After a Long, Long Wait of more than 45 years, my father finally breathed his last with his unfulfilled dream of going back to Sindh, of kissing the earth of Jeejal or Mother Sindh. He lamented in one of his poems written in Sindhi: “Alas, I may die uprooted from my motherland… all hopes gone, my dream unfulfilled… I may not have a glimpse of Jeejal, Mother Sindh again… no, not in this life, it seems…”
He came to Indonesia in the 1930s, when he was in his twenties. As a Sindhwarki, an Overseas Sindhi, as they were then called, he cherished the dream of “making money overseas, and going back to Sindh to settle down.”
During the 1930s and early 1940s he may have made two trips back to Kotri, his hometown, or, rather home village in those days. He had decided for the third trip as his last one, “vari bhi pahinjo mulq pahinjo, pardes mein kahitro waqt guzaarbo?!” – How long can one live overseas, one must finally go back to where his roots are?
During the Second World War, he could not make any trip back to Sindh. There was no communication with the family back home. And, yet, the hope lived on. So, when finally the war was over in the year of 1945, and it was possible to communicate again, he quickly began to wrap up his business in Indonesia to go back to start some business in Sindh.
In the meantime, there were confirmed news about the impending “amputation of Hindustan”, as he would refer to the partition of the Indian Subcontinent, the Independence of India, and the Birth of Pakistan.
But, it did not really matter, “Sindh is still my motherland. How does it matter if she is part of Pakistan? I am Sindhi, and I shall go back to Sindh” – was his conviction.
And, with such Conviction, in the year of 1947 as the subcontinent was burning and bleeding, he was on the way back to his Motherland, Jeejal Sindh, Mother Sindh.
He carried all his earnings in the form of precious metals, as both the regular as well as “private banks” – quite common then – were still not functioning. He was not alone, there were other Sindhwarkis as well – all unprepared for what they would be facing.
Whatever they carried was confiscated, “We were so shocked, we did not even know whether they were authorized to do any such thing, whether they were authorities, officials, or hooligans. Stepping out of the seaport and into the streets of Karachi, we realized we had lost Sindh…”
Back in Kotri,one of his very close friends, a Muslim, let us call him Abdullah, lamented, “Tolaram, why have you come back? We could have helped your family to board a ship to Bombay.”
Abdullah was very much concerned about Baba, my father’s safety. Indeed, he had been waiting for some news. He was not expecting him to come back while the subcontinent was burning.
Years later, Baba would recollect: “It was not making any sense to me. I was unable to understand the situation. I could not believe that one could be uprooted from his motherland. It was all so very absurd.”
“And, why Bombay, why India? Why did my family and I have to migrate? It was a shock. I could not believe in what I was hearing, or what I was seeing. I was hoping against hopes that it was just a dream and I would soon wake up. I thought it was a passing madness, and that the frenzy and insanity would soon be over.”
Within Two Weeks, however, he finally realized that one person’s gain was another person’s loss. His friend Abdullah, shared his feelings, but added, “Toli,” that was Baba’s pet name, “in this frenzy, no person, no community gains anything. We all are losers. Those who played this trick upon us will one day realize. Alas, Toli, we have to part. I want to believe that we shall meet again, yet, deep inside I also feel that that may not happen.”
Baba’s siblings, his two sisters and their families left for India, independent India, where they would be welcomed as sharanarthi or refugees, while Baba opted for Indonesia.
“Abdullah Literally Carried Us on his shoulders, it would not have been possible for us to make it to the Karachi Port and take any available steamship, if he was not with us.
“He protected us, and bade us farewell with tears in his eyes. It was so hard for me, for us, to even say good bye,” Baba would often recount.
He was torn by what he saw. One of my mother’s first cousins – a well-known socialist, I would rather not mention his name here, would not go anywhere, “how can I leave this place, this is where Sindhu Daryah (the Majestic River Sindhu) is, this is where Moen jo Daro is, bearing witness to our ancient civilization, this is my Sindh.”
Inspite of all the hardships, challenges, and even atrocities, he remained in Sindh – true to his faith. In one of his last letters to Baba, “Seth (a term of respect like Sir, literally meaning “Boss”) Tolaram, I shall not be around to witness the Sindh to come. But, I shall die with my dream of a Glorious Sindh to come, where peoples of all faiths, all denominations, live in peace, in harmony, in the spirit of comradeship.” Most of my Sindhi readers, especially those living in Sindh, will know who I am referring to!
Baba Died a Broken Man.There was not a single day when he did not reminisce about Sindh, about Bhitai Shah, Sarmast, Sachal, and Kanwar Ram – the great souls who blessed Sindh with their presence.
He died with a dream, “But, you,” he told me many times, “do fulfil my dream. Whenever you have the opportunity to visit Sindh. Do kiss the mitti, the sacred earth of Sindh, and remember me……”
I am still waiting for the day to fulfil his unfinished dream, I would not say “unfulfilled”, for don’t we all live on hope? Jiye Sindh – Long Live Sindh!