Volume - 1 : Issue - 3

Published : April - June 2002

Group : Culture


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Treasuring the riches, Seeking to preserve the culture and language

By Sunder Iyer

Looking forward to the hour when
The proposed Sindhi Bhasha
Bhavan would stand tall within
Mumbai University and be regarded
As the savior of the community’s
Struggle for cultural survival.


Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan, as the name suggests, is a proposed structure towards preserving, protecting and promoting the riches of the ancient Sindhi culture and Sindhi language. The Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan is to be build within the Vidyanagari campus of the prestigious Mumbai University. Incidently, University of Mumbai has the dictinction of being the only University in the country, which has a Sindhi department imparting education at post graduate level while also conducting research activities for students keen to pursue their doctorate thesis. The Mumbai University’s Department of Sindhi was established in the year 1974 and has been functioning efficiently and smoothly ever since. Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan, when completed would fill the vacuum of a research centre for providing Sindhis a comprehensive insight into the glory of their community, from a cultural, historical and literary perspective. But unfortunately, though the hour of crisis has been looming large, this historic project still lies on the drawing board even eight years after its initial conceptualization, due to lack of necessary funds.

It’s a little difficult to digest the very thought, that a community that has invested millions to set up the best educational and medical institutions in the country, has been unable to garner the requisite funds for something that would enable them to preserve and promote their cultural riches. Indeed a sorry tale, that despite initial assurance by the community at large, this historical centre has not yet taken concrete shape. With the purpose of looking into the reasons for the project remaining in the pipeline for such a long time, and with the primary aim of reviving and rekindling the interest in the members of the community towards this monumental project, the Sindhishaan team met up with a few people who have been at the forefront of this grand project to help it see the light of day.

Dr. Baldev Matlani, Reader and former Head of the Sindhi Department, University of Mumbai, and one of the active forces who envisaged the historic centre, recalls, “Subsequent to my taking over the reigns as the H.O.D. of the Sindhi department in early 1994, the University in collaboration with the Sahyog Foundation organized a seminar on the 18th of May 1994, titled ‘Growth of Sindhi Language.’ This seminar attracted the who’s who of the Sindhi literary fraternity and it was at this conglomeration the fear over the perishing of the Sindhi language with the passage of time was expressed by many a litterateur.” Shri Ram Jawhrani, President of the Sahyog Foundation adds, “Dr. S. D. Karnik, the then Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University while inaugurating the seminar, expressed hope that the Sindhi language would not die and announced the allotment of a large plot of land measuring approximately 2 acres within the campus for the purpose of constructing an independent building which would enable the preservation and promotion of Sindhi culture, Sindhi tradition and Sindhi boli. It was decided at this seminar that this proposed building would be called the Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan.” The gathering at the seminar was enthralled at the Vice-Chancellor’s remarks while the community at large expressed gratitude and a sense of optimism.

As per Dr. Karnik suggestions, it was decided to have the proposed Sindhi language centre managed by the Department of Sindhi, while an Advisory Committee comprising of leading members of the community was instituted to take care of all responsibilities towards the building of the proposed Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan. Renowned members, such as, Dr. L. H. Hiranandani, Bar. Ashok Advani, Nanik Rupani, Gobind Malhi, Govind Daryanani, Ram Buxani, Chander Manghnani, Ram Jawhrani were included in this Advisory Committee, while respected educationist and former MLA of Ulhasnagar, Sanmukhdas Israni was chosen as its Chairman. Dr. Baldev Matlani, representative of the Sindhi Department was awarded the responsibility of being the secretary of this committee.

Community philanthropists were urged to contributed wholeheartedly to help raise the necesssry funds for the building of this historic structure. Shri Chander Manghnani, renowned community cheerleader, states, “As per our initial discussions, it was thought that an estimated amount of Rs. 50 lacs would be incurred to construct the centre. But even prior to the very first meeting on 18th June 1994, assurances for Rs. 36 lacs had been made to the Vice-Chancellor by many leading members of the community while Rs. 9 lacs had already been collected through contributions from eminent Sindhi personalities and organisations.” Within six months of the idea being proposed, nearly Rs. 38 lacs had been collected, while many promises for further donations from the overseas Sindhi community were received. Ram Jawhrani adds, “These developments prompted the members to envisage a language centre, which would offer larger facilities to the community. Soon it was decided to enhance the proposed Bhasha Bhavan into a 4-crore project.”

Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan also roped in ace architect of international repute, Hafeez Contractor to design the layouts for the majestic structure. It was primarily due to the untiring efforts of senior community members, Dr. L. H. Hiranandani and Govind Daryanani along with Niranjan Hiranandani that a man of Hafeez’s repute, agreed to work on this project without charging a single penny. After many discussions and sittings, the efforts of Govind Daryanani, Dr. Hiranandani, Nanik Rupani, Dr. Baldev Matlani, bore fruit with the final completion of the layout plan for the grandiose structure, certainly one of its kind in the city and for the community.

The Bhasha Bhavan, when completed would certainly emerge as one of its kind in the community. The envisaged structure promises a lot of hope for the revival of the Sindhi language, especially with the kind of infrastructure planned. A research library that would have an unmatched collection of Sindhi books from both sides of the border, a museum on Sindhi folk culture, and anthropology models and slides, musical instruments, paintings depicting customs, traditional dress, living habits etc, of Sindh, Art galleries depicting glimpses of the history of Sindh from the ancient pre-Vedic period to post-partition days, film and photographic section, sound archives department, a micrographic department along with a department for the preservation, repair, binding and conservation of books and literature. The Bhasha Bhavan would also have a conference hall of international standards for seminars and symposiums while one of its highlights would be a top-class auditorium, which would not only hold regular Sindhi programmes but also provide a stage for Sindhi talent.

The Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan will be established for the purposed of promoting Sindhi language, literature and culture by maintaining a research library to cater to the needs of research scholars working only any aspect of Sindhi language and also for publishing books in order to enter a wider arena of historical, cultural and anthropological research.

But unfortunately, this enterprising endeavour had to face many hurdles enroute. Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan received its first setback with the passing away of the Advisory Committee Chairman, Sanmukh Israni in 1995. Around the same time, the initiative lost the guidance of Dr. S. D. Karnik when he retired from service. It took sometime for the Advisory Committee to get back on its feet and garner pace. Sanmukh Israni had not only been a symbol of inspiration and strength to the project, but had also been the very force behind every conscious Sindhi striving to help the project take shape. Subsequently in the year 1996, Bar. Ashok Advani was requested to take over the reins and head the Advisory Committee as its chairman. It was under the able leadership of Ashok Advani that work for the Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan went ahead in full throttle once again. Leading philanthropists and Sindhi organisations were approached for funds. Bar. Ashok Advani also brought together the four major Sindhi educational managements in the city, namely Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board, Sindh Educationists Association, Vivekanand Education Society and Sadhubela Education Society and emphasized upon them the importance of the Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan.

The subsequent chopping and changing of the Advisory Committee by the University authorities too did not help the progress of the historic centre. And sadly for the community, the expected contributions never came by and work on the project is currently at a standstill. The funds have dried up since the Rs. 39 lacs that were received as donations in the very first year, and the Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan kitty now shows a figure of Rs. 80 lacs, which is due to the interest accumulated on the deposits. On the word of the Vice Chancellor, it was decided by the Advisory Committee that the project would not be started until one-fourth of the funds required were under the belt.

But, in the same breath due to the passing away of all those years since the idea was first mooted, and with nothing much happening, expectations to generate funds for the balance amount kept getting a little too over-optimistic. Hence, it the year 2000 Ashok Advani approached the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Snehalata Deshmukh and set the ball rolling for the laying of the auspicious foundation stone, that fresh appeals would be made to the members of the community for more donations. It was also decided to start the work in phases, and donations be collected from there on.

Thus on 14th April 2000, the foundation stone laying ceremony was conducted at the University campus at the hands of Dada Jashan Vaswani, spiritual figure for the Sindhi community. The event was well attended by many leading personalities of the community, and after fresh appeals for further donations from this platform, it was envisaged that the project would sail through. But alas, the project still looms in the dark, with no clue as to from where the remaining money would be generated. A matter of great shame as much of surprise indeed, for a community that has always set an apt precedent when it came to pulling out wallets and donating to a just cause.