Homage to Prof. Dada Ram Panjwani – a legend in his life time – one of the greatest Sindhis, the Cultural Ambassador of Sindhis, who was responsible, perhaps more than any other Sindhi for keeping the language and culture alive in India
Shri Ram Prataprai Panjwani was born on 20th November 1911 at Larkana in Sindh province of erstwhile British India and passed away on March 31, 1987 at the age of 75.
He graduated from Mumbai University in 1934 and started his career as a teacher at the D. J. Sindh Government Science College, Karachi. After the partition in 1947, he relocated to Mumbai.
Shri Ram Panjwani published several literary works in Sindhi language, starting with his debut novel, Padma (1939) which preceded works like Qaidy, Sharmila, Asanjo Ghar, Ahe Na Ahe and Shall Dhiaru Na Jaman. He also acted in four films, Jhulelal, Ladlee, Hojmalo and Shall Dhiaru Na Jaman, the last one based on his own novel. He received Sahitya Akademi award in 1964 for his work – Anokha Azmuda. He was the editor of the Sindhi publication – Hindustan Sindhi Weekly. The Government of India awarded him the fourth highest Indian civilian honor of Padma Shri in 1981 for his book ‘Anokha Azmooda’ (Unique Experiences).
He was author of more than twenty books. Ten of the more popular ones are Shall Dheear na Jaman; Ahe na Ahe; Latifa; Tyag Ain Mukti: Ayo Naon Zamano; Anokha Azmooda; Tunhinja Munhinja Tajriba; Sipoon and Yadgiryon. Each one of his books reprinted more than once.
He had written a great many one-act plays. Of those Samaj Shewak and Qurbdar Kanwar were in a class by themselves. Full length plays were Ayo Naon Zamano, Tyag Ain Mukti and Shah Ja Sata Natak. These had been staged again and again. He also had composed Urdu Ghazals.
Through the glorification of ‘Jhulelal’ he had sought to unite the whole community. His vim and determination without thought of material gain brought him saintly veneration in the eyes of not only Sindhis but all others who knew and loved him as a humanist. He was many things to many people or to all of them at once – writer, poet, teacher, dramatist, musician and linguist. To himself he was only one thing – a man. He was a man who was loved in life and lived in love. Ishq, Ishq! He learned early in life an art most of us grow old learning. That is the art of living and loving; a full life no matter how short its duration is after all the essence of completeness.
Professor Ram Panjwani found time to impart the art into three of his generations. That is how tradition lives – passing it on.
Ram Panjwani was born in a Zamindar family of Larkana where he had his early education. This education became a career in 1937 when he joined the famous D.J. Sindh College, Karachi, as a lecturer in Sindhi. Much later, he was to help founding one of the most well-organized and respected higher education institutions – the Jai Hind College, Bombay. He became the Head of its Sindhi Department.
An activist by birth and conviction, Prof. Panjwani always sought to put word into deed; as an associate of literary and cultural organizations like Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli and Sahitya Sabha (the latter as a former president); the founder of Sita Sindhu Bhawan, an Academy of Art and Culture; as member of advisory panels of Sahitya Academy, the Committee for promotion of Standard Literature in Sindhi (Ministry of Education, Govt. of India), Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education; Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbooks, Board of Studies for Sindhi, University of Bombay, and a member of the Academic Council of this University.
Ram Panjwani not only put his words into deed but spent the better part of his life persuading others too to do so.
In an interview, replying to a question about ‘What were the early influences, the elements and urges that molded his character and impelled him towards the educational, the philosophical and the religious in life’, Prof. Ram Panjwani had said: “It was a combination of many factors. There was my own inner urge fed perhaps by the mystique of Sindh, its saints and its Sufis. There was the influence of my father whom I revered very much. And that of my teachers as I made my way up the strata of learning. My guru, Bewas was a great influence the one perhaps that honed the feeling edge.”
According to him the artist is both born and made. “The gift comes from God which is developed by practice.”
“Both pleasure and pain mould one’s life and talent. I am no exception. At the age of twelve, I was persuaded by my teachers to participate in a school function. I did so and to my great joy, I discovered that I had won all the prizes. Singing for me has, since then, become a joy. But it was my cultural guide, Bewas, who when he passed away that I realized that without pain, there is no joy in life,” he said.
Recalling his student life and later as a teacher, he had said: “Who can forget those carefree days when one was a student. Learning is a process that continues all through life. I have also enjoyed being a teacher. If I am given another chance, I would like to be a teacher once again, though the life of a teacher is one of dignified poverty. From childhood I have been lucky with my teachers all of whom took personal interest in me, as if I was their own child.”
He was of the view that language and literature are living organisms which grow with the growth of a people. “Our language, literature and culture have survived the effects of partition because of our own inner strength; and it is this inherent strength which will make them survive and progress wherever we may be – even if we have the opportunity to return to the soil that gave us birth. But would we want to go back? Would we want to put the clock back? I don’t think so.”
To a question what assurance can there be that it will survive in adverse circumstances, he had said: “There is no assurance except the assurance of our own will. If from the moment of the birth, we instill in our children an abiding love of our language and culture, there is no reason why they cannot survive and progress even in the most adverse circumstances.”
When asked if ever thought of composing a Sindhi Anthem, he said, “An anthem is usually a national song. And in our case it is “Jana Gana Mana”. But we do have our “Ayo Lal, Jhulelal” which is sung at almost all Sindhi functions.”
He said, “We had the chance of having a “little Sindh” – a replica of Sindh in Gandhidham. But that was not to be, for reasons which are best left un-referred to here. It is too late to think in terms of a Sindhi enclave now. We have the whole country before us. Why bother with an enclave?”
To a question, he said, “It is wrong to say that successful Sindhis are limited to the fields of business and the arts. We have produced men of note in every walk of life. We have had distinguished scientists, doctors, businessmen who can hold their own in any special field of activity. And we have had many outstanding educationists and philanthropists who have been responsible for founding and endowing great colleges, great hospitals and a number of social and cultural institutions – not only for Sindhis but for all humanity.”
About his self, Prof. Ram Panjwani said, “I have never striven for anything except to work in obedience to the urge within me. Whatever I have received has come to me by way of the grace of God. The Padma Shri award is not the crowning glory of my life. My crowning glory is the love of my people.
To a query ‘what sort of dawn does he see in the aftermath of the evening of his life? And was there someone else who can keep watch?’, Prof. Ram Panjwani replied: “Nobody is indispensable The world can do without us; but we cannot do without the world. Nature abhors a vacuum and will always fill it. Already many promising stars are beginning to twinkle in the sky.”
When asked ‘what have your progeny learned from you? Have they any of your talents?’, Prof. Ram Panjwani said: “My children and grand-children have learnt to value goodness and the love of people. They are useful persons, well behaved. They are always smiling. And they take the good and the bad in their stride. They have picked up all that I am capable of communicating to them. They can sing. They can dance. They can charm people. But I do not know why they have not taken to writing, though they have the talent for it.”