“O, Alla, Moo Nathaa Visiran...”
- Memories that refuse to fade
by - Arun Babani
The childhood of a person is like the garden of Eden, God’s paradise, that he, upon growing up, searches for all his life. That carefreeness, that innocence is lost to him forever. All his later efforts to regain that state prove futile. When a man says he’s searching for God, or pure happiness, he’s actually longing to reconnect with his childhood spent and lost somewhere in the backyard of his personal history. All his life, he never quite forgets nor is able to relive those glorious days. This is the story of man, of life!
Sindhis have to face this twice over. Like others they’ve lost their childhood, but additionally, they’ve also lost childhood land, their motherland, where they lived, played, grew up and they long to go back to their childhood streets left forever back in Sindh. Some of the more sensitive artists and writers try to go back to those early memories with the help of pen and paper, thus recording and sharing their beautiful early childhood experiences on the banks of Sindhu River. We spoke to some of the elders in our community in order to reconstruct those golden days for the benefit of younger Sindhis. It is amply clear that their memories haven’t erased from the screen of their consciousness even after 60, 70 years; if at all, they’re become more vivid and colourful. We were surprised to see that nothing is lost, each and every detail is alive in their heart.
“Best time of my life”, writes poet Hari Dilgir,” is when I was around 12 years of age and in my village Rohiri, there was a Tikana of Wasan Shah. I would spend my nights there listening to Bhagat Kanwarram. I would be ecstatic, listening to him. He wore a white robe with a red Pagdi, with Jhumar on his feet. People would just be dumbfounded, his melody would make a mystic out of every one. After the concert, the Ardaas and Palau, literally blessings would pour out from the skies”.
“There was a small shop near our house where there would be a few cold water Matkas’, and if one went to drink water you got free Sesa, (Channa or rahaan). When I came to India I saw that here, even drinking water had to be bought for 5 p. or 10 paisa”. One of Shri Dilgir’s first poems was on Sindhu River which flowed opposite his home in Rohiri. As a child, in Rohiri, Diligir Saab was always in touch with Sufi faqirs. He remembers, the way they greeted each other. “One would call out, “Haq Maujood!” the other would reply, “Sada Moujood!” Which means, “is God Present here?” “offcourse he’s present here”!. Dilgir vividly recalls, all the Mast Kalandars that he encountered in his childhood, they would be known as Malangs.
Noted Author Miss Popati Hiranandani has said that I pity today’s children, they havn’t seen anything of the riches we saw back in our childhood spent in Sindh. “We were many of us in our house, including cousins, neighbours, friends. We played the whole day, our moms and grandmoms would plead with us to go out and play, but we were too busy to listen. Small ones played the ‘Choo...Choo Train’, those little older made telephones from match boxes, Singing sindhi songs to each other, fight with each other, (‘Katti’). While the servants would give a call for lunch, we would go and climb trees, and call each other nicknames!” Ms. Hiranandani, remembers, that twice she had fallen from her balcony and when she was taken to a Hakim to mend her bone the second time, he had said to her grandma, “If you don’t want the girl, you can leave her here, I’ll take care of her!”. Once Ms. Popati, went to the market with her maasi, and promptly got lost. She must’ve been around 7 or 8 and she lost track of her aunt. Two men in Salwars spotted her, picked her up and put her on a donkey and hurried away. Popati started shouting, as two Hindu men, caught hold of the donkey, rescued her and paraded her in the market shouting, “who’s daughter is she!” Maasi came running for her and took her home.
Ms. Hiranandani says “We were always being sent around for odd jobs; ‘go and dry the Papads on the terrace, go to Panjal Modi to send ten serrs of Atta, go to neighbour Seeta with these Kheema Samosas, stop that curd seller who is shouting in the backyard and get a little curd from him’. In those days far relatives or even neighbours would be counted as intimate friends. The hearts of the families were brimming with the idea of sharing - sharing food, sharing work, sharing everything, almost living together like a bunch of grapes!”
Noted poet Dr. Moti Prakash remembers his village in this way, “My small village `Daro’, perhaps its not even a dot on the world map. There’s no fragrance of perfume in its winds, neither there is elixir in its water, nor are there colourful flowers in its trees, It’s streets are not big and clean, but still I know it as my village Daro, That is my own soil, that is the breeze I call my own, Those are my trees, That is where I took my first breath, and who can stop me from declaring that I wish to breathe my last in my village Daro”.
The Village School....,
“My sister Laxmi would quickly ready me for school early on winter mornings. Our school was very huge. We would queue up for prayers, then back to classroom with finger on lips. Our favourite teacher Saaeen Hamidali used to stay alone by himself. The job of cleaning his room and getting lunch for him from a nearby Dhabha was done by us, his students. Everyday half an hour before school got over, Saaeen Hamidali would ask the class; “Today who will do the job of cleaning?” Almost the whole class would raise their hands. Then Sir would pass by each student and would say “no...not you, you fought in the recess, no....not you, today you haven’t had a clean bath... and so on”. That selection was a test of good clean behaviour, and all of us would pray to be selected. To sweep and clean Saaeen Hamidali’s house was a very prestigious job for us students....”.
My Village House.....
“My house, walls of the house, doors, its beds and cots, ceilings, and chimneys, the smoke from those chimneys in winter evenings, smoking kitchen, red eyes from smoke of the fireplace, kathas, prasad from Tikanas, a sad wailing of faqirs in the evenings, These are the pictures in my eyes, stuck there for ever...”
Realities of the life in villages in Sindh in 20s and 30s, when most of senior Sindhis grew up is such a stark contrast from today’s realities. Writes Mr. Kirat Babani, “We never knew today’s conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Back there in our village in Sindh called Moro Lakho, both Hindus and Muslim lived in such a trusting atmosphere, that if one community went out of the village, the other community took care of their houses and belongings. In fact Hindu homes were in the central part of the village and surrounding these were Muslim households, as if protecting them from invaders and evil intruders”.
Mr. Babani naturally feels saddened by today’s atmosphere of distrust and bloodshed. Says he, “In our village, the only school was run by a Muslim teacher in the compound of a Masjid where Hindu and Muslim children studied together unaware of any differences”. Those simple days are forever lost to these Sindhis who came to India and grew up in desperate situation of refugee camps.
Sindh, the lost motherland of Sindhis is now just a memory, some photographs, some letters and a few details in the backyard of their minds. Krishin Khatwani sums up in a wonderful poem entitled, “SINDHU DESH”,