SOME MASTERPIECES OF
SINDHI LiTERATURE -1
by - Dr. Moti Prakash
Sachal Sarmast jo Choonda Kalaam
Sachal Sarmast jo Choonda Kalaam (Selected Poems of Sachal Sarmast) is the most popular edition of the Sindhi Sufi poet Abdul Wahhab Sachal Sarmast's poetry. Edited by Kalyan B. Advani in 1963, it is based on the definitive and comprehensive editions Risaalo Sachal Sarmast: Sindhi Kalaam and Risaalo Sachal Sarmast Siraaiki Kalaam by Usman Ali Ansari (1958) and Muhammad Sadiq Ranipuri (1959) respectively.
Abdul Wahhab who came to be known as Sachal Sarmast-Sachal, for he was the 'Truthful One'; Sarmast, for he was 'God-intoxicated' - belonged to the village of Daraaz in Khairpur, a princely state in Sindh. Later, the grateful Sindhis named the village as Dar-e-raaz, or the Gateway of Divine Mystery. A lover of solitude, Sachal Sarmast was divinely inebriated. His perennial state of ecstasy expressed itself in his poetry. Shaa`ir-e-Haft Zabaan, or the poet of seven languages, he recited his poetry, which his disciples collected, in Sindhi, Hindi, Urdu, Siraiki, Punjabi, Persian and Arabic. But it was in Sindhi and Siraiki that he rejoiced most.
At the age of 20, he learnt the Qur'an by heart and read with great interest the Persian poetry of Attar and Hafiz. Abdul Huqq, his paternal uncle, who later became his murshid (preceptor) and also father-in-law, led him to the Sufi path and paved the way for the efflorescence of his poetic genius in
Sindhi. He loved and respected his preceptor so much that he saw in him Truth Itself. He says:
My preceptor is Abdul Huqq:
Not an abd al-Huqq, a servant of Truth or God;
He is Huqq al-Huqq, Truth of Truth, or God of God.
(Sachal Sarmast jo Choonda Kalaam,p.2)
He knew that the Islamic master-servant relationship between God and man was based on dualism and he raised his formidable voice against it. He says:
Abandon the dualistic servitude,
come back to Unity;
Forget the bond of flesh,
so that you are Pristine Purity yourself.
(Sachal Sarmast jo Choonda Kalaam,p.4)
Like his idolised hero Mansur al-Hallaj, he roared ana al-Huqq, or “I am Truth” time and again and invited the ire of the maulvis of his day. For him, there was no difference between kufr (infidelity) and imaan (faith) in reality: they differed in name only. He called the maulvis a group of tyrants who frightened the people with tortures in hell and knew nothing of love, and their profession, a great fraud on the people, for, it thrived on a 'professional puritantical spirituality'. He says:
We became neither Sheikhs, nor Makhdooms,
Neither Qaazis, nor Maulvis;
Devising no such hypocritical callings and creeds,
We learnt only the art of God's love.
He was vehemently against the bigots in both Islam and Hinduism. An outspoken Sufi poet who helped build secular nationalism in India, Sachal Sarmast says:
It is the religions
that have misled people in the country;
The Sheikhdoms and Pirdoms
have awfully misguided them;
Some people bend in mosques
and others bow in temples;
But those pseudo-wise people
don't come nearby Love.
Among his disciples was one Yusuf, who visited the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Thereafter, Sachal Sarmast always called him Nanak Yusuf as a mark of respect to the great Guru Nanak. A poet of the Indian bhakti-kaala, or the Indian Era of Devotion, Sachal Sarmast exhorted the new young brotherhood of Sikhs:
O Granthi, the reader of the holy scripture,
Chant the Japuji verses and meet the Guru;
Use the knife of love, cut off hatred and intolerance,
On both your left and right He is there.
Sachal Sarmast has realised God's presence in him and that has enabled him to reject a dualistic level of thinking and its concomitant dependence on the externals of one particular religion. He identifies himself with the universal being and laments the low state man is reduced to, in fundamentalism:
I feel sad - what I really am
and what I have become;
I know not why I have become a servant,
else I am truly the Master,
Sachal Sarmast jo Choonda Kalaam celebrates the essential unity of existence and raises man from his narrow confines of caste, creed and religion.
Sami ja Sloka
Sami ja Sloka (The Verses of Sami), Sami being the penname of Chainrai Bachomal, is a great work in Sindhi. It commands the respect reserved for sacred scriptures in the Sindhi Hindu homes, celebrating as it does the close relationship between religion and philosophy, which makes religion somewhat philosophic and philosophy a wee-bit religious. Wrought in the Sindhi bait form, which is a blanket term for the Indian poetic forms of Dohaa, Sorathaa and their various inter-linkages, it vernacularises the Vedic wisdom in the Sindhi slokas.
Sami wrote the slokas in the Gurmukhi script on pieces of paper and treasured those slips in a big earthen pot kept in a corner of his shop in Shikarpur (Sindh). Kauromal Chandanmal Khilnani (1844-1916), the first editor of the Sami ja Sloka, who brought it out in three volumes, raised an age-old question whether the saint-poet wrote his verses for his own pleasure (svaantah sukhaaya) or for universal pleasure (sarvaantah sukhaaya). The svaantah sukhaaya poets are said to write primarily for themselves, only because they feel impelled to write. They write verses for whosoever hears them or reads them, and leave them at that. But Sami, it seems, took enough care to preserve them in an earthen pot for posterity, believing that sarira (body) is short-lived and sabda (the word) is perennial.
After Khilnani's edition, umpteen editions of Sami ja Sloka, including that of Bhojraj Hotchand Nagrani (1903-84) published in three volumes in 1955, 1958 and 1967, have appeared. In the Nagrani edition an attempt at the explication of the text has been made, making generous use of updated scholarship on the saint-poet and his poetry in its annotations. Besides this, Nagrani published a handy, one-volume Sami ja Choonda Sloka, a selection from Sami's verses, in 1960. The Song of the Spirit, an English translation of selected verses of Sami, by Shanti L. Shahani, appeared in 1947. What Sadhu T. L. Vaswani said In his foreword to this book holds the key to the understanding of Sami and his mind. As in the poetry of the other Bhakti Movement poets, so in the poetry of Sami, God is both personal and impersonal, transcendent and immanent. Sadhu Vaswani rightly observed, 'The heart of Sami's slokas is set upon a living and loving union with the One who transcends the many that change and pass. The many are the veils of maayaa: they shut off the Light, and those must be pierced to behold the adorable face of the Beloved.'
Sami, a merchant himself, knew that in this world of maayaa, or illusion, hardly did any merchant, for that matter anyone, engage himself in true dealings: every-one exploited others; the rich exploited the poor and the pseudo-gurus used the credulous people for their own ends. A saint-poet who appeared on the Bhakti Movement scene in its last vestiges, Sami wrote the slokas embodying everything the Movement espoused. Referring to the six shastras, the 18 puraanas and the four Vedas, he emphasised on self-introspection:
Six, Eighteen, Four describe the only One;
Why do you then go from door to door?
He is in you, look within
And experience Him now and here.
(Sami ja Sloka, ed.B.H.Nagrani, VoLlII,p.284)
As also to other medieval Indian saint-poets, to him, a mere book-learning was no aid to the knowledge of self and Super-self. He said:
By reading a lot, they style themselves 'erudite',
The secret of harmony these fools forget;
He who realises, throws all books aside,
Within him he beholds the fourteen spheres scintillate.
(ibid., VoLlI, p.lIl; tr. Shanti L. Shahani)
On the one hand, the Sanskrit text Brahmasootra of the elite enabled him to have knowledge of the nature of reality, and on the other Bhagavata of the laity induced in him the devotion for a personal God, like Krishna, He reached the region of cousciousness where the personal deity was realised as 'That One' (tad ekam). He said:
I hear Krishna playing non-stop on the flute;
Two ears hear That One and don't feel satiated
And I wish I were in the timelessness of the lilt.
(ibid., Vol.lII, p.161)
As in the Taittiriya Upanishad, Sami holds that the beings are born from Brahman, they live by Him after being born and enter into Him on death. Brahman in contradistinction to the Western concept of God, creates the world from Himself, and not from any extraneous matter; He is both the material and the efficient cause of the world. Sami said in his poetic words:
The player that He is,
He assumes many a role;
He Himself is the clay
And the potter of the pots......
(ibid., Vol II. p.202)
Mainly Vedantic, his poetry at many places speaks of his Krishna-bhakti, or devotion to Lord Krishna. Greatly influenced by the Gita, it presents the poet's syncretic view: he himself says, 'Karma, Bhakti ain jnaan, g'aalhi chavani thaa hikiri'. That is, the three Yogas of Karma, Bhakti and Jnaana (action, devotion and knowledge) say one and the same thing.
Sami's imagery is drawn from what he sees around him in the day-to-day life. For instance, the images of kamala (lotus) and bhramara (the black bee); jala (water) and meena (fish); seepa (oyster) and moti (pearl); gaagar (pot) and saagar (sea); and mriga trisnaa (mirage) are quite familiar to his readers. Through these images, Sami objectifies his emotion and achieves saanta rasa or tranquility.
Mirza Qalich Beg's Novel Zeenat (1890)
Besides being the first original Sindhi novel, Zeenat, by Mirza Qalich Beg is, wrought as it is in varied locales, the first transnational Indian novel. An original piece of writing in the novel genre, it is, in the words of the author, “an imaginary story, in which our fast changing conditions are described in simple, homely idiom; unlike the stories of the past which had jinns and spirits, fairies and witches, charmers and sorcerers for its characters”. Modern in outlook, Zeenat is marked by two pulls of puritan Muslim sensitivity and secular (in its Indian connotation) sensibility.
Entitled after the name of its heroine, Zeenat opens with Shahar Bano, Zeenat's widowed mother, in a pensive mood. She recalls her past life with her late husband, Sarai Fateh Khan, who was high-profile officer under the Talpurs, the rulers of Sindh, before the East India Company annexed it (Sindh) with the British India in 1843. Sarai Fateh Khan opted out of the service under the alien rulers on the personal grounds of loyalty to the Talpurs. The new British administration fixed a monthly pension of Rs. 100 for him. After his demise, the pension was reduced to Rs. 50 per month.
The family supplements its income with sewing and stitching jobs which Shahar Bano and her daughter undertake from the local garment dealers. As the novel unfolds, Sahar Bano looks anxious to get her daughter traditionally married off to her own brother's son and be relieved of 'the great responsibility'.
Shahar Bano asks Bakhtawar, the maid-servant, to have Zeenat's mind in the matter. One morning, when Zeenat finishes with her reading of the Qur'an, Bakhtawar conveys to her, her mother's plan about her marriage. The 15-year old, quite grown up, educated and intelligent, Zeenat is wary of the proposal, for her maternal cousin is physically dumb and mentally under-developed. She tells her, she would like to marry a man, who is of moderate means, virtuous and befitting her age. Whence will the man of her dreams arrive? Shahar Bano thinks, and despairs. But he is not far away to seek; he is round the corner, to seek her.
Ali Raza is a scion of a Turkish family settled in Hyderabad (Sindh), a handsome young man of 24 years and a senior schoolmate of Hamid Ali, Zeenat's elder brother. He teaches Persian and Sindhi to the British officers posted in Sindh. One day it so happens that on his visit to Hamid Ali's he hears Zeenat give a shriek in fright. He huffishly asks the womenfolk of the house to wear the 'purdah' (veil) and rushes to Zeenat's help. He finds a snake in her room and kills it with a lathi, a stick. But in turn, he himself gets 'killed' by her beautiful looks. He asks his mother Jaan Bibi to make a proposal of his matrimonial alliance with Zeenat to her family. Zeenat welcomes the proposal and the others in the family readily agree to it.
Young and educated, Ali Raza and Zeenat are happily cast. Outside, Ali Raza is a teacher of Persian and Sindhi. But at home, he teaches English to Zeenat. Within six months of their marriage the services of the British officer with whom he is mainly attached are transferred to Bombay and Ali Raza goes there.
Soon after, Zeenat along with the mother-in-law and 'ayah' (maid) sets out on a ship journey to Bombay. But, as things would have it, a wooden plank on the ship-deck gives way and Zeenat falls off it during the dark night hours. The following morning, while the Captain of the ship and others take her to have been drowned, she is rescued by some fishermen of Kachchh. She reaches Bhuj, a principal city in Kachchh, and gives birth to a son. Zeenat, who has been advocating the 'purdah' for the Muslim women, is exposed in no small way to the vagaries of nature and man during her separation from her husband and family.
After great many sufferings meant to test the mettle of humans, she comes to Bombay, where she is subjected to the last and the greatest suffering of all : she learns to her utter dismay that her husband Ali Raza also believed what his mother and 'ayah' who were with her on the voyage said that God couldn't save her from drowning in the sea. She comes to know, her husband is for the second time married to one Izzat Bi and has a daughter, Azmat by name, from her. It is when she learns to compromise with the new situation that Izzat Bi delivers a still-born child and dies within three days of her labour pains.
Finally, she is united with her husband, her family. In Bombay, Ali Raza continues to be in the employ of British officers who send him to a British consulate in Baghdad. From there he gets a chance to join the Sultan of Turkey as his Amir. He serves the Sultan loyally and, with the help of his worldly-wise wife Zeenat, foils the assassination plot against him and his crown-prince. The grateful Sultan rewards him by appointing him as his Vizier. It is as the Vizier of Turkey that he goes back to his roots, visits a part of Russia on the Turco-Russian border and pays his respects to his forefathers buried there.
Spanning 45 years of the lives of Zeenat and Ali Raza, the novel ends with the return of the natives to Sindh, their homeland. Zeenat dies contentedly at the age of sixty and Ali Raza follows her in a week's time. Their sons, Mehboob Ali and Mansur Ali, trained as a lawyer and a doctor respectively in England, are settled in Karachi and are having good practice. Their daughter Azmat is happily married in Bombay.
A saga of self-made, heroic people Zeenat is a novel of autobiographical significance. The author Mirza Qalich Beg was born at Hyderabad (Sindh) in a Turco-Caucasian family. He went to Bombay for further studies and became a high official under the British government in Sindh. He and his wife seem to be the originals of the fictional characters of Ali Raza and Zeenat.
Satramdas Juriasinghani Saa'il's Epic Rama Kathaa (1954)
It is one more example of how the Ramayana theme is a germinal source linking the different linguistic communities in the Indian sub-continent and other countries of South East Asia. Cast in the Persian metre of “fa'ulan fa'ulan fa'ulan fa'u” and wrought in 32 parts, the Rama Kathaa is the first epic history, or Itihaasa, in Sindhi. Written as it was in the wake of Partition that threw the Hindus of Sindh off their moorings, the Ramayana theme gave them the much needed solace. The poet says in his preface, “I saw immorality rampant in every walk of life, crisis of confidence everywhere. I noticed that only at a few places little lamps shone, and showed the right path. In such turbulent times, I came to read once again the Ramayana and it gave me courage enough to face the odd situations in life. When the personal emotion spent itself and the commotion ended, I found myself riding the high tide of the Rama Kathaa in Sindhi.”
Mainly based on Valmiki's Ramayana, the Rama Kathaa derives its strength from various sources, including the Puraanas. It opens with an invocation to God, the Almighty (Pt. 1). In the city of Ayodhya, peaceful and prosperous, there ruled the King Dasharatha, known for his great virtue of keeping his word at the cost of his life (Pt.2). Dasharatha on a hunting spree in a deep dark forest through which a river gurgled gets a curse on his head that he would, like the old blind parents of Shrawana Kumar, die of separation from his son(s) (pt. 3). The King had four sons and three queens: Rama from Kaushalya, Bharata from Kaikeyi and Lakshmana and Shatrughn from Sumitra. The young, handsome and brave sons of Dasharatha killed the demons who had been harassing the sages in the forest (Pts. 4 & 5). Janaka, the King of Mithila, held for his daughter Sita a competition of princes from all over the Indian sub-continent, including Lanka, to break Shiva's Dhanusha (Bow) and be selected by her. Rama broke the bow and Sita chose him, the bravest of all, as her husband. The other three brothers also got married in Mithila. Soon after, Dasharatha noticed a grey hair in the black ones and thought he was old enough to retire from kingship and “instal Rama, the heir apparent, on the throne (Pts. 6-8). But Kaikeyi, the younger queen, instigated by her maidservant Manthara, wanted her son, Bharata, to ascend the throne and Rama to be exiled to the forest for fourteen years. She made Dasharatha recall to his mind that she had at one time saved his life on a battlefield and he had rewarded her with two boons. The helpless Dasharatha fulfilled his two promises in that Bharata was declared to be the next King and Rama prepared himself to go in exile (Pts. 9 & 10). Sita and Lakshmana followed Rama to the forest voluntarily. And Bharata refused to usurp his elder brother's right to the crown and secured at Chitrakoot his sandals to be symbolically placed on the throne. Dasharatha could not bear separation from his progeny and died (Pts. 11-17). Uptil now the story approximates to the first two books, called the kaandas, i.e., Baala-kaanda and Ayodhya-kaanda, out of the total seven books (kaandas) of Valmiki's Ramayana.
Alongwith Sita, his devoted wife, and Lakshmana, his exemplary brother, Rama went down south in the forest where his campaigns against the demons and demonesses met with a great success. The demoness Shurpanakha made amorous overtures to Rama and Lakshmana and the latter cut off her nose and ears. She rushed to her brothers Khara and Dushana for help. The demons challenged the two divine brothers and were killed. Shurpanakha took the grievous complaint to her third brother, Ravana, the demon-King of Lanka. He assumed a disguise and abducted Sita and took her to his kingdom (Pts. 17-25, approximating to the third book, Aranya-kaanda of Valmiki's Ramayana).
In search of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana reached Kishkindha, the city state, known as Mysore, in its surroundings in the present-day South India. Rama sought the help of the monkey chief Sugriva, who showed him the ornaments thrown away by Sita when she was being forcibly taken away by Ravana in his Pushpaka vimaana, an open aerial car, to Lanka. Rama killed Sugriva's brother Vali and restored Sugriva's to power (Pts. 26-28, Kishkindha-kaanda ofValmiki's Ramayana). Hanumana, Sugriva's minister and Rama's devotee, flew over a part of the sea between India and Lanka and located Sita in the Ashoka-vaatikaa in the glittering Lanka. Through him, Rama came to know the whereabouts of his beloved wife (Pts. 29-30, Sundar-kaanda of Valmiki's Ramayana).
The last portion of Pt. 30 and the whole of Pt.31 of the Rama Kathaa present Valmiki's Yudha-kaanda and Uttara-kaanda. As Rama and .Lakshmana took the monkey hordes for the fateful operation Ashoka-vaatikaa, there on the seashore, a rare engineering feat made it possible to bridge the strait between the mainland and Lanka. Vibhishana righteously made a last time bid and renewed his plea to his brother Ravana to restore Sita to her husband and avert the war. Ravana insulted him and Vibhishana joined Rama in his great campaign. Because of unreasonableness on the part of Ravana, a fierce war in which many a variety of fire-arm was used broke out. Finally, the good emerged triumphant over the evil and Sita was freed. After having killed Ravana and his hordes, Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana returned by the Pushpaka-vimaana to Ayodhya. There he was crowned, formally also.
As things would have it, the Loka naayaka (Leader of the masses) Rama paid heed to the gossip about the chastity of Sita who had remained in Ravana's custody, and abandoned her. Sage Valmiki gave the shelter to the discarded queen in her pregnant state. Later, he brought up her twin sons as great warriors. On the occasion of the yajna of a horse-sacrifice by Rama, the King-emperor, Rama, invited Sita to bear her chastity's proof. Sita, who had by that time experienced many a vicissitude of life, prayed to Mother Earth to hide her in her womb. Mother Earth appeared and took her darling child away from the madding crowd. Rama acknowledged as his own the young princes Lava and Kusha. The worthy sons of the worthy father, they consoled him for the rest of his life.
The Rama Kathaa's Pt. 32 serves as an epilogue in which the poet records his belief that the reading of the story of Rama affords the reader peace and harmony and frees him from the bondage of flesh, liberates him from the five corrupters of mind, i.e., kaama (desire), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment) and ahamkaara (conceit).
Not having the story-line deviations, the 32 parts of Rama Kathaa more or less rest upon the various kaandas of the original Sanskrit. Abounding in alliterations and similies, the Rama Kathaa vividly brings out various situations in the life-story of Rama.
When Ravana offers Sita the tempting comforts of his palace, she instantly refuses them and asks him to go away from her, for she wouldn't like even for a moment to remain in his shadow. If he persists in his evil designs, she tells him, he won't escape the wrath of a sati... She emphatically says to him: Nope, these comforts are no comforts at all/the flowers around me here look like thorns, O knave!/I long for my husband, his life-giving breath;/with him I would rather live in a cave.
Popati Hiranandani's Autobiography Munhinjee Hayaatee-a jaa Sonaa Ropaa Varq (1981)
When the book appeared in 1981, it electrified the Sind hi literary world, for no other book understood the Sindhi people of the partitioned India, their sorrows and pleasures, their feelings and aspirations more than it did. Translated into English, the title of the autobiography means “Golden and Silvery Leaves of My Life” and present the author in the dialectic of her golden and silvery, bright and grey, pleasurable and sad times.
Popati Hiranandani was born in 1924 in Hyderabad of Sindh (now in Pakistan). The second eldest among seven children, she was barely ten when she lost her father. How her mother, with a brood of seven children, conducted herself in a man's world is a saga of courage and fortitude, as vividly revealed in the book. Being the first girl-child in the family, hers was a special responsibility. Even her father on his death-bed had exhorted her to take sincere and intelligent care of her brothers and sister. True to the Indian conditions in which the oldest girl-child in the family has to bear major familial responsibility, Popati Hiranandani at her very young age acquitted herself well.
After the death of Popati's father, her mother never lost heart and withstood the odds of life. Popati's maternal uncle advised her mother to deposit all the savings bequeathed by her late husband with a local businessman and meet the household expenses from the interest on them. As ill-luck would have it, the businessman ran into bankruptcy. Thereafter, neither the businessman nor her own brother looked back to the poor widow in the surrounding, cruel world.
At the age of 14, Popati Hiranandani passed her Matriculation examination and took up a music teacher's job in a school. She taught music in the morning hours and studied for her degree course in St. Mira College in the evening hours. Sadhu T. L. Vaswani had established St. Mira College in Hyderabad (Sindh) and got it affiliated with the Banaras Hindu University with the help of his friend Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya. Sadhu Vaswani's was the first serious effort in the field of women's education in Sindh. He launched many St. Mira Schools for girls too.
In her autobiography, Popati recalls with a sense of pride that Prof. K.N. Vaswani, who rose to be one of the senior editors of the Collected Works of Gandhiji (a Government of India project), taught English in the college, and she learnt Sanskrit at the feet of Prof. Naraindas Batheje, who later translated Kalidasa's Abhijnaana Shaakuntalam into Sindhi.
At 23, Popati Hiranandani visited her would be husband, whose parents had demanded Rs. 15,000, quite a big sum in those days, as dowry, and said to him, exuding her quiet independence: 'Look, I haven't come here to pick up a row with you. I would only like to impress upon you that I am against buying a husband for me. I am educated and perhaps earn more than what you do. In that case, why shouldn't your parents give a dowry to us?' The would-be husband was stunned and he dropped the very idea of marrying her.
Coming to know of what Popati had done, her mother cried in helplessness. She said to her, 'You can't change to social customs. Can you? Now, what will the people say? You have violated the kula-maryaadaa (the dignity of the family and flouted the paramparaa (tradition).
Popati took her hand in hers, and said, 'Don't you cry, my dear mother! Please leave me alone in the matter. I just don't want to be insulted in the name of kula-maryaadaa and paramparaa...'
Having rejected the suitor, she chose to remain single all her life and was quite happy in her individualism, wedded to social concerns, ever after. A crusading woman, she has sensitively etched out the Indian woman's life in her autobiography.
It is in the description of traumatic times before and after Partition of the country on narrow religious basis, in 1947, that she is at her best. While reconstructing the times, she vividly describes how the various communities in Sindh lived in harmony and concord before 1939, the year in which the idea of a separate land for Muslims took shape and form in some Sindhi political quarters. Thereafter, whenever the communal frenzy was whipped up among the Sindhi people, the Hindu-Muslim riots broke out. She records that in those days the Hindu parents would ask their daughters to keep poison ready and commit suicide by swallowing it, in case they fell victims to the riotous Muslim fanatics. Her brother Hashu, who had scores of Muslim friends in and outside his Senior School, ultimately came to wield a lathi, a stick, with heart-piercing nails mounted on it, in order to save the honour of the family.
On a fateful night in the wake of Partition of the country, the Hindu women and children of Hyderabad (Sindh) were safely dispatched across the newly-drawn international border, to Jodhpur, where they anxiously waited for their men folk to join them.
Popati Hiranandani's family, after having stints in a few Indian cities, finally came to settle down in Bombay, where she took up a schoolteacher's job in 1948. In the 1960s she became a lecturer in Sindhi. It was also the year she joined Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli ain Sahit Sabha, a voluntary organisation devoted to the cause of development of Sindhi language and literature. Year after year, the Sabha has been holding conferences in the cities where the Sindhis reside in large numbers and Popati Hiranandani has been contributing her mite to them. Concurrently, she has also been writing. The author of seven collections of short stories, four novels, two collections of poetry and more than two dozen works of miscellaneous nature, she is a prolific writer in Sindhi.
In 1978, she fell victim to a killer disease and since then she has been operated upon many a time. Her autobiography includes a poem, in which she describes her plight, thus,
They gave me injection after injection
as if my body were a pin-cushion
and administered tablet after tablet
the length of packs, 10 tablets each,
surpassing that of
the Hardwar-purohit's of the village-bania's long, flowing
As in the repair of old furniture
they cut a piece of wood here
and join it there
they did it with my limbs.
But every time she returned from the hospital, she resumed her work with the usual gusto.
Her autobiography charmingly reveals the three dimensions of her life and work: she has been tirelessly fighting for woman's rights, dearly upholding the cause of the development of Sindhi language and literature in the changed conditions for the Sindhis in Independent India and stoically bearing with her physical illness.
(From Masterpieces of Indian Literature, Vo1.2, New Delhi; 1997.)