TARANDER BADAL – A Novel of Nostalgia
by - Dr. Ravi Prakash Tekchandani
(Sr. Lecturer in Sindhi Department of Modern Indian Languages & Literary Studies, University of Delhi.)
Literary writings in Sindhi during the previous decade represent different literary trends. Poetry has been composed in traditional forms of Ghazal, Rubai, Panjikira, etc. as well as in new forms like Haiku, Tanha, A-Kavita and Free – Verse. But it portrays generally realities of modern life and sufferings of the poor. Fictional writings portray mostly problems of urban society with special reference to Sindhis, concentrating more on nostalgic feelings of Sindh and sufferings of the Sindhi community in India after partition of the country in 1947.
Sindhi prose during the current decade contains predominant trend of literary criticism and research in the field of language, literature and linguistics. Besides, a good number of biographical and autobiographical writings have been brought out. Satirical writings in prose and poetry related to present political situation of the country are worth noting and interesting for the general reader. Trends of progressivism, romanticism, modernism and nostalgic memories of the native place Sindh are predominant in the prose writings of this period. Writings of Krishan Khatwani mainly represent romantic trend, and recollections of the past days spent in Sindh prior to independence and the present situation of the Sindhi Community in the Sub-continent. As a whole, Sindhi literature of this period has shown satisfactory progress in the quality as well as in quantity.
After these introductory remarks, I shall discuss here a novel “Tarander Badal” (Wandering Clouds) written by well known fiction writer Krishin Khatwani and published in 1998, from Gandhidham (Kutch). It deals mainly with the theme of Sindhis living in cities and an absence of rural Sindhi culture in the migrant Sindhis settled in different parts of India after independence.
The writer of this novel Krishin Khatwani was born on 7th November in 1927 in Tharushah of Sindh (Now in Pakistan) and after partition of India he migrated to India and settled in Indore District of Madhya Pradesh, where he breathed his last on 11th Oct. 2007. Khatwani was a distinguished novelist and short story writer, who had published six novels including his best known Yaadi Hika Pyaar Ji (1978). This novel received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1980. Besides, he had Nine Collections of short stories, one play, one collection of Autobiographical sketches and one travelogue. Lately, he had been writing poems which look like entries in his diary.
The story of Tarandar Badal (Wondering Clouds) is briefly presented here. The protagonist of the novel Hem is a sindhi youth who had taken part in the freedom struggle movement of 1942. After partition of the country his parents migrated to India. But Hem opted to remain in Sindh after partition and fight for the cause of oppressed sindhi people. He joined the “jiye Sindh movement” started by Gulam Murtaza Sayyad to liberate his Sindhu Desh from the domination of Non Sindhi's, (Muhazirs, Punjabis and Pathans) who had occupied prominent ranks in the Pakistan government. On account of taking active part in this movement Hem was arrested along with other activists. He remained in the jail for many years and guided his co-workers from the jail through his writings. The Pakistan government, in order to get rid of him suggested his friends that Hem would be released on a condition to leave the country forever. One of Hem's close friend, Siraj persuaded Hem to accept the condition put by the Pakistan government and fight for the cause of Sindhu Desh by staying outside Pakistan. Ultimately, Hem accepted his friend's offer and with the financial help of Siraj he migrated to Mumbai. While traveling by air he viewed his mother-land. The writer here beautifully narrates various emotional feelings of Hem, for instance, “This is the land which was his mother, where he spent his childhood and quiet a long time after that he had seen this land in different colour and different time. He had grown up by taking its produces. That land was in front of him clearly visible through the light of numerous stars. He was looking towards the land and the land was looking towards him, as if it was asking him, you are my child, you have grown on my lap, where are you going now my son? He thinks of jumping out from the aeroplane but by that time the aeroplane is already airborne. Tears come to his eyes and as the plane enters the clouds, Hem closes them.”
There was no one known to Hem at Mumbai. He stayed in a small hotel. Even after coming to Mumbai he went on remembering Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukker and other parts of Sindh. How was the life in Sindh? This feeling always dominated his mind. He began to write regarding the situation of Sindhi in daily newspaper. It had tremendous impact on the readers. The demand of his writings increased. Readers became fascinated with his writings. Through his writings he came in contact with a Marathi press reporter Sujata.
Sujata was extremely beautiful. She had lost her husband at a young age. Few days after the marriage her advocate husband died in a road accident. After that Sujata joined a daily newspaper. She was a progressive lady and stayed alone at Mumbai, very far from her own village. She also believed in human relationship, love and affection. She had learnt how to face different hurdles in the walks of life. It was for this reason she tried her best to encourage Hem to face the miseries of life bravely. On the other hand, Sujata was also fascinated by Hem due to his immense love for Sindh. She eagerly listened to Hem's nostalgic emotions regarding the village life where Hem was born, and various problems of Sindhis after the partition of country. She inspired Hem to write such experiences in local dailies.
One day Sujata asked Hem during lunch whether Muhazirs went to Sindh in the same manner as Sindhis came to India. Whether the conflict between Sindhis and Muhazirs there, would not affect Hindu Sindhis in India too?
Hem replied, that there is a substantial difference. Sindhis never migrated to India willingly they were forced to do so whereas Muslims from India went there willingly and that too to rule. They believed themselves to be builders of Pakistan and they were the owners. The arrogance of the founder and owner of Pakistan started reflecting in their behaviour. Their foremost aim today is to wipe-off culture and identity of Sindhis in Sindh. But Sindhis are struggling very hard to save their self-respect and culture. Sujata asked again, “What it has to do with Sindhis staying in India?” Hem replied, “If not directly, indirectly they are related. Irrespective of their residence, sindhis belong to Sindh.” Saying this he choked up and there were tears in his eyes.
Seeing this Sujata felt that it would be better to introduce Hem to local Sindhis so that he finds some emotional bondage. She told Hem that you should meet some Sindhis here and you would find how much of progress they have achieved here in every field. They are the major contributors in the development of Mumbai. She introduced Hem to her journalist friend Neelam Malkani. Her father Sanwaldas Malkani was a big builder and prominent figure of Sindhi Samaj. His house was like a big guest house where English language was used like the mother tongue. Sensing this colonial atmosphere the words pored out from his mouth, “Don't you ever feel that you are a Sindhi first?” “Perhaps not”, she said. “I cannot read and write Sindhi and am afraid to speak correctly. Even though my parents were born in Sindh, they too have become more Anglicised. They are running after glamour. They live in an illusionary world. But I feel that our mother tongue may unite the family more closely.”
One day Hem went to Neelam's house on invitation of her father. Her father was quite apologetic for not sparing much time for Hem. For all of a sudden it seemed; he had been invited to meet with a French Architect in a five star hotel. Even then he passed some time with Hem. He showed him around his palatial house, and finally took him to bar-room, where all types of costly foreign liquor was displayed. He told Hem, that he would serve him with the rich whisky costing around Rupees Ten Thousand per bottle. “Cheers”, he said with puffed cheeks and blinking eyes. Elated, he declared his love for Sindhi people. He showed him a photo album saying “Look! How many Sindhi writers I have awarded. Many V.I.P.'s are my friends and I am also very close to the Chief Minister. Look here, the Governor is presenting me a memento and the President of India is presenting me the awards of the best builder in this photograph” and so on and so on, he went on showing, without looking at Hem's dejected face. Thereafter he left the place for his big engagement, leaving Hem with Neelam.
Sujata introduced Hem to some more prominent Sindhis of the city. He saw another side of the picture. Vilayatrai was the owner of a big hospital. He was a man of high thinking and simple living; always ready to help poor and needy. Hem found in his house portraits of famous Sindhi Saints, poets etc. and also some typical Sindhi artifacts borrowed from Sindh. Sujata saw a portrait of a beautiful old woman adorned with bangles in her hands, bindi on her forehead, ear-rings and nose-rings and head covered with a beautifully embroidered dupatta. With gasping breaths she asked, who is this woman? Villayatrai replied that it was a photograph of his wife in whose name he had opened a girl's school in Sindh before partition. Where both Hindu and Muslim girls could get good education. He further said that he had come to know that the school is still there but the name is erased. He asked Hem with a choked voice, tell me son, “How is our Sindh today? What is the situation of our Hyderabad and Karachi? How are our beloved villagers, village and our brothers there?”
Hem took a long breath and said, “Dada, everything is totally changed now. Karachi is no more a beautiful city: only three or four hundred Sindhis reside there. In place of our sweet Sindhi you now hear only Urdu. We are outsider in our own country. All the government posts are filled with non Sindhis. Innocent Sindhis are sent to jail. Sindhis are engulfed with fear and anxiety.”
Villayatrai's eyes filled with tears and he said, “on leaving our birthplace if we have become wealthy on the one hand, we have become poorer culturally on the other. We have lost much more than we have gained. We have not left only our Sindh but we are deprived of our sacred river Sindhu, its sacred earth which covered our bodies in our childhood and made them dirty, the sky of Sindh on our heads with all its stars, moon and sun. We cannot preserve here our Sindhi customs and lifestyle. The riddle of our life is associated with our culture which is deeply rooted with our villages and motherland. Our culture and language is our self identity. Our country has its own flavour.”
The life of the city like Mumbai became too much to bear for Hem. Every moment he yearned for his village in Sindh. Seeing his mental sufferings Sujata arranged for him to go to a village in Kutch for a change. The atmosphere in Kutch villages gripped him with emotions and he exclaimed “Oh! This is the Sindhi village! Where he was esteemed and loved by the villagers. He enjoyed there Sindhi folk-songs. On hearing famous songs of Shah Abdul Latif he yearned even more for his village. One day he climbed a tree and started looking “Sindhwords”. His yearnings became more acute and he felt that he can breathe on the soil of Sindh only. His only need was the water and air of Sindh. He felt strongly that the soil of Sindh was calling him back. He wanted to go again to his village in Sindh, without it he was like a tree without roots.
Hem decided to go back to his village and be one with its soil, rather than live a life of a refugee in a big city like Mumbai, however prosperous it may be. And one day with the help of the villagers finally he crossed the border without valid and legal documents.
The Novel under discussion vividly and powerfully stresses the following points.
1. The writer portraying the life style of rich Sindhi families in Mumbai shows that the Sindhis in India after migration have progressed economically, but they have become the poorest people culturally. Under the western and urban influence of modern period they have absolutely forgotten their rich cultural heritage, which has a long history.
2. Sindhis in India mostly reside in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi, Banglore, Jaipur, Vadodara, hence, there is no atmosphere of Sindhi village or rural life in India. Of course, in actual life and in writings, we can have a glimpse of Sindhi rural life in border areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat adjacent to Sindh. Similarly, we can have some glimpses of Sindhi rural culture in rehabilitation camps such as Ulhas Nagar near Mumbai in Maharashtra, Pimpri near Pune, Devlali near Nasik, Sardar Nagar and Kuber Nagar near Ahmedabad, Biyawar and Kishangarh near Ajmer, Ram Nagar near Faizabad etc. In the present novel the writer has stressed this point by depicting the life of a border village in Kutch.
3. After the partition in 1947, the life in Sindh (Pakistan) also has undergone great change. The writer shows in his novel that the metropolitan cities of Sindh (such as Karachi and Hyderabad) have been greatly influenced by Urdu language and culture, but Sindhi rural life and culture have been preserved by Sindhis living in remote villages, which are generally not influenced by western and urban culture.
4. Considering the present situation of Sindhis in India who are mostly settled in cosmopolitan cities the Sindhi literature produced in India generally portrays their daily life and problems. The rural life of Sindh has emerged in the Sindhi literature only in the form of recollection of the past before independence. In such portrayal also the Sindhi writers mostly have tried to avoid the bitter relations of communal riots etc, which occurred at the time of partition. Hence, we mostly come across sweet relations between Hindus and Muslims before independence in Sindh.
In fact the Novelist Krishna Khatwani has expressed his attachment with Sindh, where he was born in a small village of Tharushah, through the hero of the Novel Hem. At the time of partition he was compelled to migrate to India due to critical situations of that time. But earnestly he desired to go back to his place of birth in the Sindh province where he had spent about 20 year of his early life. But, it was not possible for him due to various responsibilities of his domestic and business life. This earnest eagerness to settle in Sindh again has been portrayed by Khatwani in the novel through the character of Hem.
It may be mentioned here that in practical life Shri Khatwani had a chance to visit Sindh again after the lapse of about 42 years in 1989 when there was an international conference organized in Karachi by Sindhi Graduate Association. At that time he visited his birthplace in a village Tharushah and various other places in the Sindh province where he had spent his childhood. After returning from Sindh he portrayed his unfulfilled desires of resettlement in Sindh through the Novel, Tarandar Badal.
Hence, I consider this novel is a good specimen in Sindhi literature written during the last decade depicting nostalgia and love for Sindh.