Volume - 6 : Issue - 3

Published : Jul. - Sep. 2007

Group : We The Sindhis

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By Dr. Motilal Jotwani

Sixty Years of Indian Independence

The years 1857, 1907, 1947 and 2007 are ominous in Indian history. The great uprising in 1857, the consequent repression thereafter through Independence, the charges of spreading disaffection for the British rule on national leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the subsequent stringent laws for sedition, as he (Tilak) was sentenced to transportation to Mandalaya in Burma for six years under the said sedition laws on July 22, 1907, the partition of India into Bharat and Pakistan in 1947, and the celebrations of sixty years of Independence in 2007.

It would be distressing to know as to what had happened with Indians during the period between 1857 and 1947. Calling Indians and others in British colonies “a white man's burden “, the British officers, much less cultured but much more institutionalized in political systems, would interfere with cultural mores of the peoples and deny them their basic freedoms, not politically correct measures abroad, though they were known for their sound political systems at home. For example, Rand, assistant collector and later collector of Satara and Pune, behaved in a stupid way. Way back in early 1897, plague broke out there, and men, women and children were made to march off to a segregated camp under a heavy escort like prisoners of war. On April 12, 1897 some newspapers reported that searching of the person was offensive, yet it was done in the extreme. One of them said, “The men were completely stripped in the presence of others and made to wait in the nude state for some time while women were asked to undo their cholis and hoist up their saris.”

But Rand made an exception in the case of Muslim women in purdah… And Tilak took up this case, condemning the Government of the day on one hand and the Indian people for their shameful inactivity on the other.

As regards 2007, we celebrated sixty years of our Independence in that our democratic institutions, our media, our human rights groups, our N.G.O.s, and above all our general elections thrived well over the years, a Babri Masjid episode in 1992 or a Gujarat savagery in 2002 notwithstanding. We have stood the various tests of time.

As we gave the example of Rand, who differentiated between the Hindu and Muslim women in 1897, all Britishers believed in the 'divide and rule' policy. But we have strengthened our age-old values and principles since Independence. It is amazing that Sonia Gandhi, a Christian, made way for a Sikh to become Prime Minister and he was sworn in by President Abdul Kalam, a Muslim, in May 2004. It caught the world's attention that it happened in a country with 81% Hindus. Really, we have made worth-emulating experiments in co-existence.

In 2007, we commemorated 150 years of the first war of Independence and celebrated 60 years of Independence. At the time of going to press (August 15, 2007), we share with our readers the findings of a survey conducted by AC Nielson that “an overwhelming majority of Indians (89%) are proud of their country and are happy with the progress in the last 60 years in areas like business, science and technology”.

A Hindu Scholar became the Toast of the Muslim World

It is always good to remember our elders, particularly when the person is Dr. Harumal Isardas Sadarangani (b. 22-10-1913, Shahdadpur, Sindh; d. 7-12-1992, New Delhi). He took the non de plume of 'Khadim'. And he was a Hindu, who became the toast of the Muslim world.

Department of Persian, University of Delhi, Delhi, in collaboration with Sindhi Academy, Delhi organized a one-day Seminar on him and his contribution to Sindhi and Persian literature on April 26, 2007. The Chief Guest at the function was Hon'ble Sri Morteza Shafie Shakib, Cultural Counselor, I.R. Iran House, New Delhi. While Sindhi literature was represented by Dr M.K. Jetley and Dr. Motilal Jotwani, the Persian literature was done so by Prof. S.A.H. Abidi and Prof. S.H. Qasemi. The concerned Department of Delhi University issued the invitation cards, and called therein Dr. H. I. Sadarangani as Professor H.I. Sadaranangani. The mere look at the invitation cards raised many an interesting questions. I shall therefore deal with mundane questions about Dr. Sadarangani's life in the first part of this section and dwell on his mind and art in the second one.

No Sindhi has been enjoying the rank of 'Professor' in the University of Delhi. Sindhi is a unit of Department of Modern Indian Languages and it has not been having any Professor. As is well-known, Dr Motilal Jotwani became the first-ever Senior Lecturer/ Reader in Sindhi at Delhi University and elsewhere in India. And a few years ago, Dr Baldev Matlani had the distinction of being the first-ever Professor of Sindhi at the University of Mumbai. We know, Sri Ram Amarlal Panjwani raised this question of Lecturer/ Reader/ Professor more than once in his weekly column in Hindvasi of Mumbai. Him as well as all the readers of Hindvaasi and Sindhishaan we may address that even Dr. H.I. Sadarangani did not enjoy the position of 'Professor' in India. Neither Ram Prataprai Panjwani (who was endearingly called 'Professor'; a different personage from Ram Amarlal Panjwani), nor was Dr. Arjun 'Shad' technically called so. Yes, Dr Sadarangani was Professor Sadarangani in the Department of Persian, University of Tehran, Iran, for his abiding work in Persian. And Dr. Jotwani was Professor Jotwani in the Department of Sindhi, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Sindh, for he was the expert on the selection of Professor and Associate Professor in the Department of Sindhi of afore-said University, though he himself was Reader in Sindhi at University of Delhi.

In this connection, it may be of interest to the readers to know about two more facts: First, Sri K.R. Malkani, M.P., and Vice-Chairman of Sindhi Academy, Delhi had called this writer 'Achaarya' (Professor) in his presidential address and also in the preface to the book 'Sindhi and Hindi: Aadaan-Pradaan' on the great Janmashtami Day, 1995, in the same vein as Sri Rabindranath Thakur had called Sri Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 'Mahatma' (Great Soul). Secondly, the Sindhi Advisory Committee was constituted for the first time by the Government of India in August, 1975. It was reconstituted in December, 1979. It came to be broad-based in 1981-82, when Dr. Sadarangani took over as its Vice-Chairman. In March, 1985, a new Sindhi Advisory Committee was in place with the Education Minister K.C. Pant as its Chairman and Dr. Motilal Jotwani as its Vice-Chairman. Interestingly, Dr. Jotwani succeeded Dr Sadarangani. (Source: Kendreeya Hindi Nideshaalaya, Itihaas Ke Darpan mein, New Delhi, 1986.). On May 1, 1987, I relinquished the said post, for several esteemed members of the Committee, including Sri Lakhmi Khilani, the late Sri Gobind Malhi and myself, felt that National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language had not been established on the previous Cheti Chand day, as per the Government promise made in 1986, a year earlier. The rest is history.

Now, let us deal with Dr. Sadarangani's oeuvre in Sindhi and Persian, particularly the former. As for the latter, suffice it to say that Dr. Sadarangani produced his magnum opus 'Persian Poets of Sindh' (1956), a learned piece of research on the subject. His publications in Sindhi include Rangeen Rubaa'iyoon (1959), Rooh D'ino Relo (1963), Pirah jee Baakh (1972), Cheekh (1977, a Sahitya Akademi award-winning book in 1978) and Khushboo jo Safar (1980) in poetry; and Kakh ain Kaanaa (1966) and Kanwar Paroon Pataar mein ((1984) in prose. Apart from the original work, he translated into Sindhi Babur Namo, Guru Gobind Singh, Vallathol and Umrao Jaan Adaa and edited Shah jo Choond S h'ir (1962) and Virhaange khaanpoi je Sindhi Sh'ir jee Choond (1987) for Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.

His main forte was rubaa'i (quatrain), in which he brought out at least three collections, viz., Rangeen Rubaa'iyoon (1959), Rooh D'no Relo (along with ghazals, 1963) and Khushboo jo Safar (1980). In the preface to the first book, he wrote an adequate introduction to the poetic form of rubaa'i, saying that it was written in 24 bahars (Islamic metres) –12 in bahar hazaj akhrab and 12 in bahar hazaj akhram—and also that the Arabs introduced the poetic forms of qasidaa, ghazal, masnawi, etc. and the Persians 'invented' radeef and rubaa'i in the 'Ilm 'Aruz (Science of Islamic Metres).

In Khushboo jo Safar, Dr. Sadarangani repeated the feat of writing rubaa'iyoon, and published 457 of them. Out of the whole lot—and it bears the signature of this mastercraftsman—we give below only two rubaa'is. In the first rubaa'i, he reflects upon the Sindhi people having been bestowed with b'uddhi (intelligence) and not with b'adhi (unity). He refers to a basket of lobsters, which does not need a cover on them in the basket, for the creatures in it take care of themselves --if any lobster tries to rise above the others, the others shall pull that lobster down. The story repeats itself in the case of Sindhi community today. In the other rubaa'i, he evinces his sense of humility, saying—It is his heart that knows the reality of his scholarship. If he does not know from where he arrived, to where he would go, how could anybody rate him as one of the most scholarly persons? In his immortal words, the rebaa'i says:

Hee-a jaatee khekhrani jee khaaree aahe,
Janhin khe kaaee ghurja dhakana jee naahe;
kanhin paase khaan hikiro chadhana jee kando,
chaugirdi b'yaa chhike, chhad'eendasi laahe.

Duniyaa je lekhe aahiyaan aalim maan,
para dili khe khukhe piyo ta maan chhaa aahiyaan;
hed'ee thee hayaatee, na pato paijee saghiyo,
maan keru ain chhaa aahiyaan, aayusi chho, kithan?

In Pirah jee Baakh (1972) and Cheekh (1977), he presented his new un-rhymed poetry. The latter won him a much-coveted Sahitya Akademi award in 1978. Known for his technical virtuosity in employing the 'Ilm 'Aruz, he chose to write aazaad nazmoon, pieces in blank verse, delineating his day-to-day experiences.

The Sindhi language across the Border

A valuable (?) book, containing papers presented at the 4-Day International Conference on Sindh—Past, Present and Future, jointly held by the Universities of Karachi and Jamshoro from April 29 to May 2, 2006, landed at my door step this year. Since the delegates from India could not obtain the Pakistani Visas, they did not participate in the Conference, thus curtailing the “internationalism” of the International Conference to a large extent. However, papers submitted for it by the Indian delegates were presented in absentia. Dr. Fahmida Hussain, the editor of the present book, includes 15 out of 24 (more than half) essays by the Indian scholars in it, but she gives inapt translations of some Indian-Sindhi words into Pakistani-Sindhi words On page 37, for example, 'prateek' (symbol) is erroneously meaning 'zid' (antonym). Hence the question mark '(?)' is inserted after 'valuable' in the first sentence here in order to honestly question its value.

It is a major linguistic problem across the Indo-Pak border, which we should address in the right earnest. The Indian-Sindhi words are not followed in Sindh and Pakistani-Sindhi words are getting more and more incomprehensible among the Sindhi-speaking people in India day by day. The Pakistani- Sindhi words, particularly nouns and adjectives among them, are becoming more and more Persianized and Arabicized. And likewise the Indian-Sindhi words are getting increasingly more Hindi-ized and Sanskritized. If we see historically, our Sindhi words are based on the Sanskrit ones, 80% of them. This 80% vocabulary includes both tatsam and tadbhav words, or the Sanskrit words used in the modern Indian languages in unaltered forms and slightly different forms respectively.

The state of the Sindhi language in India is even worse. We have been having Lari, Lasi, Thari, Kachhi and Siraiki as the dialects of the Vicholi Sindhi, which is the standard Sindhi. Besides these, we have at least three more dialects here. Today the Sindhi people in Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Hindi belt in India speak Gujarati-ized, Marathi-ized and Hindi-ized Sindhi respectively, with a sprinkle of Gujarati, Marathi and Hindi words in the Sindhi linguistic traditions. 'Vaando' of Gujarati, 'mast' of Marathi and 'sanskaar' of Hindi, for example, mean differently in Gujarati/Marathi/Hindi and Sindhi, and yet Sindhi has over the years come to adopt them.

As for the Sindhi grammar in India is concerned, suffice it to say that we make horrible mistakes. If we ask someone, “Shyaam ghara mein aahe?...Raadhaa ghara mein aahe?” Since Shyaam and Raadhaa are not at home, the reply would come in an ungrammatical Sindhi, “Shyaam ghara men kana (instead of kona, following the masculine gender) aahe…Raadhaa ghara mein kona (instead of kana, following the feminine gender) aahe.” And again, if we ask someone, “Chha Shyaam ain Raadhaa hina ghara mein na rahandaa aahini?” Since Shyaam and Raadhaa do not reside in this home, the reply would be, “Na, hina ghara mein ko Shyaam rahando konhe (while repeating ko in konhe, one ko is redundant) …Na, hina ghara mein kaa Raadhaa rahandee kaanhe (while repeating kaa in kaanhe, one kaa is redundant).” Alternatively, the reply could be, “Na, hina ghara mein ko Shyaam rahando naahe (instead of 'konhe')…Na, hina ghara mein kaa Raadhaa rahandee naahe (instead of 'kaanhe').”

Now, let us dwell on the pronominal suffixes, which we people in India (not only 'misuse', but also) abuse. Someone would say, “Maan Mumbai-a na vendumi.” On the one side he/she would use the pronoun 'Maan' and on the other he/she would also use the pronominal suffix 'mi', obliterating the need of 'Maan' in the sentence. The use of pronoun 'Maan' and pronominal suffix 'mi' in one sentence is, as it were, the use of two engines pulling the train on its track in two opposite directions, leading it to nowhere.

‘Bhartiya Bhaloo, Pakistani Kutte’

At that time—to be exact from 11.15 pm onwards, on July 15, 2007—I used the remote to navigate perhaps INDIA T.V. News and I was appalled to read the shouting headline 'Bharatiya Bhaloo, Pakistani Kutte', given above on the screen, and to watch a news clip of an Indian bear (bhaloo) being tortured by two Pakistani dogs (kutte), occupying the rest of the screen. To say the least, I was very much intrigued by the headline.

In the accompanying commentary on the video clip of fight between defending bear and offending dogs, it was said that the huge crowds gathered to enjoy the show. The people were cordoned off in variously- priced- ticket-holders' enclosures. The teeth of the bear were knocked out and claws were chopped off. It was an unequal deadly fight, indeed! The dogs would eat into the body parts of the bear, the latter shrieking in unbearable pain.

I was reminded of a kalandar, who made a furry and lovable bear dance in our neighbourhood. Not long ago, I witnessed the brutal practice of the dancing bear. The children enjoyed it. At the end of the show, I asked the kalandar as to how he could tame the bear and make him dance on the streets. He would not divulge the secret of his calling, but for a consideration. He said, his family was big and looked towards him for sustenance. “Paapee pet ka sawaal hai,” (it is a question of the sinful tummy), he used the cliché, and further said, “In fact, bears do not dance, and they are not trained to dance. The merciless poachers kill mother-bears and kidnap their cubs. They break the bear-cubs' teeth and chop off their claws. The cubs scream in pain….”

He continued, “And they insert a red-hot iron-needle into their delicate muzzles, through which ropes are passed. The poachers keep their wounds raw, often bleeding in infection. When ropes are pulled up, the bears find it unbearably difficult and stand up on their hind legs. People see it as dance.”

I thought, there could be some NGOs taking care of the kalandars, and providing them with alternative means of livelihood like carpet-weaving and tailoring. To my great satisfaction, I learnt through an article published in the Times of India recently, that one Sri Kartick Satyanarayan rescued many a bear—about 392 bears since 1995—and rehabilitated many kalandars, their children being supported in education and health-care.

What was the most repulsive in that News Report of July 15 was that the bears were smuggled from India into Pakistan and shows were convened in Sindh and elsewhere. That they were held in Sindh—a province known for tasawwuf or Sufism—made me hang my head in shame. I thought of Dr. H.I. Sadarangani's essay “Kukurani jee Verhi” (The Fight of Cocks) in Kakh ain Kaanaa (1966). He also had witnessed, of course with a sense of guilt, the deadly fight between two cocks. We know, people enjoyed these fights in the medieval times all over the world, as it was one of the sources of their entertainment. In the modern enlightened times, things should definitely change.