18th International Sindhi Sammelan – Ahmedabad
INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY HON'BLE CHIEF MINISTER OF GUJARAT NARENDRA MODI
on 16TH December 2012
I consider it a great privilege to be accorded the opportunity to meet you today. Friends, I have tremendous regards and respect for your community in my heart. I am not saying this just because I am the Chief Minister and am expected to say this. There is a strong and valid reason behind this feeling for you. When we look at the journey of mankind's cultural progress and go deep towards the roots, we come to the origins from where this journey all began and that place is where your ancestors put in efforts and proved their valour. You are all descendents of that great legacy. Your ancestors did enormous work and it is because of this that I have great regards and reverence towards that great tradition. And since you are the representatives of that great inheritance, naturally the same reverence exists for you.
On the banks of Sindhu and Saraswati, what they achieved was for the progress and benefit of entire humanity. During my student days, I had visited the Harappan and Mohen-jo-Daro civilization at Dolaveera. There was such a feeling of pride at the foresight of our ancestors when the guide over there gave minute details about the ruins. Each and every brick and stone over there tells the story of courage of the great sons of the Sindhu cultural heritage. Today people talk about Olympic games, huge playgrounds and stadium. Though many amongst you seated here might not have had the opportunity to have a glimpse of the fortitude of your ancestors, if you go to Dolaveera you will see for yourself that 5000 years ago there was a huge stadium, where innumerable games and sports must have been conducted. All the signs are still visible there till date. Can you imagine the magnitude of their foresight and vision even during those times.
Today all over the world signages are used to indicate directions, mentioning the name of roads, streets etc. Now where do you normally find signages? If you go to a village you won't find any signages. This is because villages are usually small and almost everybody knows each other and about the locations of all places in their village. So there are no boards or signages necessary. 5000 years back Dolaveera was the first such city in the world where signages were used and they exist till date. What must have been the reason for this? There must be 2 reasons. One, it must have been a very large city and the other, people from different countries and places must have been regular visitors. Can you imagine such heritage 5000 years back? I would suggest that when you conduct such programmes, where we gather to sing praises of our great heritage, there should also be programmes shown to our younger generation to enable them to get a glimpse of your rich and prosperous cultural heritage. Then only will this message reach them.
Friends, here I am in the mood of talking to you as one of your associates and not as a Chief Minister. I think, I must have partaken meals in the homes of more than 50% of the Sindhis here in Ahmedabad. For the first 35 years, my life was such that I was quite outgoing and social and therefore had this opportunity to take meals at so many houses and become close to so many Sindhi families. I have viewed their lifestyles from close quarters. But today, when I go to Sindhi homes, I see children addicted to pizzas, pastas and junk food. I wonder where have the Mitha Lola and Tikha Lola disappeared and what about Dal Pakwaan? Just give it a thought. All this is vanishing from Sindhi families. Isn't it our responsibility to preserve this heritage? Many times I tell my Sindhi friends in Ahmedabad, at least for once organize a Sindhi Food Festival. This Narendra (pointing towards Narendra Somani) serves food to the world, but he doesn't serve any Sindhi food.
You ask Sindhi youth today – what is the traditional dress or attire of the Sindhi community? They won't have a reply. I admit that the world has changed and a lot of westernization has entered your lives but I am sorry to say this – Sindhi speaking families are diminishing, even mother and son speak with each other in English. Friends, only those who can preserve their mother tongue, culture and attire are capable of rejuvenating it again. Since you have gathered here as a community, I sincerely pray to you to take an oath here today, that you will only speak Sindhi at home. It doesn't matter whether you are in America, Hong Kong or China you must speak in Sindhi with your Sindhi brethren. The power of your mother tongue is unique. Once Benazir Bhutto had come here on an official visit. There was a formal meeting where Mr. L. K. Advani was also present along with other non-Sindhi speaking ministers. At such occasions you obviously have to observe the protocol. But as soon as Benazir saw Mr. Advani she started speaking in Sindhi with him. In that formal atmosphere you could see their intimacy and how happy they were speaking with each other in their mother tongue. This is the power of the mother tongue. So just imagine what will happen if you lose this. For business and official purposes if English is required, do use it. Learn 10 more languages, there is no one to stop you. If you sit with this Sureshbhai, he speaks Gujarati so fluently you wouldn't realize that he is a Sindhi. He speaks Gujarati so well that not even a single word is mispronounced. I am very happy no doubt. But now take a look around – this is supposed to be a Sindhi Sammelan, but none of you are in Sindhi attire. Please don't treat this as criticism. This is your heritage, legacy, power, why do you want to lose it? I am pained to see this. Therefore I say that at least organize one such programme where all of you are dressed in Sindhi attire.
About 150 to 200 years back our people went to Mauritius as labourers. Not labourers, but as slaves. They were handcuffed and chained and were forcibly taken in ships to Mauritius. But while going they took with them a copy of Ramayan composed by Tulsidas. They didn't have anything else. Then from Mauritius they went to other places in the world as well, but this was their only support – Ramayan. Today even after 200 years, inspite of tremendous changes over such a long period of time, their attachment to their soil remains unchanged, because of that copy of Ramayan. They haven't changed their names. They haven't stopped singing hymns from Ramayana. Here, today there are people present who have seen Sindh, have gone through those difficult days of partition and have worked hard to come up in life. That generation is still present now. But what will happen after 50 years. Who will be present? Who will sing praises about your ancestor's valour. Therefore brothers and sisters I believe that the people, the community, the country that forgets its history can never create history. Only those who know to live their history can create history. Therefore I say that you – who are the children of that great legacy, preserve it, love it. If we ourselves will not have love for our heritage how can we accept our neighbours to have any regard for it. This passion towards one's culture isn't against any one. If we are proud of our rich heritage it doesn't means that we are trying to hurt someone or have ill feeling against them. We should be proud of our heritage which has such glorious past and history.
If you get an opportunity to visit Kutch please do go there. You must have heard the tale of Makan Dada. About 400 years ago there was this Makan Dada in Kutch. Pilgrims who went to the Shrine of Hinglaaj Mata had to cross the Rann of Kutch. They had to overcome many difficulties and hardships to reach the Shrine of Hinglaaj Mata in Sindh. Due to scarcity of water, some of them even died in the desert. Now this Makan Dada had a pet dog and a donkey. He had trained his pets to go into the desert and check if there was anybody in trouble due to lack of water. That dog and donkey used to supply water to the weary and thirsty pilgrims in the Rann of Kutch. Sometimes they used to also bring the affected person to the edge of the desert, where there existed a well of fresh drinking water. That well exists even today. The jottings of Makan Dada, that he wrote 400 years ago, are available even today. He was like a guard at the boundary of Gujarat and Sindh. In one of these he had written that there will come a day when Sindhu, Saraswati and Narmada will unite and become one. In those days who could have ever imagined that there would be a dam (Sardar Sarovar) constructed on the Narmada river and the water from that dam will reach the borders of Sindh. And you must also be aware that there is a dam constructed in Pakistan, before the river enters the ocean, and that when Sindhu river gets flooded its water overflows into the desert on our side in India and enters Gujarat. It is a vast land – miles and miles across where this water gathers. But unfortunately due to arid conditions that water becomes saline just like sea water and cannot be used for any purpose. I had gone to see that place in the desert. I had then written a letter to the Government of India to request Pakistan to divert that overflowing flood water which is wasted, to this side of the boundary through canals. We can then make our Makan Dada's dream of the union of three rivers Sindhu, Saraswati and Naramada become a reality.
Brothers and Sisters there is yet another reason for which I have the greatest regards for your community. Can you imagine those days in 1947 when our country was partitioned? Everything was ruined and destroyed. And just with faith in God you all came here. Why did you come here? To get something? To achieve something? What did you lack over there in Sindh? You came here because of your love for this soil and this great culture and heritage. You did not want to relinquish the invaluable heritage of your ancestors and therefore you faced so many difficulties. Is this spirit percolating down to your children? If not, then it isn't the fault of our ancestors but our present generation, and you need to give a serious thought to this.
In my childhood I used to see a Sindhi gentleman in our village. I was quite young and he was an old man, may be 60 – 65 years in age. His financial condition was extremely delicate. I still remember his face distinctly even today. He was a very thin man in old clothes. He was always seen at the bus stand selling papads, chocolates, biscuits, in a tray to the passengers. As long as I was in my village he was alive and I always saw him doing this. That one scene is still etched in my mind – living in dire poverty and in frail health. My village was small, who could afford to buy biscuits and chocolates? But in spite of that, with that business spirit he would stand at the bus station and try to earn something by selling his wares. I never saw him beg. There are very few communities who have this kind of pride. Strength of self-respect is in Sindhi genes. They will never beg. You are the inheritors of that great heritage. But how will these traditions and customs reach our children. How should we groom them?
When I was young I used to go and sit at Gopaldas Bhojwani's shop sometimes. There was once a tradition, which exists today or not I don't know. I have spoken on the subject of socio-economy at many places and presented my thoughts on this topic to many. I have witnessed this tradition with my own eyes. Whenever any Sindhi started a new business, all his relatives, friends etc. would be invited to the opening ceremony. They would all present an envelope to him. There was nothing written on it, but it consisted of some cash. And whoever came to the opening would present an envelope containing cash to him. I observed this closely and inquired about it. I was informed that whenever a person is embarking on a new business the community members come forward and present him some financial assistance which he could use in his business as seed capital. But there is no name mentioned on the envelope. When I saw this I was so impressed with this marvelous socio-economic concept – to encourage one's own community member. This I feel must be the rarest of rare tradition, of offering money at the time of setting up of business by all community members. Such brilliant thinking on the part of our ancestors. It is like someone or the other always present to hold the hand of a drowning man to bring him ashore. WHAT A GREAT CONCEPT AND TRADITION!
I was just asking Srichand Hinduja whether there is a Sindhi TV channel? I know that there exists one, but you must understand why I questioned him regarding this – hinting that he should start one. Being a businessman he asked me for land. Srichandji why are you asking me this, the whole of Gujarat belongs to you. Why are you asking me such a small thing – a piece of land. I offer you the whole of Gujarat, enjoy. Some of our friends from Mumbai have come forward to build a Sindhu Cultaral Centre near Narayan Sarovar. We have offered them land on a large scale. Narayan Sarovar is a place near Pakistan's border. There I believe a grand cultural center will come up. Work is going on and I'm sure it will benefit many.
Should I now speak something about the progress of Gujarat or is it dinner time? Well I know that Sindhis take their dinner quite late. In my younger days when I used to be busy till late hours, I usually went to the house of a Sindhi friend, knowing fully well that I would surely get dinner, and not go hungry.
It was nice speaking to you all. I consider myself fortunate to have got this opportunity to do so and thank you for that. I once again request – please don't allow this great tradition and heritage to die. Please try to inculcate this language, customs, tradition, cuisine etc. into your children. Kindly device ways and means to keep this cultural heritage alive, it will be a great service to the nation. Thank you very much.