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December 14, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

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Loving the land
Sindh and the Sindhi people have a culture as old as the hills, and if culture is to survive it has to be promoted and protected by all

• Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
• December 14, 2014
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Celebrating Culture Days by nationalities that feel they are under threat of being sidelined by other more powerful nations is becoming popular. These occasions are used to reinforce identity through various traditional symbols. However, culture is not a day or a week thing; it is a living part of our lives and needs to be continuously projected. Our love and attachment for it should not be reserved for particular days. Friedrich Nietzsche rightly said, “It is not the strength but the duration of great sentiments that makes great men.” This holds true for nations too and is particularly important for the Sindhi nation as it is under threat from many sides.

Sindh is paying the penance for supporting partition and welcoming those who left India. Ironically, the Pakistani establishment set about to systematically dismantle and discourage diversity, and culture was the primary target as it reinforced identity. The Pakistani establishment, seeking to unite nations that fell to its lot under the banner of Islam, did its best to sideline cultures that had existed for millennia. Cultures survived the onslaught and, instead, Pakistan created the monster of fundamentalism that now is its greatest threat but we refuse to acknowledge this.

Sindh and the Sindhi people have a culture as old as the hills, and if culture is to survive it has to be promoted and protected by all who consider themselves a part of that honourable culture. To do this they have to first understand what culture is and then see what Sindhi culture is all about so that they can promote it, not only through words but more importantly by their behaviour and attitudes to forcefully put across the essence of Sindhi culture to the world. This is especially true for Sindhi sisters and brothers living abroad.

Sindh is known as the land of Sufi mystics like Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Sachal Sarmast, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Shah Inayat and others who preached love for the land and people, tolerance, compassion, politeness, hospitality, standing up for one’s rights, honesty and, moreover, fighting against injustices. This, in my view, is the essence of Sindhi culture and this is what Sindhis should represent in the way they live and conduct themselves wherever they may be. Our culture is what we are; it is a reflection of our actions because culture is not something external and it does not exist independent of us. What we stand for, what we oppose and resist, what we believe in and how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives represent not only us but our culture as well. We cannot be judged apart from our culture and neither can our culture be judged apart from us. What we do and how we live represents our culture and if we do not live according to the essence of our culture, we should not blame people for misunderstanding or maligning Sindhi culture. We represent our culture with our actions and not with our words and empty platitudes. To be a Sindhi you have to live by the values that make you a Sindhi. Sindhi culture is what a Sindhi does.

Unfortunately, Culture Day, which should represent the glorious legacy that made and makes Sindhi culture, something worth cherishing and respecting, has been reduced to the wearing of a topi (cap) and ajrak (Sindhi shawl) and dancing along to Bollywood tunes. The topi and ajrak do not give us an identity for it is the people of Sindh who gave them an identity; depending on them to express our culture is something that should be avoided and discouraged. It would indeed be a sad day for me if Sindhi culture is reduced to just the topi and ajrak while the values that made us unique are forsaken.

Sindh, Sindhis and their culture are unimaginable without their beautiful Sindhi language. If we give up Sindhi we lose an essential part of ourselves and, therefore, it is our duty to cherish and love our language so that this rich and beautiful tongue is not forgotten. Children in Sindh should be taught in their own language, ensuring that Sindhi continues to develop in keeping with modern times. Language is the soul of a nation.

The single most important thing for a people or culture is the land they live on and, in this case, it is Sindh. Without Sindh there would have been no Sindhis and no Sindhi culture; love of the motherland is the basis of all culture. If Sindh is disregarded than there can be no love or respect for its culture. For Sindhis, Sindh is sacred but it has to be sacred in the same way that Sindh was sacred for Makhdoom Bilawal who resisted Shah Baig Arghun’s aggression in Sindh and, after the Battle of Talti, preferred to be ground alive in an oil press on January 28, 1523 AD rather than see his beloved Sindh enslaved. Our love for Sindh should be like him for if we have reservations in our love for it we will never be able to fulfil our obligations to it. If we do not love our motherland then our love for culture is a charade aimed at misleading people. If there is a motherland, there will be culture; if we give up on it, culture is meaningless and will wither away.

Sindhis’ love for their motherland should emulate Sassi’s love and quest for Punnuh. Shah Bhitai says it all in the words of Sassi:

“Halandi Hoth Punnuh Day

Pairan Pandh Kandiyas

Pairan Pandh Karan Chaddiyo

Ta Goddan Bhar Gissandiyas

Goddan Ghisskan Chaddiyo

Ta Chailh Bhar Churandiyas

Chail Churran Chaddiyo

Ta Thoothun Bhar Tirkandiyas

Thoothun Tirkan Chaddiyo

Ta Sissi Bhar Sirandiyas

Millia Ta Millandiyas

Na Ta Ghori Jaan Jatan Ta.”

(In quest of Punnuh

On my feeble feet shall I walk

When feeble feet refuse

Then on knees shall I crawl

When knees too cave in

Then with my waist shall I wriggle

When the waist too yields

Then on the elbows shall I move

When elbows too quit

Then on my head shall I roll

If I get to meet him; a blessing ‘tis will be

And if yet I meet him not

Then well sacrificed my life will be.”

Note: This piece is based on my views read at Culture Day celebrated by Sindhis in Dallas.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com
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