The Qazi of bukkur

Excerpted from Sindh and its Sufis by Jethmal Parsram Gulrajani

A story is given about the Qazi of Bukkur who was a judge in the days of Jam Sanjar. This Qazi had a peculiar way of his own, he took bribes not from one party but from both. Jam Sanjar having received complaints sent for him personally and took him to task. The Qazi , although dishonest in his duties, was honest enough to confess. he said, “Yes, I do take bribes. If I could, I would extract money from the witnesses who leave the premises before the court closes.” The pious Jam could not help laughing. The Qazi continued : “Sire, with all this sin, and with all the hard work of the day, I am not able to keep hunger out of my house, and my wife and children suffer.” The Jam took a lesson from this and raised the salaries of his servants. The present British rulers of India ought also to take a lesson from Jam Sanjar. Their lower subordinates often receive too little salary and obviously interpret this as an inducement to take to irregular means of increasing it. The Sumras and the Sammas ruled for two centuries. Their territory extended from the sea coast far into the boundaries of hte Punjab. Tatta, their capital, which was a huge city, is not now an important town in Sind, but its vast ruins stretch out for many, many miles, and its Makli Hill still presents many an object of interest and study. History repeated itself and luxury corroded the foundations of prosperity. The immorality and laxity of the last kings weakened their strength; and like Dahar of old, Feroz the son of the great Jam Nando, having neglected his duties for worldly pleasures, lost his kingdom and seriously disgraced himself. But so it was destined to be!

Like looking into a mirror for the first time

An interview with Fazil Jamili in Aman ki Asha on 28 May 2014: http://amankiasha.com/its-like-looking-into-a-mirror-for-the-first-time/

1. What was your experience come twice in Karachi?

During my two short trips to Sindh, I experienced a wide spectrum of feelings. One was the excitement of visiting a region that is so intimately a part of our lives and yet forbidden to us. Another was frustration and unhappiness with the difficulty of entering and the restrictions on free travel. Yet another was the longing to visit an ancestral homeland, and delight at doing so. A fourth was the fear of being in a country where we are officially perceived as enemies. If war were to break out while we were visiting, what would happen to us? Karachi has the reputation of being a violent and dangerous place. However, most important of all has been the love that we were showered with.

I should also say that my first visit to Sindh was the most exciting and most meaningful trip I have made in my life. The warmth and hospitality my family and I received changed our feelings towards not just Pakistan but towards humanity as a whole.

2. You got visa of Sukkur, Larkana this time but couldn’t make it to visit these cities. What stopped you to go and see your mother’s native village?

I was in Karachi in March 2014 to attend the seminar, Sindh through the centuries, organized by Sindh Madrassetul Islam University. It was a fantastic experience with scholars from all over the world, resulting in a lot of learning and interaction. SMIU had courageously invited Indian writers and academics too, and nine of us accepted. We were issued NOC for visa by Islamabad with the request that we restrict our stay in Pakistan to the dates of the seminar. Though I had a visa, it would have been an abuse of hospitality to stay on, and I decided to visit Larkano, Sukkur and my mother’s native village on some other trip, if at all.

3. When you told your mother all the love you received here in Sindh. What was her reaction?

My mother and her siblings were very surprised but also happy to hear about the love and all the messages to them from people in Sindh. In the past, nobody in the family had ever spoken about Sindh. They had deliberately put it out of their minds. So it was something new and totally unexpected. I felt a lot of latent emotion in them. None of us said it aloud, but I think we all missed my grandparents and wished there was a way for us to tell them about it.

4. As she is no more with us. What are the feelings when you think about love and hate emotions towards this vanished land?

My mother was a fiercely proud Sindhi all her life. When I was young, these feelings were totally irrelevant to me. I never thought about her and her family’s enormous loss and how bravely they had faced it, and only realised it while I was writing the book. I then became very keen to travel to Sindh with my mother. I told her many times that if we went, our experiences would make a good last chapter to the book. She gave me many reasons for not wanting to go. The one most relevant to answer your question is, “They threw us out! Why should I go back!”

So the biggest benefit of my book was that it enabled her to experience closure by reclaiming her lost childhood and by affirming her forgotten link to Sindh.

Personally, I feel rudderless and demotivated to continue my Sindh journey without my mother.

My mother was 79 years old, and she had lived a fairly comfortable life, facing its challenges with courage. Her death was no tragedy. I was with her as she left her body peacefully, smiling all the while. My mother was an agnostic and there was no religious ritual in our home. But because I had worked with her to write the book, I knew that the prayers she was taught as a child were from the Sikh religion, and I arranged the memorial service and meal in her memory at a Gurudwara. While I am deeply grateful for all these blessings, I feel terrible that I lost her so suddenly. I was totally unprepared. There were many, many questions that I wanted to ask her, always assuming that I could do so later. If I write about Sindh and Sindhis, I will always feel pain that she is not going to read and comment on it.

5. Do you think you are in better position to understand Sindh and its people and can write another book on this subject?

I have collected many more interesting stories and intend to compile them into a sequel. Each of them gives a different insight into Sindh, the Sindhi experience, and the Sindhi psyche.

In India we have a one-dimensional stereotype of Sindhis as calculating and profit-oriented. Even when people speak positively about Sindhis, they will use adjectives like ‘hardworking’ and ‘enterprising’ which directly relate to this one-dimensional stereotype. When I visited Pakistan, I saw that Sindhis there too are labelled in a limiting way, different but also deprecatory. One reason why Sindhis are misunderstood is because they have a unique culture which has been misunderstood. I feel that these stories will help people, in particular the Sindhis themselves, to understand that unique culture.

6. Do you think India and Pakistan can ever become good friends?

India and Pakistan were one land, one people with a common history and cultural kinship.

How different are Bombay and Karachi, how different are Delhi and Lahore? People look alike, they sound alike; their body language and core ethics are similar.

When I travel to Calcutta, Delhi, Madras or other places in India, things are similar but not quite the same as they are in Pune where I live. Often there are strong regional variations. People can see from the way I dress and speak that I have come from somewhere else. Yet they know that I am one of them. Why can’t it be the same when I go to Karachi too?

It is vested interests which have kept us apart, and it would be extremely difficult to overcome their power and wealth to become good friends.

7. Would you advise all the Sindhis living in India once visit their homeland in their life?

Sadly, most of the migrant generation is no more. Those who lived in Sindh and have memories of a lost childhood home would be over 70 years old. I doubt if ALL of them would have sufficient motivation to tolerate the rigour of the required paperwork and travel. As for younger Sindhis, they feel much more rooted in the place where they live than their lost homeland. To my mind, for them to come to terms with their identity, a visit to Sindh is only one of the things they need to do, and not one of the most essential.

Having said this, I must also say that when an Indian Sindhi meets a Pakistani Sindhi, for both of them it’s like looking into a mirror for the first time. There’s a feeling of magic and wonder in the air, like when two long-lost brothers suddenly find each other. It is a miraculous, amazing and uplifting experience which I wish every Sindhi could have.

8. How the writers can play a positive role in promoting peace.

Good-quality writing is enjoyable, but it is also much more than that. Through it, readers come closer to understanding themselves. When we understand ourselves better, we realise that one of the highest human priorities is a safe and peaceful existence and a certain degree of comfort, replete with human bonds of love.

9. Anything about Karachi or Sindh you miss when you recall your visit to Pakistan?

What I miss most is easy access to Sindh. I wish I could travel there whenever I felt like to spend time with my friends there, to enjoy the shopping, and to wander down the streets thinking about my mother and my grandparents and wishing I could share these moments with them.

72 years ago, today

The opening of Visakhapatnam Port with the arrival of passenger ship S.S. Jaladurga in October 1933

This is an old story, but moves me every time I hear it. On 14 November 1947, the passenger ship SS Jaladurga arrived in Bombay after a two-day journey from Karachi, carrying evacuees from the newly-created nation of Pakistan. Most of the passengers on Jaladurga that day had never stepped outside Sindh before. They were entering a new life where they would stop speaking their language and set aside the traditions and stories of their ancestors.

Sixty-five years later, having asked my mother to tell me about her childhood, I was astounded to learn that, a thirteen-year-old at the time, she could still remember so many details of that journey, and even the date on which she had landed, with her parents and five siblings ranging in age from four to nineteen, in the strange new city where they would make their home.

This conversation led to many more, and I knew that I was listening to something special – something not many people knew. This filled me with the determination to start telling it! So I interviewed others, read books for contextual and supporting information and this is the book I wrote.

On 14 November 2012, we launched the book with a party for my mother’s family. Her cousins, some of whom I had never met before but whom she had been very close to in Sindh and were so happy to know that their story was being written down, were among the honoured guests that day.

Seven years have passed since that day. Sadly, my mother is no more. Happily, she had seen the very positive response the book, the story of her childhood, received . She had read the reviews and also travelled with me to participate in some of the prestigious events the book was invited for. I continue to listen to personal stories of people who once lived in Sindh, think about the experiences they went through, and talk and write about them.

A small glimpse of Sindh in 1930

I was less than five years old when I was watching a Hindu shopkeeper of our village weighing butter in the house next door to ours.

Ghulam Rasool , some nine years older than me, was standing in that house and he asked me to ask the shopkeeper: “Hoonda will you eat cow’s meat”?

I repeated the words. Hoonda left his weighing scale. He looked at me with anger. I was frightened and ran towards Ghulam Rasool’s house, but the thorny hedge prevented me from entering . Hoonda felt sorry for me. He picked me up, brought me out from the thorny brush and said: “Do not ever say that again”.

The next time he came to our house, I hid behind the sacks of grain. After he left, my mother told me: “He is a Hindu and they worship the cow as a mother. For them, slaughtering a cow and eating it is like you killing me and eating my flesh.”

I was horrified. I wanted to apologise. I had learnt how to offer an apology from my paternal uncle. When I played with his belongings, he would make me touch his feet and then stand waiting with my hands folded until he said “I forgive you”.

So I stopped outside the Hindu merchant’s shop and when I saw Hoonda coming out, I touched his feet and stood with folded hands before him. He immediately picked me up embraced me, gave me lot of sweet stuff to eat and told me “Now you are a good boy, but Ghulam Rasool is naughty. It was he who made you say those words.”

It was a lesson to respect other religions. Since then for me to disrespect any religion means that I slaughter my mother and eat her meat.

An excerpt from the memoirs of MH Panhwar (1925-2007). From a land-owning family of Sindh, MH Panhwar returned to Sindh with a Master’s in Agricultural Engineering University of Wisconsin USA in 1953. Professionally he specialized in groundwater development, earthmoving, agricultural machinery, water logging, salinity control drainage and agriculture. After twelve years as a government engineer, he set up his own consulting company specializing in irrigation, water logging, drainage,
agriculture, scientific equipment and horticulture. He was also a social worker and a passionate student of Sindh studies, and wrote a large number of books on
various subjects.