INTERVIEW WITH RAM LALCHANDANI
by Ram Jawhrani
R. Jawhrani : Let’s begin by telling us about your childhood and early education.
R.Lalchandani: I was born on 28th June 1948, in Ajmer, Rajasthan. I completed my education there with a first class in Masters degree in Arts from the University of Rajasthan. Those were difficult days of extreme poverty. I feel all those who came from Sindh during that time must have gone through the same circumstances. Our prime focus was on fulfilling the three basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. There was a good environment at our home. Initially my father used to earn quite well from his confectionary business. But then there came times when we faced very harsh days where we didn’t get even two square meals a day. But somehow I was fortunate and I completed my M.A. Had I been born a little earlier then I would have been born in Sindh. You can say that I was sown in Sindh but harvested in India. After partition we faced very difficult times. We worked very hard and did all sorts of jobs.
R. Jawhrani : After completing your education what did you do?
R.Lalchandani: After completing my education I came to Bombay in 1970. I did a few art jobs which were well appreciated. I designed the boards of K J Khilnani High School and Sadhu Vaswani High School in Chembur.
R. Jawhrani : From where did you get the inspiration to get into the arts field?
R.Lalchandani: I have done my Masters degree in Fine Arts. Since my childhood days I was very good at drawing and painting. During the free time in school, the teachers used to call me and ask me to paint for them. During childhood I had visited my maternal grandparents in Watva. When my father used to write to me, he used to draw a parrot on one side of the postcard, as I liked the parrots very much. Maybe that drawing of the parrot did some magic and then I started drawing that parrot. Thereafter I started drawing sketches of various Gods like Hanuman, Krishna etc. which were very much appreciated.
R. Jawhrani : Basically you drew sketches just like Bala Saheb Thackrey.
R.Lalchandani: It always happens like this in drawing and fine arts, you first begin with sketches, first with lines and then . . . .
R. Jawhrani : How much has this art been helpful to you in life?
R.Lalchandani: You can say that art made up my whole life. In the beginning I did face difficulties but gradually I started getting good jobs in the art field.
R. Jawhrani : But lately it seems you have forgotten art and turned more towards commercial activities.
R.Lalchandani: No, its not so. But everyone does need a livelihood.
R. Jawhrani : Was it that you didn’t get enough money in those days for you art? And it wasn’t very encouraging?
R.Lalchandani: That’s true. In those days we didn’t get the amount of money artists get nowadays. Nowadays even Sindhis have good knowledge about art. I won’t say there’s a complete awakening, but at least 70%. In those days I used to give my paintings to one exhibitor who used to sell them for ` 800/- but was not ready to give me just ` 80/-. Well I had to bear it and suffered a lot.
R. Jawhrani : What are you other hobbies besides art?
R.Lalchandani: My first and last interest is art. As everyone likes cricket so do I. I even like films based on real life themes, I don’t like just simply singing and dancing in the films.
R. Jawhrani : You father-in-law is associated with literature. Weren’t you interested in literature?
R.Lalchandani: I was and am interested in literature even today. It is because of literature that I came into contact with my in-laws and they appreciated me because of the fact that I was an artist.
R. Jawhrani : Nowadays do you write anything?
R.Lalchandani: Yes, sometimes I do write.
R. Jawhrani : On what topics?
R.Lalchandani: I mostly like to write on realistic subjects associated with truth.
R. Jawhrani : What do you write? You write stories, poems, songs, couplets etc?
R.Lalchandani: I have written about real incidents in life. I have not written stories or couplets but sometimes I have written songs - just a line or two. I have written a few incidents from my own life, which have been liked by the people. I have written for the Sindhi newspaper – Hindvasi.
R. Jawhrani : Any books?
R.Lalchandani: No. I haven’t written any books. But I have designed titles and cover pages of many books specially in Sindhi. The cover of ‘Sipoon’ magazine, all the 75 issues have been designed by me. You will see that none of those titles are similar. Each has been designed differently.
R. Jawhrani : What about literature? Weren’t you influenced by your in-laws?
R.Lalchandani: Well, I can say that I am influenced but very little. When my wife married me, she was just a matriculate. After marriage I encouraged her and she completed her M.A. with first class in painting. After that she also did M.A. in Sindhi again scoring a first class. Now she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Sindhi.
R. Jawhrani : Is she facing any difficulties?
R.Lalchandani: Well the difficulty is that today, times and circumstances have changed. If I say so, may be it will not be liked by everyone but it is a fact. I feel even you must be facing the same difficulties. At some places those who are not deserving are getting all the laurels and awards while those who are truly deserving are left behind. God knows why this has started happening in our Sindhi literary field.
R. Jawhrani : Well, this has been happening from ages. Is it that if a person is not a Ph.D. he won’t be remembered after he has passed away?
R.Lalchandani: No, I don’t mean to say that. Its not that Ph.D. is the last and the highest degree to be achieved. There is a lot more to be achieved besides that.
R. Jawhrani : When you took up printing of Sindhi newspapers ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Hindvasi’ how did it feel?
R.Lalchandani: I was very enthusiastic because even today I have great love and passion for Sindhyat. Many a times we have gone out of our way to complete the task.
R. Jawhrani : Do your children have the same feelings and love for Sindhyat as you have?
R.Lalchandani: They do have a little bit. They haven’t gone through the times we went through so maybe they are not so much attached with Sindhyat as we are. But inspite of that my daughter is a very good singer. She is also very good at reading and writing Sindhi. She is from an English medium school, but she joined Sindhi classes and stood first in Maharashtra and twice she has received ` 5,000/- as prize money. She has cleared what is equivalent to the B.A. degree in Sindhi.
R. Jawhrani : This means everyone in your family, including yourself, your wife, son and daughter all are very much passionate and have great love and respect for Sindhyat. According to you how many Sindhi books must have been published by now?
R.Lalchandani: I don’t know how many must have been published, but I do feel it must be in thousands. But regarding the covers, I feel there couldn’t be another Sindhi artist who must have designed as many cover pages of Sindhi books as I have done. Now whether you call it commercial or art its upto you.
R. Jawhrani : Tell us something about today’s Sindhi leadership.
R.Lalchandani: I feel today with the grace of God we have some very good Sindhi leaders, who can do a lot of good for our Sindhi community. They should take the initiative firmly and boldly. I don’t know why most of them after coming forward retrace their steps.
R. Jawhrani : This means they are not up to the mark according to you.
R.Lalchandani: They do retrace their steps. Here I would like to say that they have the capacity and the strength. If they want they can achieve a lot. Many years ago we formed a Sindhi organization consisting of Ashok Varyani, Padam Sharma, myself and some others. One day they stopped the telecast of Sindhi programmes on T.V. We all went and held a demonstration outside the T.V. broadcasting station. Soon they complied with our demands and restarted the telecast of Sindhi programmes. What I am trying to say that if we have the will we can do everything. Today our Sindhis possess everything – finance, status, power, education, positions but inspite of all this I wonder what is stopping them.
R. Jawhrani : Mostly all the Sindhi artists, writers, social workers meet you at sometime or the other because they have some kind of job to be done regarding the Sindhi script. What message would you like to give to the Sindhi community?
R.Lalchandani: I have observed one thing that whether they are old or young, they have a lot of passion for Sindhyat. I would like to say one thing over here specially to those who think that Sindhi will one day be wiped off that this is completely wrong. Sindhi will never die. Even if just one Sindhi speaking person remains, our Sindhi will be alive. All the people whom I have met, I feel all of them have great love and are very passionate about Sindhyat. They are very much concerned and are trying to do their best. But I don’t understand why we are not getting the desired results inspite of so many efforts. May be it is because we are not united. The Sindhi from Ulhasnagar doesn’t considers the Sindhi from Mumbai his friend, or the Sindhi from Nasik is not fully aware about the Sindhi activities in Mumbai. I had been to Haridwar. While talking to a Sindhi there, I realized that he had no knowledge about any Sindhi personalities or Sindhi activities in Bombay. This shows that we Sindhis are not in contact with each other. Maybe this has been done politically so that we should always remain divided. Or maybe because of our initial struggles after partition we are not able to keep in touch with each other. What I have noticed is that 99% of the Sindhis are very well off and if they want they can all unitedly do a tremendous job for the betterment of Sindhyat. Even our religious leaders and saints can play a very big role in this matter. Or there are leaders like yourself from whom we have much expectations. A few such leaders like you - if they join hands and do something then I am sure something good will definitely be done for our community. But nowadays there is this ego problem. Everyone is trying to put the other down instead of uniting with each other. I would not like to take names but now everyone knows about this shortcoming.
It is also sad that we forget and bury our leaders and do not accord them the due honour and respect they deserve. I had been to Gwalior once. There was a photo of Hemu Kalani hanging there. But most of the Sindhis didn’t know about him.. . . . . …. . Why the need to go so much back in history. Take the example of Ram Punjwani who united the entire Sindhi community with his slogan ‘Aayo Lal, Jhulelal’. I have been to Sindh. Even there most of the people don’t know about Jhulelal. Today if you ask any youngster about Ram Punjwani, he will say who was he. It must have been just 15 – 20 years since he passed away.
Something needs to be done and fast!!!