By Sreekanth R
The Sindhi language in the country is marred by various upheavals. Needless to say, there is a dire need for the community to conglomerate and act steadfastly to reinstate the language on the global cultural pedestal
The writing is clear on the wall for everyone to see. The language that is considered to be the identity of the community is at the ebb, with many Sindhi-tutoring academic institutes closing down and there seems to be the lack of a channelized effort to reinstate the lost glory of the language.
The establishment of the Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan a the Mumbai University’s Vidyanagari Campus is a case in point that depicts the dawdling pace at which the resuscitation of the language is taking place. For a year or so the small foundation stone on an area sprawling large acres here is emblematic of the proposed multi-facility Sindhi education centre. Shri Baldev Matlani, head of Sindhi Department of Mumbai University has some interesting facts to add. “We have received ample support from the government, in that, they have given us the land for construction at absolutely no cost. But the entire operation of setting up the structure needs colossal funds. While we have been receiving supportive calls from patrons of the language, who have pronounced their willingness to sponsor the cause, only a handful of them have actually lived up to their promise. The coffers are still awaiting additional funds that are a dire necessity to make this dream project see the light of the day.”
While on the one hand, language resuscitation projects are face with problems in the form of paucity of funds, there are other such projects which have been in the doldrums following the current generations reluctance to communicate in their mother tongue. Reflective of this downfall is the closing of many Sindhi education centres. A huge Sindhi medium school in Lal Darwaja area in the mid 80s was bustling with activity. Now, it is surrounded by absolute silence and the hustle and bustle of the children can nowhere be seen. That is the state of Sind Modern High School which had only 20 students in Class XI and X a couple of year back and ever since stopped fresh admissions and closed operations. Similar is the fate of 13 other Sindhi medium schools where around 100 teachers are surplus. The situation is so bad that one school in Sardarnagar has 19 students and 11 teachers. Inadvertently the closure of these educational institutions has also sounded the death of the Sindhi language; end of what took years to build. And the ruin of a language signifies the end of that individuality that gives a community its identity, its sense of belonging.
Experts blame the craze for English medium schools as the main reason for this sorry state of Sindhi education. And with more and more English medium schools opening in the Sindhi residential areas, the attraction is even greater. There are some private schools too but they are in the same predicament. As on now, there are ten Sindhi medium schools in Ahmedabad, of which seven are higher secondary schools which churn out around 350 students each year. But very few of them opt for joining PTC course. Says Dr. Arjan Mirchandani ‘Shad’, the eminent writer, poet and academician, “In the wake of the partition, a number of schools with Sindhi medium came up and practically every Sindhi child joined these schools. A gigantic problem for the Sindhis was to rehabilitate themselves economically.” Post partition, a number of Sindhi philanthropists strived their utmost to establish educational institutes, so that the uprooted students could pursue their studies here. It is a paradox that while Sindhis have started many colleges and schools which have catered to the academic needs of lakhs of Sindhis as well as other students, the Sindhi language has been fast disappearing, more so during the past two decades.
The Sindhis have been scattered across various parts of the country and many of them didn’t have access to Sindhi medium schools. They therefore, sent their children to non-Sindhi medium schools. Later, this trend amplified further more so because of the diminishing value of Sindhi in practicality. The Sindhis thought that the future of their children would be safe and secure if they are imparted their basic education in English. The sentimental ethos was easily replaced by the sense of practicality. While other Indian languages were conferred the status of regional languages, Sindhi language wasn’t given the privilege and the practical use of the language was merely non-existent since there was not state in which the administrative language could be Sindhi. So with nearly no utility value, the Sindhi language went into the doldrums. As Dr. Arjan ‘Shad’ Mirchandani rightly points out, “The educational contour for Sindhis assumed a different contour. In the view of the situation, the Sindhis have no other course left, but to compare the advantages which can accrue to them through any regional language vis-à-vis English.”
The language, which is the cultural identity of the community has to be kept intact and the Sindhi identity can never be impressed upon the members of the community who do not know the language. There are efforts being taken in this direction. The Vivek Sindhi Kendra for instance has made it mandatory for Sindhi students to take Sindhi as an optional subject in the lower secondary class. Shri ‘Shad’ is appreciative of this move. He says in one of his writings, “If the Sindhi medium is not possible in the peculiar circumstances we have been placed in, at least Sindhi as a subject should be a part of the curriculum in English medium schools.” Recollecting his heydays as professor in Jai Hind college he opines, “Actually the Sindhi community has not realized that the preservation of Sindhi language has even the practical utility. I know that when I was taking my classes in Jai Hind college, many English medium Sindhi students were too willing to offer Sindhi in place of French or any other classical or foreign language. If the English medium students could take up Sindhi language, even though they had not learnt it at school level, one can understand that if they are given the same facility at school, they would have grabbed it, because they had heard the language at home and also had spoken the same to some extent. In this way, the children are constantly in touch with the language and it also serves as a reminder that they are learning their mother-tongue.
Sindhi management schools could in fact have tow streams in their institutions, one, the Sindhi medium and the other English medium. And in the English medium stream, they could have Sindhi as an optional language. The institutions should also maintain very high standards of teaching and discipline as they are found in Catholic Convent and public schools. Playing merely on sentiments does not work. Therefore, to appeal to the Sindhis on the emotional plane alone to preserve their language may not bring in the desired results. So the institutions have to respond to the pragmatic aspect of the community as well, while pushing across the concern for language on a sentimental platform.
All this resuscitation effort calls for a vast repository of funds. And how do we get it. Going back to Shri ‘Shads’ writings we find some interesting thoughts etched across the lines. He writes : “Although so much time has passed and the latest generation of Sindhis is absolutely ignorant of the Sindhi language or at the most has very fragmentary knowledge of it, it looks as if there is no chance of its introduction as an optional language in English medium schools. But the Sindhi businessmen have earned colossal amounts and philanthropists among them have contributed crores of rupees for social and educational causes. For them it will not be a difficult thing if they create a TRUST and put up six to seven crores into it. The interest accruing from the amount should go towards the salaries of the teachers who should be appointed to teach Sindhi as an optional language in the English medium schools. English medium schools of any management will never object to including Sindhi as a subject in their schools, if the expenses on account of the salaries of teachers are borne by the TRUST.”
So if the community patrons join hands and evolve a concerted and comprehensive plan of action, it wouldn’t be long before we see the language shimmering brighter over the cultural horizon.