Category Archives: History of Sindh

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!

A note on the cover of this book:

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.

Amils_cover

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.

A triumph of will and enterprise

I’ve been looking for a good cover photograph for my book. One idea was to have a portrait of a Sindhi family sitting at the docks with all their things, waiting.

I haven’t found one I could use as yet.

These photographs are the most famous ones of the event – taken by the American photographer Margaret Bourke-White, for Life magazine. Two give a view of the crowds as people left Karachi with all their belongings. In the third, we see women and children stepping down the gangplank, just before they took their first steps into Bombay, for them a new land that was going to be their home, or a base from which they took stock before they resettled themselves.

It’s not surprising that none of the families themselves stopped to take photos as they left their homeland forever.


My facebook friend Dinar Ali Qadri knew I was looking for images, and shared one of these on my page. These photos do hark back to a difficult time and evoke feelings of sadness. But instead of feeling sad, I think we should get used to the idea that these people sitting there, going through one of the most difficult times they would face in their lives, went on to succeed and prosper, and brought success and prosperity to others too.

Happy Independence Day!

Every year as the 15th of August approaches, thoughts about my grandparents crowd into my mind. As our Prime Minister addresses the nation from the Red Fort, children across the country turn out in their school uniforms to salute the flag and honour the memory of the great leaders of our independence struggle, and India celebrates yet another Independence Day holiday, I try to peer back in time to feel and understand what independence for India, and the birth of our sovereign nation, meant to them.

In August 1947, my grandfather Kishinchand Bijlani was five months short of his forty-second birthday. My grandmother Devi was thirty-nine. They lived in Hyderabad, Sindh. He was a prosperous lawyer with a practice that extended across Sindh and sometimes took him to Bombay. They had six children; a seventh was on the way. Kishno, as his friends called him, was a Gandhian – they were one of the few families in the neighbourhood whose children ran about in the angan, the wide, multi-purpose courtyard of their house, playing happily with the children of the sweepers, Rajasthani women with colourful swinging skirts, mirror-work embroidered bodices, and bone bangles clattering all the way from wrist to elbow.

Of course Independence Day was a day of rejoicing for them; the vindication of decades of struggle against imperialism. But as the day approached, unfolding events carried the message that major change, not all pleasant, was on the way. How would they adapt? What did the future have in store?

Musing nostalgically thus, my facebook status on the day last year, 15 August 2011, read: “thinking of my grandparents and wondering why, when we celebrate Independence Day, we don’t also pay homage to the millions who suffered displacement and tragedy at Partition.”

In addition to a number of supportive comments and ‘likes’, I received the following private message in response: “Saaz, with all due respect, time we forgot those memories. They don’t let us go forward. It’s time we buried hate which is redundant.”

Indignant that my minor homage to my grandparents’ bravery and calm acceptance should be misinterpreted as a message of hate, I tried to think back to any instance of hatred, or even lesser negative emotion, they had ever expressed in connection with Partition. There was none.