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A Tribute to Sind’s Soul – by Asif Zaidi

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I am currently packing (yet again) to move to a country which my family has called its home for over a decade now and where my kids will most likely settle down in life. For me, home has been an illusion for a long time now.

Sargodha was my first hometown and I was born and raised in its flourishing fields and orchards. Lahore was familiar, where I would pass summers with my father and uncle at 29 Rajgarh Road. Then I moved to Karachi for studies and to live with my maternal grandparents. Since then, Karachi has always felt like home, although I have now lived less than half of my life’s years there. So, even though for me, home is not just one place but wherever I choose to be, there is something that irks me about the attempts of dissociating Karachi’s identity from Sind. It is stupid and myopic on the part of both major political streams in Sind.

Regarded as a purely geographical entity, Sind represents a fascinating land of the river, the delta, the sea, islands, lakes, deserts, forests, mountains, valleys, sand-dunes, marshlands, and fertile farmlands. However, what inspires me the most about Sind is its ‘soul’. As we know the term ‘soul’ is generally used to denote the highest and intangible essence of an organism. Just as a rose is judged by the beauty and fragrance it offers to our senses.

The ancient history knows of only two cultural entities in subcontinent nurtured by the Indus and the Ganges rivers respectively. We have ample evidence to know that over five thousand years ago a self-sufficient civilization was firmly settled in the lush plains and broad valleys of lower-Indus River, which –without excessive claims on the Indus River upstream- then was a far more fertile region than today. Having conquered the pre-Aryan inhabitants of the area, these settlers established a life of agricultural prosperity conducing to the growth of a high culture and civilization in the region. All the evidence points to a centralized organization, with full control over production and distribution and indications of an efficient taxation system. Sind, therefore, represents a historical continuity in settled civilization and a high quality of life. The emergence of a united India is a much later occurrence.

Sind has served, down the ages, as a confluence of many minds and diverse cultures in the History of Man. Sind has always given back to all those who came to it, in a sage passivity, a richer honour than it has received from them. Sind has been a cradle of the progressive blossoming of that new life which emerged in the valley of the Indus as one of the earliest exercises in integrated civic existence. That process is still going on. At the moment of Pakistan’s creation, Sind, more than any other region in Pakistan, welcomed those numerous refugees who came to its fold, having found it impossible to continue living in India after the partition of the subcontinent. Therefore, of the number of immigrants and expellees from India that came to Pakistan, the greatest numbers came to find new homes in Sind. All that needs to be said of Sind’s hospitality is that no other province – neither Punjab nor NWFP not Baluchistan nay East Bengal- accepted so many ‘non-provincial’ immigrants into its fold. Even after long years into Pakistan’s life, this record continues to be exceeded in the large and liberal hearted land of Sind as it plays a generous host to those who care to come to its fold. It is very unfortunate that these immigrants often fail to reciprocate with same understanding and care to the loving soil of Sind.

Sind’s poets and Sufi saints have also made significant contribution to the enrichment of literature. Shah Abdul Latif’s (1689-1752) poetry is a mine of wisdom, a storehouse of inspiration and is regarded as a "direct emanation of Rumi's spirituality in South Asia." Shah Latif is essentially a poet of love and man’s longing to respond to the call of universal life. Sachal Sarmast (1739-1829) is another remarkable Sufi poet who has effectively portrayed the experience of a man of devotion who is in search of his Maker.

When the eighteenth century was the dreariest and most barren period of Persian poetry in Iran and elsewhere, Sindhi poets richly contributed to Persian poetry, as around that period many Sindhi poets chanted their melodies in Persian. It is understandable because during Aurangzeb’s ‘pious’ rule there was little scope for Persian poetry and India ceased to be the El Dorado of the Persian emigrants. Paradoxically, this was the golden age of Persian poetry in the remote province of Sind under the rule of Kalhoras. Sindhi saints, mystics, and poets reached new heights on their way up to occult leading to the Divine and were able to contribute a great deal, by writing in Persian, to the philosophical and devotional literature of the time. As Professor Sada Rangani explains; “Sufism rose to transcendental heights both in theory and practice and found some of its best exponents in Allama Muinuddin of Thatta (in prose) and Syed Jallaluddin Shah Mir of Rohri (in poetry).” Mohammad Mohsin and Alir Shir Qavi of Thatta were also fine exponents of Ghazal. This is just an example to illustrate the point. Otherwise, Sind’s contribution is no less significant in other departments of the thought-life and culture of the day. Thatta, Mathiari, and Rohri were the chief centres of earning.

The soul of Sind –in its large and liberal attitude, its Catholicity of taste, and its exemplary hospitality- has much to do with the soil that has been blessed with the life-giving water of the Indus. The soul of Sind has a long human history of self-realization through spiritual introspection. Sind of olden days included Multan, Bahawalpur, and Jaissalmir to the north and extended right up to Kutch region in the south. Sind’s liberated spirit has a long history dating from the times even before it extended its warm hospitality to Buddhist religious culture and art during the regime of Ashoka. The soul of Sind has never betrayed Sind’s inhabitants but, unfortunately, its hospitality is often misused by those who call it their home. Their egotism in disregarding the role of Sind in enriching their life and their arrogance against the humility of the soul of Sind result only in the disfiguration of the land that countenances the sublime soul of Sind.


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