‘jebse garib and dil ke hum amir’ Guru Dutt sang in the 60s about ‘Yeh mahelon yeh takhton,yeh tajon ki duniya’
The post partition Sindhi writer has always had for the past half century the same colour of life, a black, a white and at the most a shade of grey. Most of the reason for this is their refugee status to begin with, but later the poverty and struggle seeped into their psyche and most of them came to value it. The more they valued their art and commitment the more they came to have a disdain for riches. The struggle for wealth and power was to them a wrong step in the wrong direction. And so, Late Mohan Kalpana called his autobiography ‘Bukha, Ishq Ain Adab’ (Hunger, Romance and literature).They wanted to be known as Baghis, the rebels, and they dismissed the rich way of life and business clans as ‘dhandhoris’ who don’t have much worth and meaning.
Most of these young Sindhi post partition writers and artists were into teaching or low level government jobs. Teaching in Sindhi schools suited many of them simply because that gave them half a day of freedom for literary and artistic pursuits. Ofcourse the payment was half of what was sufficient for them and so their spouses, partners and friends from better placed families came to chip in a little help from here and there. Whatever they could save from their paltry incomes went into publishing of their works and producing their own plays.Dr. Arjan Shad has written a long poem on the grocer’s bill and how that disturbs his will to change the world. Mohan Kalpana wrote of the biting nail in his shoes and how that was disturbing his walk towards the future.
Ironically enough the money for publishing their books often came from the same ‘dhandhoris’ whom the writers so abhorred. Within the same business community there was a handful of rich guys with a sensitive heart. Perhaps these gentlemen themselves wanted to be writers but could not manage the time and so they associated with Sindhi publishing, plays and films. Notable among the literary donors was Mr. Ram Dadlani, a builder by profession and in those early years every Sindhi book carried his compliments on the back cover. There were a few more who never refused a good cause and extended a helping hand.
So, a Sindhi writer, who writes, publishes and posts his own works has always been poor, without money, but with huge dreams. With a few exceptions most of Sindhi writers have had to contend with only one pair of shoes and one pair of looking glass! Since prehistory it is believed by the artist fraternity that money often acts as water to your fire. Many artists over the centuries
have had an undercurrent of nausea at the riches and the superficiality it breeds. History is witness to countless geniuses dying in penury and isolation. The great Mirza Ghalib has been an inspiration to brave souls like Kalpana who believe that hunger, real hunger brings you in touch with starving millions, and a local trainis the best place to open your diary and question the real meaning of life!
Real art, it seems, is very expensive; only some poor people have been able to afford it. A Kabir here, a Dostoevsky there, a Ghalib here, or a Van Gogh there seem to be able to strike the mysterious balance between hunger, art and romance! Indeed!