Tag Archives: Bhitai

Sindh and Its Sindhiyat – By Geet Chainani, M.D.

Sindh, the land of Sufis, the hope and ultimate destination of my quest!

The time I’ve spent in Sindh, Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It’s taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh,  our Sindhi brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir- Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.

There’s been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest.

I’ve learnt that I’m still learning and still looking. On this journey I’ve found beautiful hidden messages that I’ve read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:

Vasudeva Kutumbakam”

“Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti.”

“Satyam amritasya putrah”

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times. -Shaykh Sa’di

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I believe not in the outer religion,

I live ever in love.

Say Amen! When love comes to you.

Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.

– Sachal Sarmast

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If you are seeking Allah,

Then keep clear of religious formalities.

Those who have seen Allah

Are away from all religions!

Those who do not see Allah here,

How will they see Him beyond?

– Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai

My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh’s story and another side of Sufi Islam. The stories of the Sindhi who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Sindhis who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Sindhi Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from.

On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here’s what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists.

Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing.  I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers: there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn’t take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach a lesson to the opposite party. The end result of which was the death of the three Sindhi Hindu of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, ” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures.

Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed.

Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren’t good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It’s wrong to paint today’s canvas with yesterday’s paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.

No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from motherland and from  sacred river Sindhu is justified. But another truth follows suit: there’s a time for anger and then there’s a time to let go, to change and to move on.

Tides must turn. Peace must prevail.

Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again.

Praying for peace

Reference reading:

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=76954&Cat=2

http://www.thehansindia.info/News/Article.asp?category=1&subCategory=4&ContentId=17528

http://www.demotix.com/news/924585/civil-society-protest-against-killing-hindu-doctors

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/11/protest-against-killing-of-hindus/

Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more or to support our work in Sindh, Pakistan please visit our website at www.thelifebridge.us

Jamshoro – The spirit of Sindh

By: Niilofur Farrukh

FOR someone who was born and brought up in Karachi, I must confess the cultural distance between the metropolis and the hinterland exists not just in miles. The inhabitants of the city, especially as young and brash as Karachi, have built a hybrid identity from the experience of constant change, chaos and cultural interface.

Meanwhile, the people of the interior of Sindh, steeped in the folklore and poetry of its Sufis, zealously guard the purity of their language and interpret life through the prism of conventions shaped by ancient history.

What Pakistan, a county that brought together heterogeneous people from all over South Asia, has needed since its inception is an education policy to unify cultures through knowledge and respect for pluralism. While this dream of the founding fathers is forgotten in the midst of political volatility and confrontation, opportunities for reconciliation and an understanding of Pakistan’s diverse traditions are lost.

As someone who was born in the decade that followed Partition, I grew up without the language skills to understand Bhitai and Bulleh Shah. It took a study of world cultures to feel the need to seek what was so close to me at Moenjodaro, Harappa, Sukkur, Taxila, Kohistan, Thar and Sibi.

A recent opportunity to visit Jamshoro, where I was invited to participate in the First International Art Seminar hosted by the Institute of Art and Design, Sindh University, led to three days of enriching dialogue.

To experience both intellectuals and fakir singers quoting Shah Latif’s verse like a mantra, almost like a verbal and musical talisman not unlike the black thread that is rubbed on the ‘sacred’ instruments of the mendicants at the shrine of the great saint, it took the urban cynic in me some time to understand how deeply woven in the social and cultural fabric is the Sufi message. No theoretical text or debate can convey the intrinsic connection with a timeless philosophy that expresses the concerns of the people in a language that resonates in them.

A renewed optimism among the students and faculty at the Institute of Art and Design seems to have come with the new building that the department recently got after years of struggle. With it appeared a desire to build a bridge between received knowledge and the dynamic ideas of the new century.

The seminar seemed to set the tone for this change by creating space for debate and discussion on a wide range of issues that confront artists as national and international scholars read their papers.

The exchange with poets, writers, scholars, artists and journalists on the artist’s role in society, however fundamental, was important in a society that exists on so many planes of social awareness. The multiple viewpoints presented by the participants communicated how art has moved from the linear thought process of modernism to a lateral embrace of visual culture which recognises context as a critical force.

It was refreshing to see the inclusion of two papers based on the field research of archeologists who are putting together fragments of the history of development of the image and its significance in prehistoric times. Dr Salim claimed the flint tools created from quartz in the Potohar Plateau were one of the earliest creative acts as the maker used his intelligence to select the material and then perfected a technique to craft its serrated edge.

Information on rock carving and cave drawings presented by Dr Ihsan Ali concentrated on the iconography of early man in Pakistan that art historians cannot ignore. The same was true of Dr Misbah Rasheed’s study on the hybrid symbolic imagery of the ceramic mosaic murals at the Lahore Fort that has yet to be studied in-depth and included in the art history curriculum which continues to be predominantly eurocentric.

Dr Ejaz Ikram’s thought-provoking talk focused on the crisis of beauty in the world created by the de-linking of art from intuition, intellect and spirituality that were once responsible for the meditative harmony of Islamic art. According to him, since beauty rests not in innovation but the truth, he urged artists not to abandon tradition but to perfect it if they wanted to rediscover beauty.

Presenting an opposing view was the talk on European design presented by ceramist Maliha Paracha. She highlighted innovative ceramics by the Dutch company Droog that has gained worldwide reputation for its unusual and unpredictable designs that do not compromise functionality.

The artists’ perspective at the seminar, among others, came from Sheherezade, the country’s pioneer potter. With her exquisite visuals, she elaborated on the influence of historical and cultural Lahore on her personal and professional life. The labyrinth of the walled city, Mughal minars that dominate the skyline and the timeless skill of artisans that creates traditional pottery all combined to give her a sense of identity which, along with a global interface, has helped her develop a contemporary vocabulary which has won her global recognition.

This brings to my mind the renowned artist Mona Hartoum whose art is unique to her life. Hartoum, a Palestinian who grew up as a refugee in Lebanon, was stranded in London for a long period due to the war in Lebanon before she decided to pursue her art education in the UK. The trauma of displacement made her restless. According to her, she finds it difficult to stay in one place for too long. This angst is evoked in her work as ideas are translated through material to convey anxiety and restlessness.

Centrality of context was a common thread that ran through the papers. The message for the new entrants in the art community seemed to be that as they learned what constituted art in the studio, and while learning theory, they would also have to remember that the most powerful expression and strongest voice come from lived experience.

In the soul of Jamshoro dwell many untold stories, both ancient and modern. Artists just need to discover them.

Coutesy: Daily Dawn

Source – http://www.dawn.com/2008/04/16/op.htm#3