CATHARSIS IN INDIAN SINDHI LITERATURE POST PARTITION
by - Dr. Baldev Matlani
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that agony flows through the arteries and veins of Sindhis in place of blood. The greatest blow of them all, the partition of India brought with it a series of tragedies.
Poor Sindhi Hindus faced inconceivable hardships. Popati Hiranandani’s biography “Muhinji Hayati a Ja Sona Ropa Warq” describes plight of Hindus of Hyderabad in 1948. Muslims raised slogans and demanded Hindu beauties of Hyderabad. The move proved a last straw in the dwindling confidence of innocent Hindus. Males dispatched their women folk along with bags full of food grains to Mirpurkhas enroute Rajasthan, India. There too a wicked Muslim Police Officer snatched grain bags from women. When they reached Jodhpur, they didn’t have anything to eat or wear. Some Rajasthani folks provided food for children but the older folk had to sleep with an empty stomach.
Gobind Malhi in his “Adab ain Adeeb” part III (Nirvas mein Aas), an autobiography tells us that he contemplated going back to Sindh, but Karachi riots of February 2, 1948 put a damper on his wishes. At the time Muslim refugees attacked Sindhi Hindus barbarously, but Sindhi Muslims by and large stood by the side of their Hindu brethren.
Irony of history brings human beings to unknown turns of the life and only people with courage face these challenges manly. Though born in a feudal family, Gobind Malhi had to start a bookshop in partnership with Ashok Kishorani, on a little cot put on by the side of Azad Maidan, Mumbai. For these moments of life, poets say that even one’s own shadow deserts oneself. People experience earth slipping below their feet, vision is blurred and the mind doesn’t believe on the happenings surrounding self.
Kirat Babani, in “Kujh Budhayum, Kujh Likayum” Part III, his autobiography, has also described vividly his personal experiences, when he reached Mumbai, two years after partition, on the advice of his friends. He had with him only his ticket, a bag and Rs. Seventeen and six annas. He landed in Mumbai on May 6, 1949. With lots of expectations he searched for Bihari Chhabria, his friend. But when he found him after much efforts, he was taken aback by the attitude of his friend, who did not even allow him to enter his home but redirected him to another common friend Mohan Punjabi. Such a situation could destabilize the mental balance of any normal man.
Government invited claims from Sindhis for property left in Sindh, and Narain Bharti, in his short story “Claim” describes it through a character Kako Joharmal, who files a claim for whole of Sindh, which he had abandoned following partition of India. Joharmal says : “You believe that I have forgotten Sindh and I am mistaken. No, Mujeri, no. Never think on these lines. Sindh lives in our arteries and veins. I am a Sindhi and Sindh is mine. I have got a right to claim whole of the Sindh. When Punjabis got part of Punjab, why Sindhis be denied equal treatment. We must get Sindh . . . .”
There are three powers of literature; first it is power of creation, then ecstasy and lastly criticism. It is but natural to feel elated to criticize and that is evident from our acts. We criticize the matter of different write-ups and study it with relevance to the period, in which the writer penned his creation. If we study the Sindhi literature written after partition, we see the hangover of pre-partition literature on it, which contains disbelief, tears and sometimes realizing the need of hour, working towards reconstruction. A new trend of progressive literature also emerged out of it, which continued to dominate for the long time to come. Around two decades after that, we find literature of romantic trend and one more decade after came the time of depiction of truth. Presently, we find a scarcity of quality literature in India. Whatever is written, doesn’t subscribe to any specific trend, every litterateur writes as per his own liking.
Independence couldn’t satisfy the long cherished dreams and people found the same orthodox and senseless bureaucracy at the helm of affairs. The sacrifice of many innocent people didn’t change the lives of common people. Public even felt nostalgic of the days of the British, who used to observe some norms of decency. Our own brown Sahibs even crossed those norms. Kirat Babani, in his short story “Salim and Kalim” had chosen a soul-stirring topic. Indian Sindhis’ problems revolved around bread, butter and shelter, but Pakistani Sindhis became second-class citizens even in their own land. Kalim trying to avenge the act of disrespect unto a Sindhi daughter misses his target. He is punished with lashes on his back. He is exiled to Czechoslovakia. A warrant of arrest is also issued against his brother Salim. Bothe brothers take refuge in Czechoslovakia and later on along with the Czech wife of Salim visit Mumbai. Tehre they could compare their condition with Indian Sindhis and describe the agony, in following words : “Yesterday you said that I am young, yes I am young, but they have snatched my youth from me. You have not seen my buttocks, where you will find pieces of skin scratched. Baba! Why did you abandon Sindh and left us alone? . . . .”
Mohan Kalpana’s short story “Ramdin” is a story with difference. Two friends live at Burns Road, Karachi and study at same school. One is attached to music and another, lover of Shah Latif. The execution of martyr Hemu Kalani leaves Ramdin, dumbfounded. He couldn’t even eat Ramdin helped Sindhi Hindus from the attacks of Muslim refugees in Karachi at the partition time. He even migrated to India along with Sindhi Hindus and justified his action by saying : “Yes, I am a Muslim, true Muslim. Islam speaks for truth, and the fact is that Sindhis are the real owners of Sindh, whom people term as Hindus and they are made to migrate from their ancestral lands. In protest, I shall also leave Sindh and live like a refugee in India . . . .”
When Ramdin reached Indian shores, he declared himself as Ram Deenchand Sindhani. Even Mohan’s insistence failed to persuade him for marriage lest someone accuse him of migrating for the love of a Hindu girl. When Ramdin breathed his last, it became a problem as to how to dispose off his corpse. Mohan speaks to himself : “People recognize him as a Hindu, but I know, he is a Muslim. There is no cemetery in Ulhasnagar. It’s in Kalyan. If he were not buried, it would be defrauding a friend, who abandons his own motherland seeing it turning into Muslim territory and bore self imposed exile . . .”
Mohan even feared people accusing Ramdin being a Pakistani spy and mere thought if it was unbearable for Mohan. At last he decided to consign his Muslim friend to flames but executed a will that he be buried at the time of his death (to compensate for friend’s cremation).
Tragedies falling upon Sindhis in India after partition are not only portrayed in prose but in poetry too, from time to time. Renowned writer / poet of the sub-continent Lekhraj Aziz has said: “Sindh has nothing else but to cry my spirit will cry if body perishes.”
Sindhi literature is rich in tragic writings and it could have been classified. But sometimes we feel helpless due to enormity and gravity of the job. We have seen infants and children dying of hunger in India. We have seen the poor fellows being crucified for no fault of theirs. The literature cannot be compared with the plight of worker, dying step by step or the death of a child. It is not a child’s play to portray the harsh realities of life, honestly. We have been living our life facing the death for last 50 years and held on to the moors of life. Even after half a century the wounds of partition have still not healed completely. There are still many tragic instances waiting for some courageous Sindhi writers to portray on paper. Even though many Sindhis have reached their financial zenith, we lack that spark which ignites the imagination of writers to come out with quality writings. In Sindh where there are many restrictions on expression of opinion, comes Amar Jalil to condemn barbaric acts of his fellow religious men for rape and murder of Hindu women in Kandhkot, in his “Sard Laash Jo Safar”. Sindhi Hindus, migrating from Pakistan are seen running from pillar to post for long-term visas or citizenship. They are handed out notices to go back, just within 24 hours, even in the days of a Sindhi Central Home Minister. Then too the pen of Sindhi writers remain silent : ‘Peyee Jaa Parbhat, Saa Maak ma Paso Maruha! Roee Chhuree Raat, Disee Dukhoyan Khe.” - Shah Latif. (In the wee hours, don’t take it just a dew, the night has wept, at the sights of grieve souls.)