By Emily Hauze
On a bright November morning during my most recent stay in Sindh, my buddies (Inam and Naz) took me to a place I had long been wanting to visit: the Sindhi Language Authority in Hyderabad. And soon I will describe all the interesting things I found there. But I also hope to convey here some sense of what I find so extraordinary about the Sindhi language, and by extension, about the Sindhi people. I am still very far away from my goal of being a true speaker of Sindhi, but I am beginning to make progress. And as I gradually learn to navigate the landscape of the language, more of the inner character and spirit of Sindh is revealing itself to me.
I have been learning about Sindh for only four years, but noticed the unusually intense love among Sindhis for their language very early in that time. When I began to respond to my online friends using even the most basic Sindhi phrases of greeting or farewell, I was amazed at the fireworks of appreciation I received in return. Previously, when trying out a few Urdu phrases, I had also been greeted with surprise and joy — but there was something different and deeper-felt in the reactions to my attempts at Sindhi. And if that was true for my online interactions, how much more emotional and delighted were the responses when I came to utter some of my practiced phrases in Sindh, in person!
This can be partly explained by the rarity of the situation, since it almost never happens that any non-Sindhi (especially a white Anglo type like myself) learns Sindhi in the first place. It is also unusual for a foreigner to learn Urdu, but not nearly so astonishing, because Hindi-Urdu after all is the language of Bollywood, which is enjoyed around the world. Meanwhile, the cultural treasures of the Sindhi language have not (yet) learned to export themselves so widely. Therefore it is rare a foreigner to encounter the language by chance, and to be drawn into it enough to learn even a phrase or two.
And yet, that is precisely what has happened to me–a chance encounter with a language and a culture, which has resulted in a lasting connection. I am not the first of these rare and lucky souls who discover Sindhi — the beloved Elsa Qazi and others have already blazed the trail — but perhaps I can help open the door for others who may similarly be enriched by it. The Sindhi love of the native language is, I believe, a contagious kind of joy, and the gentle, rolling sound of spoken Sindhi could bring a smile to even the least comprehending face.
Smiling at the sounds is not enough, of course. But learning to comprehend is no easy matter. The challenge is especially great for a non-Asian like myself, who must learn the entirety of the language from the beginning, having nearly no earlier contact with any aspect of its grammar, its alphabet, its phrase structure, its vocabulary, etc.