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Genesis of Sindhishaan

There were times, when not yet in my teens, my parents and peers often prevailed upon me to accompany them to community gatherings and functions; which I most reluctantly did at times; got thoroughly bored and always vowed never to attend again. The same faces; the same speeches – “We lost our homeland; we faced enormous difficulties; youngsters must communicate in Sindhi; etc. etc.” That’s fine I always thought – BUT ALL THAT IS PAST!

The community is, at large now well established and prosperous. Moreover where was the youth at such gatherings? Maybe one or two like me, coaxed by their peers. But the majority always consisted of the pre-partition generation, glorifying the good old days!

I belong to the first post-partition generation and having been educated in the English medium at the school and university levels, was unfamiliar with Sindhi script. I could not read or write in Sindhi, although I spoke the language quite fluently at home with my parents and elders. Outside this restricted circle my language of communication and even my thought process was in English. I even dreamt in English!

After marriage, I communicated with my wife and kids in English or Hindi, with the result that my kids are unable to speak Sindhi although they understand it reasonably well; because my mother always conversed with them in Sindhi. As my parents lived with me, their only son, there was always Sindhi going around.

My father expired in 1990 and a few years later my mother was struck with a paralytic stroke which affected her speech. There was no more Sindhi heard at home; no anecdotes about Sehwan; no stories of Karachi; no Sufi ‘Kalams’ to relish.

It was not a sudden realization but a gradual gnawing at the guts about the loss of identity. I came to the conclusion that my generation is the in-between generation, the link, and has to do something if Sindhi identity has to survive; as the new generation seems to have little or no need for preserving links with our roots or Sindhyat, in what is now considered a ‘Global Village.’

It was apparent to me that whatever our elders preached regarding Sindhyat could not be forced down the throats of the present generation. What was essentially required was to generate interest in our history, culture and roots. The rest would follow as a natural consequence.

In mid 2000 my mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she started deteriorating rapidly. One morning she instructed me to discontinue subscription to “HINDWASI” a Sindhi weekly published in the Arabic script. REALISATION STRUCK! The last link in my household with my culture and heritage was about to be ruptured. With Mom gone I would no more hear Sindhi at home! This was the catalyst that spurred me to action. That was the impetus for hosting – the virtual state; in absence of a physical geographical one.

I decided that the language of communication to the present generation would be English and the medium of communication would be one with which the youth was familiar. (India) Pvt. Ltd. was registered in Mumbai in November 2000 and work on the website began in real earnest.

You may be surprised to learn that before embarking on this adventure – which has since become my passion, my junoon – I really had negligible awareness and limited knowledge about my roots, origins, culture and heritage, beyond the nostalgic exchanges that I heard between the seniors in my family who had to migrate to Mumbai from Karachi post-partition.

But besides this I had no interaction with Sindhi associations or panchayats, nor any interest in Sindhi literature, art, theatre, culture, festivals etc. Firstly, I was educated in the English medium and my friends and associates during school, college and working years were mainly non-Sindhis. The only limited attachment I had was to Sindhi music, that too because my mother and grandmother often held ‘chonkis’ at home and the ‘Kalaams’ sung at these gatherings somehow left deep impressions on my psyche although most of the lyrics went way above my head. 

So when I proclaimed my intent to launch SINDHISHAAN my family members were quite surprised, to say the least, and that is an understatement. I was afraid that my son Amit, who had joined me in my business activities at that time, would start considering me as getting prematurely senile and wonder what crazy adventure his father was upto? And I wouldn’t blame him or anyone else in the family for adopting this line of thinking as I had given no inkling or clue about my inclination or that I was the least bit interested in Sindhyat. I was busy running my business and trying to be a successful businessman, husband and father. Where was the time and need to start a venture without having any clue or relevant connections? I had no contacts, no network and didn’t know how to start the ball rolling. But that’s when the Almighty above came to my aid.

I started with an excellent team of dynamic intelligent, dedicated and enterprising Non-Sindhi youngsters, Yes NON-SINDHI! The intention was to start from scratch, with no pre-conceived notions, as if commencing on a research project. I must say I was fortunate to have R. Suryanarayan, Srikanth, Sunder Iyer, Manoj Nair as team members who took up the gauntlet, did research on who’s who of the community, approached the community stalwarts and institutions and started building up data-historical, cultural etc. piece by piece; first to host the website and then to launch the publication.

And here I must state that wherever they went and whomsoever they met they were received with unequivocal warmth and encouragement. I cannot refrain from specifically mentioning Shri Baldev Matlani, head of Sindhi Department, University of Mumbai, - whose insight and depth of knowledge about Sindh and Sindhi history and culture proved invaluable. The litterateurs, artists, eucationists, philanthropists, businessman, social-workers and the intellectuals from the community that I have had the good fortune of meeting and interacting with in my capacity as the editor and publisher of SINDHISHAAN has been ‘education par excellence’; relationships that I will cherish forever.

On the auspicious day of Chetichand 26th March 2001, the portal was fully operational and the quarterly publication Sindhishaan – voice of the Sindhis was launched by late Shri J. T. Wadhwani who had all along been a friend, philosopher and guide, besides being a tremendous source of encouragement. The monthly newsletter ‘Prerna’ also commenced its circulation from 2001 amongst the members registered on the website. The main objectives of Sindhishaan being:- 

1. To revive and nurture the feeling of identification.
2. To revive and uphold Sindhi traditions, culture and value system.
3. To establish a global platform for enhancing interaction and debate within the community.
4. To showcase the achievements of prominent Sindhi individuals and associations and give exposure to the potential of low profile ones.

I also went on to produce the first Sponsored Sindhi TV serial “Sindhyun-Ja-Mela” consisting of 13 episodes which were telecast by Doordarshan during July-Sept 2002 with the able support and assistance of Madan Jumani, the renowned Sindhi Stage Director and Actor; who like a father figure held my hand through unfamiliar terrain and was instrumental in my learning the Arabic script by introducing my to Vasudev Nirmal.

My wife had once jokingly taunted – “Sindhishaan’s editor can’t read or write in Sindhi!” I related this to Madan who said “If you’re serious and as you speak Sindhi fluently I have someone who can teach you the script in 10 one-hour sittings.” And that’s how a busy man in his mid fifties learnt to read and write in his mother tongue! Believe me its not so difficult – you only need to make up your mind.

I have often been told “Ranjit you’ve been going out of pocket since so many years sustaining this publication, why? I smile back and say ‘SINDHISHAAN’ is not a commercial venture, my livelihood is taken care of by my other businesses that have enabled me to meet my financial obligations – but SINNDHISHAAN has been the one that has given me a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment of connecting with my roots.

Ranjit Butani

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