By Arun Babani
At the time of partition in 1948, a young boy of 11 lands on the shores of Bombay with his mother. His maternal uncle receives them at the port and takes them straight to a village, 5 miles inside Vasai, on the outskirts of Bombay. Next day, Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated; which has very little effect on this child who is busy learning Marathi names for Sindhi vegetables at the Vasai market. Later, he joins a Sindhi school at Grant Road, 50 Km from his home, to begin his Sindhi education. Today almost 60 years on, that little kid, now into his 70th year, teaches Sindhi language to young Sindhis deprived of opportunities to learn Sindhi!
The gentleman behind this immense struggle to live and grow against all odds, is a simple down-to-earth ordinary soul, whose name is uttered with respect and honour in the Sindhi community. Shri Vasdev Nirmal, whose only sadhana spanning 70 years has been Sindh-Sindhi-Sindhiyat.
A civil engineer by profession, Nirmalji was on duty at Bombay Municipal Corporation, but amidst designing dams and roads he scribbled Sindhi Ghazals on the notepads kept ready at his desk. What strikes one the most is his saintly quality of total commitment to both areas of life, work for survival and creativity for the soul.
Vasdev Nirmal has had three beloveds. First is his motherland Sindh. He weeps at the very mention of Sindh. Every night he visits Karachi of his dreams and paints countless couplets in her honour.He says that even today he will be able to find his house in Karachi blindfolded.His second love has of course been his poems, the Kavitas without which he would be nothing. Although he has not earned much money in his life, but the poems he has written “are worth more than crores to me” he says. And last but not the least is his beloved in real life-Purnima his wife and companion for the last 40 years.Purnimaji is the person behind all of Vasdev's success. By his own admission, she is his first reader and editor, and only after she approves his writings does he go ahead with it.
Besides poems, four volumes of which have already been published, Nirmalji is also an accomplished playwright, and four volumes of his plays too have been published.
According to him “only an expert poet can be an equally expert playwright; if you see all the old classics of Shakespeare and Kalidasa, they were all plays in poetry or poetry in plays.” Nirmalji's contribution to Sindhi theatre has been phenomenal. He is the founder member of Sindhu Kala Mandir along with Dr. Moti Prakash, S.P. Menghani, and Kirat Babani.He has written, directed, acted and adapted many plays for the Sindhi stage. His creative life spanning over 5 decades has not been without its own rewards. Vasdev Nirmal is the proud recipient of many awards and felicitations from various organizations, sabhas and government.
Nirmalji has played many roles in his life. The student, the class monitor, husband, friend, brother, playwright, father, poet, son, critic, and winner of applause and so on. Among all these diverse worldly roles, he came across to me as a thoroughly honest human being, totally true to his Takhalus-Nirmal which means without dirt. There is a line he wrote about himself that he is friendly even to his enemies. This single trait makes Vasdev Nirmal the most loved person in the community.
Sindhishaan wishes Nirmalji a long, prosperous, healthy and creative life.