LAST TWO DECADES
by - Dr. Baldev B. Matlani
The history of Sindhi literature is testimony to the fact that it existed even during eleventh century A.D. It was so highly developed in those days that we find superior Sindhi poetry created at that time. Sindhi prose however came into existence much later. As Sindhi language didn't have a specific alphabet till the advent of Britishers into Sindh, Sindhi prose was limited to folk stories and tales etc. In 1853, the initiative taken by the British Government of Sindh resulted in adoption of Persio-Arabic alphabet for Sindhi comprising 52 letters. This led to a cascading effect of the creation of Sindhi novels, short stories, plays, essays and also some translations from English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Persian languages etc. To put it simply, Sindhi prose got a huge fillip with this step.
With the Partition of India resulting in Sindh becoming part of the newly created Pakistan, Sindhi Hindus were forced to abandon their ancestral homes and seek refuge in various parts of India, literally empty handed. With survival the prime need, who could have thought about literature in those days? Even the finest of Sindhi writers had to first think about making ends meet at that time. The times were such that even the brightest brains could have lost mental balance. But Sindhi writers didn't lose heart and prepared themselves for the creation of new literature alongside earning their livelihood and many new educational institutions were established to provide necessary impetus for education to the Sindhi masses.
It has been six decades since the Partition of India and the re-organization of Indian states on the basis of language has left Sindhi people high and dry. They became a minority in each and every state of India, as they didn't get a piece of land for their own state. The sense of linguistic minority compelled Sindhis of many states, such as U.P., M.P., Bengal and the whole of South India to merge with the local populace, with the result that they lost their very identity. When Sindhi voices are not heard in those states, how can one expect them to dabble in the creation of literature?
Then too, the littérateurs who had migrated from Sindh to India tried their best to create poetry, short stories, novels, essays and plays during the initial three decades after Partition. Later on, the argument of Sindhi being of no utilitarian value, of no help in business or profession, doesn't help in increasing employment opportunities as English dominates in that area, provided Sindhi elders of those days with an excuse to shun education of the language in Sindhi institutions and converse with their wards in Hindi or English. This resulted in the closing down of Sindhi medium schools and colleges, slowly but surely. Even the best of Sindhi writers at that time were not immune from this malady; rather they retarded it by not creating any new literature. They have just been repeating themselves since then.
We can't deny the fact that before partition, Sindhi Hindus were in the forefront of every activity in Sindh, be it business, professional, politics, bureaucracy or even literature. But, when these very people, the Hindu writers from Sindh came to India, they couldn't maintain their standard of literature here in India. We had Khialdas Begwani 'Fani', the teacher of legendary poet Shaikh Ayaz, but he himself failed to create a Shaikh Ayaz in India. No short story writer of the calibre of Jamal Abro, Agha Salim and Amar Jaleel or essay writer of the class of Mohd. Ibrahim Joyo could be found amongst Sindhis of post-partition India.
If we go through the literary creations in Sindhi language during the last two decades, the result in poetry has been a dismal one. Whatever good poets remained around three decades back had either quit creating fresh poetry or, are indulging in presenting their already written poems in various Mushairas and even in their books. Some of them have been writing modern poetry, but the same is not of such a superior quality to induce pride in the readers.
As far as Sindhi prose is concerned, lot of material has been published. Mr. Chatru Nagpal has given us quite a good collection of satirical short stories and one among those, titled 'Sat Sindhi Mari Vaya' among the collection 'Kandan Jo Murabo', published in 1998, is a hard hitting one. The writer laments the unjust killing of seven Sindhi Hindus at Bhopal against the reaction of demolition of Babri Mosque on Dec 6, 1992. When the writer contacts various sections of the Sindhi society, one thing is common among their reactions, that they are callous, unconcerned and oblivious to the killings of innocent Sindhis. When he contacts a Mukhi, the later is just concerned with the holding of after-death rituals without shedding a tear or two on those brutal killings. When he meets a Marxist Sindhi writer and seeks his reactions, the latter's interest revolves around the city of Bhopal, which had accorded him a nice welcome at a Sammelan held there long time back. When the writer tries to bring his attention to those killings, the latter says that Sindhis should not declare themselves Hindus, as it brings them into confrontation with the Muslims, to which the protagonist emphasizes that had we Sindhis not been Hindus, we would not have been thrown out of our ancestral homes in Sindh. Whatever we may call ourselves, we remain Hindus. The net outcome of this short story is that most of the Sindhis have turned into insensitive people, who are just concerned with their personal problems and care nothing even if their community fellows are murdered un-necessarily.
Gobind Malhi is considered a Sindhi Novel Samrat here in India. His novels had brought glory to Sindhi literature. He had given us 'Bhabhi' in 1993, which revolves around a joint family. The writer emphasized on elders to transfer power in favour of younger generation without getting into ego problems, which was the need of the hour. Another aspect of the novel is, that when Bhabhi asks the protagonist regarding his opinion about partition of the family, he just replies: “Had they asked me about the partition of the country, I would have refused outrightly; how could I concede family's partition?”
We find many critical essays, but we had seen some so called critics, who call themselves numero uno in the field of criticism, whereas the actual position is that their critical notes smack of their personal bias against one or another. Though, some writers do come out with very good and positive essays. A book in question is titled 'Adabi Surhan' written by Dr. Dayal Asha, which was published in 2007. One of its essay, titled 'Anjan Bhee Aheen, Sabh Na Vaya Sansar Moon', in which its writer though lamenting about the poor record of people's memory regarding favours received, is not disheartened and says that there are some people who still remember others with gratitude. The essay points out to few such instances. Once, Dr. Dayal Asha had been to Jabalpur to attend some literary meet. He knew about one, Mr. Sunderdas Bathija, who also originally hailed from his own native city of Khairpur in Sindh. Sunderdas had been a contractor in Sindh and used to borrow money from Dayal Asha's father. When Dayal Asha met Sunderdas at Jabalpur, the latter's eyesight had turned very weak. Seth Sunderdas handed over a lump of currency notes into Dayal Asha's hands, saying he owed it to his father. When Asha declined to accept, the former insisted on doing so and requested him that he may give it to his mother. One other instance is related to a girl student, named Shobha Jawaharsingh Hira, whom Dr. Dayal Asha through Janata Janardan Parishad had helped financially, while she studied for her medical degree. Later on, the girl became a doctor and shifted to United States. She had come back to pay her respects at Swami Shanti Prakash Asharam and met Dr. Dayal Asha at his Janata Janardan Parishad office. She handed over a bundle of currency bills to Dr. Dayal Asha, so that the later may continue with the help of needy students in their formative days. The writer has concluded that the world is not bereft of such people who remember the good deeds of others and try to reciprocate, when they themselves become capable of doing so.
As far as research articles are concerned, Dr. Murlidhar Jetley, Hiro Thakur and some other writers have contributed a lot. Though, generally a declining trend is seen in most of the vernacular languages, the case of Sindhi language is very depressing one; then too we writers should not lose heart, continue with our literary works and God willing, one day the scene of Sindhi literature in India would change for better, as we are witnessing a new found interest in our younger generation towards their mother tongue.
[Paper presented at a Multi-Lingual Seminar organized by Sahitya Akademi at Mumbai, in April 2009.]