Intiating A Renaissance
By Sunder Iyer
November 20th 1911 is a red-letter day in the history of Sindhis because on this memorable day, a child by the immortal name of ‘Ram’ was born into the Zamindar family of Diwan Partabrai Panjwani in Larkana. By giving birth to Professor Ram Panjwani, the land of Sindh blessed itself with an exalted personage who sacrificed his youth the cause of the literature, culture and society of Sindhi people. He pursued hard, night and day behind his motive of preserving the heritage and spiritual life of Sindhis in a time of darkness and despair. His presence was as majestic as the Himalayas and as sustaining as the Sindhu.
Sindh has given birth to many singers and saints who, by principle and practice, guided the community into a fruitful and pious living. Many poets and singers have shared their joys and sorrows with the masses; many orators have kept the audience spellbound; however Prof. Ram Panjwani has been something more – blessed with remarkable talents in the field of poetry, singing and writing, he was an epitome in himself. He was an orator beyond comparison, well versed in Persian, Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi, besides his native Sindhi. Prof. Panjwani was a scholar among scholars. Rarely has nature bestowed so many of her gifts on one person. No wonder people often say that providence had been indulgent to him. He labored with the dedication of a reformer and worked with the devotion of an educationist. Prof. Panjwani was not an individual but an institution in himself.
Apart from being a great writer, Prof. Panjwani’s uniqueness lies in the fact that he was a great singer and a man of a generous heart. With his serene voice, he has charmed many a generations and with his noble heart he has helped a great many displaced and poor persons. He won appreciation and applause of the entire community for his innate qualities of the head and heart. He enjoys a unique place in the hearts of all Sindhis across the globe, and this is due to the tireless efforts he undertook while making it possible for all members of the community to rediscover their cultural identity. Ram Panjwani’s name has become a household name in all Sindhi families. He is respected and loved for the sincere purpose he pursued in life while his amiable nature reflects the essential goodness of the heart.
Many Sindhi describe him as the ‘Rose in the garden of India.’ His versatile writings have left an indelible mark on Sindhi literature. He wrote a number of poems, plays, short stories, novels, and essays – in fact there in no stream of literature, which has not gained from his illustrious performance as an author. It was in recognition of this, fact that, he was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964 for his work in Anokha Azmooda. Recognising Prof. Panjwani’s individual greatness in the field of Sindhi literature and language and his countless services to his brethren and country, the Government of India bestowed him the coveted honour of ‘PADAMSHREE’ in the year 1981, the only Sindhi poet and author to have won this distinction.
Ever since he arrive in India after the partition, he tried to weld the Sindhi community into an integrated whole and to graft it on the parent body of India. This was the dream that upheld him through his early struggles. As a result of his untiring efforts the Sindhi language was listed into the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. He was instrumental in paving the way for the preservation and progress of Sindhi literature and culture. He ceaselessly and tirelessly propagated all that is best in Sindhi Sufi thought and the Indian philosophy of unity in diversity and of universal brotherhood.
Prof. Panjwani had the unique gift of attracting the young and old alike; and he was at ease everywhere; always his own inimitable self, whether with the mighty or the susceptible. He could charm an audience and hold it spellbound for hours with his enchanting melodies and witty anecdotes spiced with couplets from Sindhi, Urdu and Persian poetry. In his writings, he always lashed out at the evils that infect society. He was a true devotee of culture and during his lifetime set up a centre for the maintenance, preservation, and promotion of folk culture and art of all the regions in India. He established the cultural centre ‘Sita Sindhu Bhavan.’ This was the dream that upheld him through his early days of struggle. This cultural centre now stands as a monument to the old adage – the dreams of today and the realities of tomorrow.
It has been said that some are born great; others achieve greatness while greatness is thrust on even others. But this dictum is not applicable to Prof. Panjwani. In the words of H. K. Sajnani, “He was not born great; he was born to simple unsophisticated parents. He has done nothing to achieve greatness. All that he has done is to be himself, to live in conformity with the inner urge within him. And greatness has not been thrust on him. It has come to him, stealthily, unobtrusively like twilight illuminating and strengthening the dawn of another day. Prof. Panjwani is great because he was himself; simple, austere, dedicated to the services of his community and of people in general, a bringer of hope to the hopeless, courage to those who cower in the darkness of their misery and succour to those whom society has ignored. The entire community owes a great deal to this man.
He was many things to many people, writer, poet, teacher, dramatist, musician and linguist but to himself he was only one thing. A man, albeit a man who has loved in life and lived in love. Early in his life he learnt the art of living and loving. He understood that a full life no matter how short its duration is after all the essence of completeness. Thankfully, Professor Ram Panjwani imparted this art to three of his following generations. That is how tradition lives. Passing it on.
Ram Buxani : What were your early influences, the elements and urges that moulded your character and impelled you towards the educational, the philosophical and the religious in life?
Ram Panjwani : It was a combination of many factors. There was my own inner urge fed perhaps by the mystique of Sindh, its saints and its Sufis. There was the influence of my father whom I revered very much. And that of my teachers as I made my way up the stratas of learning. My Guru, Bewas was a great influence, the one perhaps that honed the feeling edge.
(The above piece is an extract from an interview by Shri Ram Buxani with Prof. Ram Panjwani)