The untold silent trauma, betrayal faced by Sindhis

India’s freedom came with the price of partition. While Punjab and Bengal were dissected to carve out a new country, Sindh was given intact to Pakistan.
It was still early days and the Sindhi Hindus, a minority community, assumed they would remain in Sindh. After all for centuries, Hindus and Muslims lived there amicably. Ironically, harmony and hope succumbed to the wave of anarchy that prevailed then. For Hindu Sindhis , it meant the loss of their homeland.
The stories of Sindhis may be less dramatic, they may have not witnessed the massacres that engulfed Punjab and Bengal. Yet it was no less tragic. For years, the migrant Sindhis concealed their trauma with silence.
Saaz Agarwal would have remained unacquainted with the migrant’s stories, if her mother had not broken her silence. With memories casually transforming into words, Saaz’s mother looked back in time and revisited her lost home. Somewhere during this conversation between a mother and her daughter, the book Sindh — Stories From a Vanished Homeland was born.
“I started by writing down my mother’s memories of her childhood in Sindh. She was a young girl of 13 at the time of partition, and left her home, the Sindh of an undivided India, never to return. I learned with growing amazement that, though she had never spoken of it for more than 65 years, her memories were replete with detail. She said, “When I close my eyes I can still see those places.”
“As the past unfolded, she told me much that was not generally known, not even to Sindhis themselves. With new found interest, I started reading as much as I could to fill the gaps and find out more. And I knew that it was important for me to try and create as much awareness as I could of this fascinating story,” says Saaz.
Reflecting on the collective silence of a people, and perhaps their disenchantment with the past, the Pune-based author reasons, “Consider the basic culture shock of moving out of a small, isolated space with a unique culture, out into the wide world with differentlanguage, food, and way of life. Nobody knows or understands you. Wouldn’t the most sensible option be to adapt and try to fit in? The Sindhis were too focused and busy moving on. Nobody stopped to listen to their stories. Their resettlement was so seamless that people never think of Sindhis as having come from somewhere else. It’s also true that Sindhis as people are very private and don’t like to talk about themselves.”
“To historians too, perhaps their story was less important — after all, Sindh itself was never partitioned; as a region it suffered less violence than other partition-affected areas,” adds Saaz.
With no direct access to the land in focus, the writer turned to the people and their memories to weave an authentic tale. “Most of those whose stories are in the book were children or young adults when they left Sindh. I used secondary sources, including dozens of books and a number of historical and academic documents, to cross-check facts and insert information of various kinds.”
“I agree, the barriers between India and Pakistan make it difficult to access information from Sindh. But if you sincerely set your eyes in a particular direction, closed doors can be unlocked. My Facebook friends from Pakistan came to the rescue. They extended all kinds of help, including taking photographs for my book and specific guidance on my manuscript. I admit I couldn’t have done it without the Facebook connect. The visit to Sindh came later, when Oxford University Press Pakistan published the book there and invited me to launch it at this year’s Karachi Literature Festival,” she states as a matter of fact.
While the visit turned out to be special, it also revealed some unfamiliar facts. “For instance, I was surprised to find that the Sindhis in Sindh feel themselves marginalised and colonised. I was asked more than once whether the Hindus would consider coming back to live in their homeland!”
Shedding light on the content of the book, the writer says, “The memories were of all kinds. My mother, for example, felt no nostalgia. Some expressed feelings of regret, betrayal, hostility, sorrow — but the people I spoke to, one and all, presented a mature reconciliation with forces bigger than themselves, to which they had adapted as best they could. My most important insight in the course of writing this book was that here was a community — not just a few people or families but an entire population — who had been through a sudden and painful repatriation, taken things in their stride, and moved on without looking back, intent on creating new lives for themselves in a peaceful and sustainable way. If compared with other global diaspora, here is a tremendous phenomenon that has never been remarked on or appreciated as it should be.”
This collection of true stories provides vivid details of their life in their homeland. It offers an insight into a community without a region and in the process discovers their history and tradition, culture and cuisine. The famous Sindhi sense of humour also finds a place.
Asked if L. K. Advani, the most well known Sindhi on this side of divide, is aware of the book? She replies, “I wanted my book to be representative of the thousands of ordinary Sindhis who went through this ordeal, quietly and unremarked and rebuilt lives of dignity and comfort. I have no contact with L.K. Advani and no way of knowing whether or not he is aware of my book. I did pick up a small paragraph from his website, as an illustration to supplement one of the oral histories I recorded.”
Sindh: Stories From a Vanished Homeland will not be an isolated effort, as the Pune-based author plans to take the story forward.
“I am continuing the process of documenting representative Sindhi experiences and will bring out a sequel when it is ready. At the same time, I have just finished translating a Sindhi book, Tales From Yerwada Jail by Rita Shahani. It will be published in November, this year. Beside these, the foundation has been laid for a biography on Bhimsen Joshi in collaboration with his family.”

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/254547" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-548412c6fc69b5a398b4ace8f0754822" value="form-548412c6fc69b5a398b4ace8f0754822" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="56806577" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.