SINDHI LITERATURE - THEN AND NOW
by - Arun Babani
At that time there were no writers, only great writings !
It is believed that there are about ten thousand books written in Sindhi since half a century, after partition. A good number of the older books seem to have passed into oblivion with no trace left behind. One can safely count up to a thousand writers, poets, dramatists, critics and so on, amongst whom about forty percent are women. But till date there has been no serious attempt at a bibliography of Sindhi literature, wherein one can find all that has been published so far. At a recently held seminar in Khajurao, the topic of discussion was ‘A new book every day’, in which Dr. Narayan Bharti, editor and publisher of ‘Sindhi Times’, Ulhasnagar, read out in his paper some interesting facts about Sindhi literature:-
Earlier decades of the fifties, sixties, seventies did not witness much of Sindhi publishing activity within India even though there were many Sindhi medium schools and a fair number of reading public; whereas in the later years, in the eighties, and nineties, when we saw virtually most Sindhi schools closing down, and the number of readers dwindle, there came about a fervent publishing activity, with more books coming out than ever before.” This, according to Dr. Bharti’s paper, “is because in recent years most of the Sindhi writers have retired from their jobs and now they write in order to spend their time fruitfully.” Another interesting claim the paper makes is that “there are no more any quality critics around, and therefore there is not much literary criticism of so much writing in Sindhi. As a result of this good books get ignored, whereas self-promoting pen pushers manage to get projected.”
All along Sindhi writers have had a few things in common. Since most of them were born in Sindh, much of their writings echo their lives back in Sindh. In Dr. Arjan Shaad’s paper ‘The longing for Sindh in Sindhi writing’ there is a reference to this rootlessness deeply felt by the Sindhi writers in India.
This writing of nostalgia was alive in the first three or four decades after partition, when the writings of a particular writer were not so important as much as the whole movement - the literary Hulchul that took off immediately at partition. It had such an impact that the path breaking movements like Naeen Dunia, Sindhu Dari, Praha Phutti, Kunj, and so on. The creators of such movements who got together as torch bearers of Sindhiyat, meeting daily, weekly, crossing great distances under one umbrella called the Spirit of Sindhi literature. Their total number must have been fifty or hundred or so, books published may have been about five or ten each year, but there was the hunger, the absolute lust for more and more, higher and higher, better and better. At that time there were no writers, only great writings ! The whole effort of the Sindhi writer after partition was an effort to live as if there has been nothing much of a partition, to live and write as if the memories are enough of a food for thought, theirs has been almost an extra effort to live and write , to work and play, as they have not been reduced to a refugee status, theirs has been an effort not to hate History, a tremendous effort to rise from the ashes and to live intact in a neighbour’s house.
This kind of Herculean arrogance in the face of absolute rejection by History is the mark of a Sindhi writer of the post-partition period. Early Sindhi literature is a testimony to testing times, of rootless mind and restless body. Where to find a job, a decent room and sustain an undernourished family, was itself a big dream. The literature and the writers had nothing to fall back on, except the spirit, the nerve of Sindhyat. They lived amongst friends, among ideas, and among bonds of creative talent. They wrote of worn out shoes, torn suit buttons, leaking umbrellas and empty pockets. And they wrote poetic verse on the Sindhu river and Shahbaaz Kalandar! Although they couldn’t afford cigarettes, they were always brimming with fire. Such was the indomitable spirit of a Sindhi writer of post partition days.
Today however the old Mastana has aged, and the new breed doesn’t quite light the same fire even with expensive imported cigarettes. With bulk purchase of his books and cash prizes, AC fares and super allowances, the pampered Sindhi writer of today may be luckier than his earlier friends, and may even produce a book a day, but he is certainly not hot any more.