By Arun Babani
Search for Deeper Roots
(I happened to come across the following passage in a book I was reading. It seems relevant to the Sindhi community, which has become accustomed to thinking of itself as rootless. Read on . . . . . . . . )
Until recently an ideal human was like a tree, with roots set firmly in a specific birthplace. Living on the same land as one's ancestors won respect and prestige. But there is another way of finding one's roots, one's place in the general history of mankind. It is no longer enough to have roots of the sort with which we have contented ourselves so far. Merely to know who one's ancestors were, and what they were proud of can no longer suffice for people who think of themselves as different from their parents, having different desires, who hold unique opinions of their own and who feel uncomfortable with tradition. People who want to be free need to dig over a much wider area of human history in order to understand their personal emotions and ambitions. Looking at one's most obvious physical roots does not automatically equip one to choose one's friends, one's life partner, or one's life work. Nor does it help in coping with one's fears, anger, loneliness and other inadequacies. These obvious roots and memories do not have a direct relevance to one's present preoccupations, nor do they help in shaping our future.
Now the modern search is for 'where to go next?' Now the stones of past history need to be used to construct roads which lead to where one wants to go. That means giving up the illusion that humans can be understood simply as members of their families, nations or civilizations. In order to understand our present concerns we need to follow deeper roots extending further back than the history of one's family. One can find them by searching across continents through all centuries. The French romantic love emerged from the middle-east, (the Persian-Arabian cultures), the European language originated in India, and more and more westerners are discovering a common bond in African music!
One may feel isolated and rootless in one's town, but one sure has ancestors all over the world!
(excerpted from, 'An Intimate History of Humanity' by Theodore Zeldin.)
The other day I went to see Mr. A. K. Hangal. He's over 90, has a back condition and stays alone. His one room tenantment was stacked with awards and trophies kept all around his bed. Recently my father, Mr. Kirat Babani shifted his residence. He too has 'collected' dozens of awards of all sizes and shapes. The question is what becomes of these momentos when their moment is over? Can there be a place like a museum or a library where such stuff can be donated? But then why would anybody want to hold on to such trophies not their own? A dead man's clothes or even slippers are useful after him, but who would be interested in wearing a medal not his own?
So what can possibly be done with such material after its recipient passes away? This problem must be faced by every household having an artist amidst them. For in stance, Mr. Bachchan must've collected hundreds of awards but will Abhishek Bachchan want to decorate his own house with them? So think about it, in the long run, your slippers and suits are more valuable than your certificates and citations!
Priorities of Generation Next....
Mr. Rahul Gandhi is on the look out for committed young Indians to help him solve India's massive problems. The Times of India is looking for dedicated youth to teach rural Indians the ways of culture. Sindhi elders have been calling Sindhi youth to join the struggle to save Sindhi language and culture. Are they succeeding? Have the youth taken their ears off 'Radio Mirchi' to listen to these urgent calls? I doubt.
The youth all over the world, in India in particular, has got their priorities well worked out right from school level. Money, power, prestige, the three carrots of greed is all they want from themselves. And they are willing to bend for that. Most of them head westwards for that dwindling dollar, many queue up at the IIMs, with dreams of one day wearing the security badge of a CEO, still many line up for the Bollywood's casting couch hoping to be next superstars and the rest hang around celebrities with their poodles, with tattoos on their bottoms.
Commitment? Dedication? Towards what or whom? I, Me, Myself is the new commitment! From being 'cool' to 'chilled out' they appear to be frozen like a rock of ice! So all you guys inviting the Indian youth to show some honesty, some purpose, some selflessness, you are on to a wrong line . . . . . . !!
So far humanity has had to contend itself with only one eye. Justice and Judiciary was said to be blind. It concerned itself with the cold facts. Politics, the eternal one-eyed system concerned itself unabashedly with the 'Majority', to the exclusion of vast populations. Economics, too went on one-eyed pursuing wealth and riches, trampling upon nature and humanity. Religion, the mother of all one-eyed systems, kept everything and everybody who did not share their 'truth' at an arm's length. The one eyed humanity has a sad record of being selfish, brutal and insane.
But now, very slowly, all that rot of civilization is giving way to a fresher and saner vision for the future. A two-eyed approach is in the process of being born. Now it has become increasingly possible and necessary to pay attention to what is happening in every corner of the globe. Today we are becoming aware of the existence of other civilizations. This has brought in the shift away from narrow national squabbles to broad humanitarian and environmental concerns. There is a new urge to escape ancient obsessions, to keep in view all the multi-dimensions of reality and to focus simultaneously on the personal, the local and the universal. In short a two-eyed vision.
This all–important shift brings the focus on the person and his feelings. The personal touch is increasingly the touchstone of most of the public as well as private human enterprise. Only with both eyes open is it possible to see that humans have always needed : not just food and shelter, not just health and education but also a life that is not soul-destroying and relationships that are truly human.
We need economics which are about persons, politics, a judiciary, a religion that is two-eyed, encompassing personal as well as universal, both the material and the spiritual together with a balance of personal salvation with a compassion for others. A complete sight makes for a complete life!
Gods need People
This month (August) Sindhis are celebrating the 90th birthday of their only Godman Sadhu Jashan Vaswani. His message is typical of all holymen and saints who've walked the earth : Be good, do good, God is great etc. etc. Sindhis essentially are God fearing, docile people, forever joining hands, forever bowing to touch the feet of countless Gods, Avtars, deities. But the bottom-line for them is : Wealth and more Wealth. Which is also typical of most of the business communities down the ages. Truth? O.K. But show me the money. In this respect they are 'practical' and therefore 'secure'. They would listen to 'Pravachans', they will display a great deal of 'Shraddha', they will touch the feet of all the gurus in the holy business, but in the end it is their 'Dukaan' that gives them their validity, their identity and their stupidity!
Godmen are as old as civilization. They have been doing their bit from the beginning but they have not been of any help. On the other hand, politics, which is also the baby of religion, has been a complete disaster as far as solving problems is concerned. Revelations and Revolutions together have not been able to lift man from the muck he's always been in. Yet both these branches of human endeavour have continued side by side, doing each other's work, hand in glove, and humans have not been much affected by them. Like the Sindhis, societies have generally been busy trying to attain security.
Sceince, the third angel of the triad of human knowledge has helped a lot but hindered a lot too. But at least it has been useful to men, solving his headaches, making life bearable and comfortable, even though the much elusive security has not been delivered so far.
Sadhu Vaswani, it is said, oozes with the energy of love for all. Well, he's doing what the Sadhus down the ages have been doing, without results. And Sindhis have been revering him. They too are doing what the faithfull down the ages have been doing, using Godmen for personal salvation.
People need Gods to survive but the reverse is equally true : Gods too need people to survive!
SindhiShaan wishes Dada Vaswani a graceful 90th Birthday!
Fear of Solitude
Our great Sindhi community, since the ancient to the modern times, has been an absolutely sociable one. It is hard to spot a loner among the Sindhis. They live amongst family and relatives and friends and club members and clients and colleagues and children and inlaws and grandchildren and great grand relatives and . . . . . . . and . . . . Yes the Sindhis take utmost care never to be left alone, perhaps they feel a terror of loneliness.
The world, in its infant beginnings lived thus : surrounded by family, tribe and clan, so that the older folk never knew what loneliness was. Then suddenly quite recently, in the late 20th century, togetherness crumbled. Now not only is an epidemic of loneliness sweeping the world, hand in hand with prosperity, but the more successful you are, the more likely you are to suffer from it and money cannot buy you out.
Osho says that more a person is intelligent and individualistic the more bored, alienated and lonely he / she could be feeling. But the reward is also there : A loner usually 'knows what he's doing.' Osho made a clear distinction between loneliness and aloneness. A person is alone by choice but is lonely by force of circumstances. Alone is positive, lonely is a lack. A Chinese proverb says, 'only one who is clear about men and spirits is able to conduct himself alone.'
Being always in the crowd of relationships, following the norm, being told what to do, following traditions has often been a limiting experience. In such a setting people close their eyes to their own originality, being always guided by established models. Being often alone, thinking and experiencing one's own world, with one's own light has produced rich results. 'Solitude' which Hindus called Ekant seems to lead to the flowering of the soul.
To the Sindhi Community, being a prosperous one, social life comes on top of the priority ladder. Any occasion calls for a bottle and bash. That way they seem to keep the demons of self contemplation away. And the price they pay is the loss of creativity and originality. A close look at the Sindhi Cultural Scene today will make you see what is meant!
Become Man's Woe !
The battle between the sexes is centuries old. Women's rights, women's liberation and women's groups have done their job : Today women have become successful in looking, working and becoming like men. They wear the pants, keep short boy's hair, smoke and drink and use foul language. But in the process she looks confused about her role : Discarding traditional role of a domesticated cow, not content at being a 'woman' as understood so far, she has not succeeded in becoming a man either. I don't think women realize that they don't have to imitate men in order to break free from the stranglehold. Woman, as I understand, in order to get her dignity, has to search for a complete feminity, become an ultimate woman. Just as man is manly, woman has to become 'womanly' an adage most so called modern women abhor. And so they look poor caricatures of men forever trying but failing. In the process they've turned hostile, stressful and anxious. Carrying a lie requires tremendous energy.
More importantly, the 'modern' woman, with all her paraphernalia of power, has not been able to win respect which is a great loss; today a woman can buy a thousand things but is considered 'easy'. Tradition respected values and valued respect. Modernity with its greed and ambition values success and power. The difference is like a difference between queen lioness and a street cat, between a grand ballet and an Item number!
In fact the whole social fabric has turned phoney. Packaging is more important than what is inside the packet. We are perhaps living in the trivialest of all times ever in the history of mankind. All values have been made to stand on their heads, while all that matters today is how many heads can you turn! Art has turned bankrupt and buying is the new age therapy for the bored.
Alas, the human brain, believed to be the most advanced product of evolutionary process seems to have lost its shine. Standing on one's head for too long is known to have destructive effect on the brain!
Money = Happiness???
Sindhis historically have been money making magic machines. Their nursery rhyme, 'Paiso ladhum patta taan' tells us, step by clever step, how our Sindhi can transform that penny, found on the street, into a magnificent horse given to him by the King! Or take another famous Sindhi lyric, 'Aandhi mein jyot jagain wara Sindhi' that speaks of a Sindhi's knack of turning dust into gold!
Yes, money has been a constant preoccupation with the community, almost bordering on obsession. And it is not because, as some seem to see, the result of partition and displacement. Sindhis infact have been on the go right from the beginning, centuries ago, before economic migration even became known as a general trend. It has rather been in their genes as well as in their culture.
It is now an official fact that money equals happiness. A U.S. research conducted across Europe, U.S.A. and U.K. confirmed that money is felt by humans as a ticket to happiness, not withstanding the gurus who proclaim otherwise. Losing one's job is considered a worse calamity than losing one's partner. Whenever money has joined hands with mind or intelligence it surely has been a magical power. Money plus mind creates a tremendous force of energy, for money is energy, so is intelligence and both together have worked wonders, moved mountains.
With intelligence comes the recognition of limitations and with recognition of limitation comes contentment. Says Lao Tzu, 'When a man says enough is enough, he really has enough.' Usually the case is just the opposite. The wealthy never seem to be able to have enough, to stop or to feel content.
Finally one often wonders how can one enjoy the riches amidst the ocean of poverty and misery surrounding us? Buddha stands at the gates of heaven saying, 'After each and every human being has entered, will I enter the gate.' To care for one's family and to shut the door to what lies outside is like looking at the field but not noticing the horizon. The fact that today's consumerism looks the other way is perhaps the basis of all the bombs being hurled at humanity which has forgotten to care, to share and to hear.
So, is the Sindhi Community intelligent, contented and sensitive to reality around them? Or to put it bluntly does a Sindhi have a mind or only money? It will be better if every Sindhi answers this question for oneself.
There is some good news on the world horizon : People in Britain and America are talking about a New Man, a more acceptable model of the male than had previously trampled across the planet. This new man is some of the following : He believes in absolute equality of the sexes; he's respectful, sensitive and caring; domestically he could cook a decent meal; he is house trained and not averse to washing dishes and clothes. Infact he is almost on the verge of being a cool, gay guy except he prefers women as lovers.
This seems like a perfect wishfull thinking on the part of women but there sure seems to be a shift in thinking on the part of men all around the globe. For instance, the idea that a wife can be physically beaten is out. Another idea that it is the men who earn and the women who 'keep the home' is almost dead. A third idea that men like to see revealing clothes only on other women is old fashioned. Another idea that man plays with the baby and then lets the wife do all the cleaning of ejected baby fluids is also dead.
What would this new man in an Indian Avatar be like? He'd still perhaps be corrupt but take on equal cooking duties; he'd still be crazy about cricket on T.V. but would happily change nappies; he'd still want sons but be happy at the birth of a daughter; he'd still look down upon all other communities save his own, but he would no longer look down upon the other main community, the community of women!
This looks like an inspiring piece of information. Will the first generation of the New Sindhi Male please stand up. . . . . . ?
A man's sense of identity is grounded in his sense of belonging. Any act of displacement, forcible or voluntary, from his world of childhood, language and history leads to a profound feeling of loss. It is this terror of loss that writer Mohan Kalpana is writing about, when standing inside a public urinal without having the need to urinate he shouts, “I hate you History. I will kill you. History should be destroyed.”
Describing himself Late Shri Mohan Kalpana, writes in his autobiography, “Bhukha, Ishq Ain Adab”, (Hunger, Love and Literature) which was dedicated to, “ the one who appears in my daily dreams, sometimes hazy, sometimes sharp, my beloved Sindh”, writes, “I have picked the pen in darkness to search for light.”
Mohan Kalpana is an outstanding name that shines on the Sindhi Literary horizon. The he was a rebel is an acknowledged fact. He lived and died holding steadfast the values of humanism. He believed that the most important value in the world is to protect the pure and innocent feelings of man. Whole of his literature is replete with rebellion to save human values from corruption. All his work is filled with this insatiable thirst for light filling the entire universe.
Because of such total commitment to light and truth, Kalpana lived an impoverished and restless life. He is an immortal soul of Sindhi Literature. I wonder if today there is anyone capable of standing in his shoes. . . . . . the shoes of an eternal seeker of light and truth.