Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sindh – Stories from a vanished homeland by Saaz Aggarwal

First things first! If you have Saaz Aggarwal’s second book, Sindh – Stories from a vanished homeland, in hand, quickly turn to page 68 and begin your study of Sindh, geographically and politically.

Sitting on the banks of the Sindu (Indus) river, the land called Sindh was rich with art, culture, poetry and trade. For generations, even from Chandragupta’s time or just before Greeks frequented India passing through these lands. Writes Saaz Aggarwal, ‘The Sindh region was home to advanced urban Indus Valley settlements, most famously Mooan jo daro…’Having passed from the Maurya Empire to Darius I, to Persia, to finally Arabs, the land had seen many changes and adopted to it all. So there is was a land with people who belonged to the world, for how is it possible not to imbibe the cultures, arts, artifacts of kingdoms and people who come into your land and make it their home?
Now you can sit back and begin to google search the sites I have listed below. The maps will take you on a very pleasant sight-seeing tour but don’t lose your way, in the lost land. Return as quickly to read the stories of so many men and women who braved the India/Pakistan divide to make India their home. It is easier said than done, because, if you see what they left behind and where they had to start their life from, you wonder, where their steely strength comes from.

Wikipedia says: Hyderabad, around which most of the stories are based, is the 2nd largest city in the Sindh province of Pakistan. It is the 6th largest city in the country. The city was founded in 1768 by Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro upon the ruins of a Mauryan fishing village along the bank of the Indus known as Neroon Kot. Chandragupta Maurya’s Empire spread from east to west covering substantial land across the north western region (see map below)
Given this very rich, prosperous background, from as far back as 3rd century BCE – and maybe earlier - all was lost as India became independent.  Accustomed to a life of opulence, abundance, high education and rich trade, when partition happened, they had to leave everything behind, to seek shelter in India, as refugees. Rich and poor alike, ran from Pakistan occupied Sindh, by ship and train to arrive in India, many times, even stripped of their last belonging on their bodies, women and children raped. Not only that, the Indian government overwhelmed with the aftermath of partition did little to see to their welfare. From rich and abundant kitchens, many had to bear the extremely pathetic state of refugee camps to survive with their families. Yet, the stoic community quickly got into the act of rehabilitating themselves and starting out all over again, as petty business men. Thankfully being a business community mainly with many scholars too among them, they had scattered all over the world, in Asia, Europe, Africa and America, Japan, China and Indonesia,   much before the exodus took place. Friends and relations did whatever they could to help the families, but a major chunk came to India, spreading themselves in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and trickling onto other states as well, to quickly make their life again. In the absence of any money, they had to use their mind and muscle to generate livelihood for themselves and their families.

They never looked back as they busied themselves with their new life.

Saaz Aggarwal has mixed her best in this book: On the one hand, it is a carefully researched historical novel and on the other it is a novel of real life stories from many individuals and families who have lived to tell their stories.  Mixed with a generous helping of Sindhi recipes, the book is written in such a manner, that it is possible to pick and chose what you want to read. If you are a history lover, then read the historical data presented, but if you are one who yawns at the very word called history, just skip those pages and devour the real life stories told by different people from a wide range of professions and homes. And of course the best part is hidden in the kitchen – Saee bhaji, Sindhi papad, dhodho, Sindhi kadhi and all those lovely delights, your mouth will water, as you read!

Although the book is about Sindhi Hindus, I was glad, not to have come across the word brahman till I came to page 270. But there, those chaps make their presence felt to perform rituals etc. In a community such as the Sindhis, where the brahmins have no other importance, I would have been delighted if the Sindhi brahmin performed a dervish, instead!

The book is heavy in weight and thought but Saaz Aggarwal’s gift for your grandparents couldn’t have been anything else, for they too had left everything behind in Sindh to start life from scratch, in Mumbai.

Sindh - Stories from a vanished homeland, deserves a place in every home, which has known pains, struggle and survival after partition. It must rub shoulders and spine with other books written about Sindh, in libraries, schools and colleges, where we preserve partition stories written from memory of those who are alive to write or speak of it.

And last but not the least, we need to rise and give a standing ovation to a “smart, courageous and emancipated people” – (Pg 227, Putli’s story) who have made India their home.

Saaz Aggarwal is a Journalist, writer, poet and painter. 

: Black-And-White-Fountain, 2, Flemington Terrace, Clover Village, Wonowari, Pune 411 040
Author: Saag Aggarwal
Price: Rs 400
Buy copies online: www.blackandwhitefountain.com
Feedback and inquiries: blackandwhitefountain@gmail.com

Maps and must reads:

Sindhi Passage to India map
: http://maps.google.co.in/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

Recent findings prove that Indian merchants from Tamil region have been travelling to Arab nations, even as far back as 1 CE : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/potsherd-with-tamilbrahmi-script-found-in-oman/article4038866.ece


Anuradha Shankar said...

the book sounds really interesting, Julia! would love to get my hands on it... any chance u can lend me yours ? :D

Julia Dutta said...

Anuradha, It just got released yesterday. On FB the links are given from where you can buy it.

Thanks for reading

Unknown said...

Plan to read this book soon

Julia Dutta said...

Hi Rohit, yes you must! fabulous stuff there.

Aijazz said...

An interesting book. Although it is packed with too many stories, I think it qualifies to be one of the best book on the sociology of Sindh which was lost to us in 1947!

Julia Dutta said...

Hi! Yes, there are many stories, from the authors own family. I do hope it joins the academic books on Sindh but I guess it would be as voices, for now.