The colourful, tessellated background of this book cover is derived from images of the tiling of the dargah of Sachal Sarmast, one of the best-known Sufi poets of Sindh. Sachal is derived from ‘sachu’ and means ‘one who tells the truth’; Sarmast means mystic. In the Sindhi literary tradition, writers choose or are given pen names which express their inner identity. Sachal was born Abdul Wahab Farouqi, in village Daraza in Khairpur, during the Kalhora reign.
The Amil family photograph (courtesy Sarla Malani) has Maina and Chatursing Shersing Advani and their family, in 1929, the year they got married. Next to Chatursing is his sister Parvati (who later married Shamdas Vishindas Ramchandani) and next to her is Chaturi (who later married Tirth ‘TK’ Kundanmal Uttamsingh). The young man seated on the right is their brother Sundersing. Another sister, Ruki (who married Rochiram Tilokchand Mirchandani), does not appear in the photo.
The sophisticated Amils of Karachi had quickly adapted to elite customs and the men in this photo are wearing Austin Reed suits – the very latest fashion from London – while the women are dressed in Parsi-style saris. (You can read in this book about why Sindhi women were wearing Parsi saris in the 1930s and 40s). The sari borders were made of velvet, with intricate beadwork, which they would have embroidered themselves. Their shoes would have been from Paris.
Behind them is a political map of Sindh at the time of Partition. It was the British who created maps such as these; it was the British who built the education and employment infrastructure in which the Amils thrived. And it was the British who gave Sindh intact to Pakistan, changing its demography unalterably.
The medal seen on the spine (courtesy Neena Lalwani) is the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), which was awarded to her father, Narain Shyamdas Gidwani, for his contribution to strategies during the Second World War, primarily the successful implementation of some of the policies he suggested.