A SINDHI IS A SINDHI
The sigh of relief at the dawn of Independence was unfortunately accompanied by the cry of anguish at the Partition of the Nation. The Sindhi community that lived in harmony since time immemorial was made a victim on the altar of religion and faith. The Sindhis in India toiled and struggled for survival and the Sindhis in Pakistan suffered a mighty blow on the cultural and literary front.
Over the years the courage and spirit of the Sindhis in India helped them attain a certain level of economic stability. Likewise the Sindhis in Sindh not only brought their culture and literature back on track but managed to scale new heights
Shri. Ram Jawhrani, Chairman of Sahyog Foundation grabbed the opportunity of interviewing Mr. Mohammed Ali Qazi , Managing Director of the first ever Sindhi Satellite Channel “KTN” , & Editor of Sindhi Daily “Kavesh”, during his recent visit to Mumbai to attend the International Seminar on Media and Sindhi Language organized by the Department of Sindhi, University of Mumbai. This interview was telecast by Doordarshan Mumbai on its “Sahyadri” channel.
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVEIW
Translated from the recording in Sindhi by Ranjit Butani
On the launch of “Kavesh” and its objectives
Journalism is my family profession. My father was earlier involved with politics and the print media. It was my ambition to launch a Sindhi daily and through my initiatives I succeeded in launching the first Sindhi eveninger in 1989. Shortly thereafter in 1990 on 3rd August the daily “Kavesh” was launched.
Unlike India, newsprint is imported by Pakistan and hence quite expensive. The objective was to bring out a product that was not only for the elite class but affordable to the common man. And we have been successful in doing exactly that. Even the issues covered are those which affect, relate, and are of interest to the common man. I am proud to state that within 3 months of it's launch “Kavesh” became the largest circulating Sindhi daily in Pakistan.
Bringing about innovations
“Kavesh” led the trend of publishing low priced, but standard dailies, not only in Sindhi but amongst all languages in Pakistan. Assimilating modern printing technology we were the first in Pakistan to introduce colour on the front page. We adopted a pro-people stance on all relevant issues , even those that were controversial in nature and considered taboo by the society. We were the first to introduce investigative journalism in our daily.
Above all we focused with equal priority on issues of interest and relevance to the vast populace living in the interiors, the rural towns and villages and carried them on the front page. The intent was not to concentrate only on issues pertaining to the urban areas which provided the maximum sale but to maintain a parity of priorities. All these were innovative trends started by us.
On the need to graduate from Print to the Electronic Media
As you can appreciate one cannot reach the illiterate masses through the print media and the means to communicate to them is through the electronic media. It was my cherished dream to launch a Sindhi Channel but due to constraints like a restricted market etc. I had to wait till I could create the proper niche and address the appropriate segment of viewers which I finally succeeded in doing and launched “KTN” on 1st October 2002.
Progress and the extent of success of KTN
We began with 4 hours of daily transmission from 6 pm to 10 pm. as we were restricted by the lack of availability of skilled manpower like writers, producers, directors, actors etc. necessary for the development of suitable and adequate software. However the response of the viewers was overwhelming, truly amazing - unimaginable. It was like the fulfillment of long cherished dreams; as if pent up desires had found release. It was as if the viewing masses wanted KTN to succeed and felt dutybound to view the entire 4 hour transmission.
I can, without any hesitation say that although I launched KTN, it is the viewers who have sustained it and made it a success. From 4 to 6 to 8 to 12 and finally to 24 hours transmission from 1st October 2003 , i.e. exactly 1 year after its launch has been the success story of KTN. Today KTN is rated as the #1 channel in Sindh with the #2 way behind.
About KTN's programme content and it's viewership
It is by and large an Infotainment channel in Sindhi. We transmit news, drama and musical programs, conduct talk shows and interviews- the complete gamut.
Besides the wide and extensive response from the elders, the involvement of youth is unbelievable. About 3 to 4 years back if one happened to attend a Sindhi wedding or any other occasion of festivity or celebration you observed the youth dancing to Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and western pop music. Today you get to see that Sindhi music is gaining dominance. As a result of witnessing this enthusiasm amongst the youth, we launched the second 24 hour Sindhi satellite channel “Kashish”- a music channel, almost 6 month ago.
We have gone one step ahead - moving out of the studios we have held musical concerts and cultural shows in small towns and villages and the response has been truly amazing. With limited options for entertainment or social events available in the rural areas these shows draw crowds in lakhs and assume the form of massive congregations. After all music runs in our blood.
On the possibility of the youth watching only KASHISH and not KTN which attempts to keep the Sindhi tradition and culture alive
In the current times we have to offer options to viewers and cannot dictate or thrust programmes of our choice on them. Besides, there is a healthy mix of traditional and folk with modern music which also goes towards creating awareness about Sindhi culture among the youth. And why not have even Sindhi pop? After all one has to move with the times.
Besides it is wrong to presume that the youth is only interested in music. They are equally interested in news, both national and international and watch other programmes like dramas which are entertaining and thought provoking in equal measure. Although the lifestyles presented in the dramas are modern and contemporary, to enable the youth to relate to them, the concept and values are traditionally Sindhi. One has to be pragmatic. You will appreciate that even the Sindh of today is not the same as what it was 50 years ago. One has to evolve with the times. We no longer commute in bullock carts as our forefathers did, do we? However we do ensure that our programmes convey our cultural values clothed in drama and music and carry the right message to the youth.
General reaction to the Channel's propagation of love and brotherhood between Hindu-Muslim Sindhis
It is highly appreciated. A SINDHI IS A SINDHI. Belief in different religions, speaking in different dialects or adopting diverse lifestyles cannot undermine this basic fact. And we have steadfastly maintained this belief which is reflected in our content dramas, telefilms etc.
We don't address a Sindhi who has been residing in the United States for several decades as an American Sindhi or a Sindhi American - he's a Sindhi, period! He may not don the traditional Sindhi “topi” or “ajrak” but nevertheless he is definitely a Sindhi. As a matter of fact in our offices and interaction with Sindhis in the course of work the thought never crosses anybody's mind and is really a non-issue. Religion is a personal matter and that's all there is to it. As you are aware our community has been greatly influenced by Sufism which propagates love and brotherhood of man.
Views on holding a joint cultural and musical events featuring Sindhi artists from India and Pakistan
As a consequence of this visit I am absolutely convinced that it is time to host a number of such events to bring talent from both countries on one stage for the benefit of members of the community and I assure you that I will endeavor to make this a reality at the earliest opportune moment.
The responsibility for the crumbling edifice of traditional Sindhi culture and values lies with the literati, the ordinary man or circumstances?
To my mind with none. THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE. If at all any responsibility is to be attributed then it has to be to the changing times. Can we forbid or prevent the youth of today from wearing jeans by holding this to be against our tradition and culture? That we encourage rather than restrain education in the English language for our children is a fact that cannot be denied.
Change is a universal phenomenon. Even when you consider developed and wealthy nations worldwide you will observe a definite change in their lifestyles, behaviour, concepts and even the language, over a period of time. For instance do you have any playwright or writer today using Shakespearen English? Offcourse not. But that doesn't imply that the standard of English language has deteriorated in any way.
If today you come across a young and educated girl refusing to toe the line of her parents and elders of tying the knot with a much older illiterate man would you term it as a breakdown of values because in earlier times the girl never had the option of having a say and blindly obeyed the dictat of the family seniors? Today we must look at such a situation with a different perspective and if she was in no way disrespectful to her seniors while expressing herself, then to my mind, there has been no breakdown of our traditional values. As such I see nothing wrong with change as long as it is progressive, without compromising our basic values.
On the extent of awareness of the common man in Pakistan
In contrast to the earlier days media enjoys a considerable level of freedom today, both print and electronic. Besides Urdu the national language, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi, and Sindhi are the 4 dominant languages in Pakistan. KTN was the first to launch a satellite channel in Sindhi amongst the 4 languages I mentioned. Soon others followed suit and this led to a high level of awareness among the common man throughout Pakistan
The people were aware of the need for a National Channel which led to the tremendous response by the Sindhi community to the launch of KTN. And the extent of awareness has only increased with the strides made in the education sphere and with the advent of electronic media whereby the common man is kept abreast with not only National news but well informed about developments worldwide and international affairs via the various programmes transmitted