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Publishing in Sindhi

Publishing in Sindhi
Sindhi books at the Indian Institute of Sindhology

Things are so dismal that the Sindhi books sell very little. There is no Sindhi bookseller dealing with books published from various quarters in India. Whatever number of Sindhi books are published, they wait to be lifted in bulk by the Central Government under its scheme for bulk purchase of Sindhi books as a promotional measure.

Dr. Motilal Jotwani

Even as other provinces of India did, Sindhi also threw up a good number of publishers – in the provincial language Sindhi – who took to publishing not as a big business proposition, but as a nationalist mission, during the Indian struggle for freedom. Dedicated to the cause of national awakening as they were, they knew that they made investments in publishing the Sindhi works, which would have no big returns in monetary terms. It was all right for them if they saw the credit and debit meeting with each other, year after year.

Categorized as general publishers like Harisingh Dingomal of Sukkur and Pokardas Thanwardas of Shikarpur (est. in the 1880’s), institutional publishers (sub-categorized as non-governmental and governmental) like Sanatan Dharma Prachar Sabha of Karachi (est. in 1901) and Sindhi Adabi Board of Hyderabad under the Education Department of Sindh Government (est. in 1940) and author-publishers like the Advani Brothers of Hyderabad (Sadhu Navalrai Advani and his younger brother Sadhu Hiranand Advani) they electrified Sindh with ancient Indian thought and practices as well as contemporary ideas and actions. While the general and institutional publishers had enough money to spend in the field of Sindhi letters, the author-publishers worked as teachers, lawyers and doctors in their day-to-day life and used their savings from salaries or professional fees in the Sindhi publishing they undertook. But one thing was common to all of them; they all were imbued with the nationalist spirit and saw that the Sindhi people kept themselves abreast of realities under the alien rule.

A word about the publishing in English, which was done on a small scale along with that undertaken in Sindhi in a major way. Unlike the situation today in which it is erroneously thought that publishing in English was the sole representative of Indian publishing in the pre-Independence India, it (publishing in English), in fact, in Sindh and elsewhere in India lay on the margin of Indian publishing and is was done at a small scale with a view to meeting the alien rulers on their familiar ground and apprising them of their legitimate demands and expressing their hopes and despairs, aspirations and frustrations in the English language, they (the alien rulers) knew.

In the pre-Independence era, all the three categories of publishers published works in Sindhi in a least four scripts : (1) Perso-Arabic script, introduced by the Britishers in 1853, in which the bulk of Sindhi literature appeared thereafter, (2) Gurumukhi script, in which the Sikh religious literature was published and Chainrai Bachomal Sami’s Slokas were originally written and also brought out for the use of the Sindhi women, in particular, who knew this script more than the Sindhi men, in those days. (3) Devanagari, the age-old script for Sindhi, which came into more and more disuse consequent on the Perso-Arabic script becoming the official script in Sindh after 1853 and in which some text-books and periodicals like the Hindu (est. in 1916) by Vishnu Sharma and Lokram Sharma were published for a section of Sindhi community, still using this script, and (4) Vaniki or Hindu-Sindhi script in which the Sindhi trading class people wrote their bahi-khatas (accounts books) and a periodical journal called Sookhree (est. in 1899) was brought out.

Besides Harisingh Dingomal and Pokardas Thanwardas, mentioned above, Sunder Sahitya (est. in 1924), Kauromal Sindhi Sahita Mandal (est. in 1925), Bharat Jeevan (est. in 1932), Ratan Sahitya Mandal (est. in 1934) and Kahani (est. in 1939) were among the general publishers of books in Sindhi. Sunder Sahitya of Fatechand Vaswano, Kauromal Sindhi Sahita Mandal of Harisunder Roopchand, Bharat Jeevan of Jethanand Bhavandas Lalwani and Ratan Sahitya Mandal of Chuharmal Hinduja and Parumal Kevalramani published works of general interst, including thoseo f children’s entertainment and instruction. Kahani of Jagat Advani, apropos its very name, was given to publication of fictional works, original and translated / adapted in Sindhi. These publishing houses were very popular and created a huge readership. Over and above all this, a series of books called Gulphul (est. in 1925) and a periodical called Gulistan (est. in 1944) were run-away successes in the field of children’s literature.

Mr. Sahib Bijani Head of Library and Documentaion Centre showing, the work of preservation of old Books & Manuscripts to Shri Murij Manghnani, Shri Lal Hardasani, Trustees of Sindhology.
Mr. Sahib Bijani Head of Library and Documentaion Centre showing, the work of preservation of old Books & Manuscripts to Shri Murij Manghnani, Shri Lal Hardasani, Trustees of Sindhology.

From among the institutional publishers, a mention may be made of Sikh Youngmen’s Association of Hyderabad (a reincarnation of Sikh Sabha, est. in 1868, at Karachi by Sadhu Navalrai Advani and Munshi Udharam Mirchandani), which published a monthly series of tracts on Sikhism; Sindhi Sahita Society (est. in 1914) of Jethmal Parsram and Lalchand Amardinomal, which published scores of books on various subjects by different authors, viz. Mirza Qalich Beg’s Motiyun jee Dab’lee, Lilaramsingh Watanmal’s novel Sundari and Lalchand Amardinomal’s Shahaano Shah and Soonhaaro Sachal; and Muslim Adabi Society (est. in 1931) of Muhammad Sidiq Memon, which published historical books from the Islamic standpoint. Sindhi Adabi Board, a governmental institution (est. in 1940), brought out a quarterly Sindhi magazine called Mehraan in 1946.

But it was the author-publishers, sometimes operating like Sindhi Society and at mostly others working as individuals like Mirza Qalich Beg and Hundraj Dukhayal, who kept alive the Sindhi publishing ventures. As stated earlier, the Advani Brothers were the much-celebrated author-publishers. Sadhu Hiranand launched his independent Sindhi monthly called Saraswati in 1890 from his Academy, which he had established in Hyderabad, Sindh. Many reputed writers including Dayaram Gidumal wrote for the Saraswati. In the same year, Sadhu Navalrai, Sadhu Hiranand’s elder brother, issued the Sudhaar Patreekaa in the Gurumukhi script; it was devoted to the cause of Sindhi women.

The Sindhi publishing progressed by leaps and bounds with the establishment of many a periodical / journal, including Parmanand Mewaram’s Jot (though est. in 1896 Parmanand joined it in 1900), Jethmal Parsram’s Hindvasee (est. in1917) and the Sharma Brothers’ Hindu (originally as a weekly in Devanagari in 1916, and as a daily in the Perso-Arabic script from the year 1917). On August 1, 1946, the death anniversary of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Hindu was renamed as the Hindustaan. In 1948, it shifted its offices from Karachi to Mumbai, from where it is being published till today.

The post-independence Sindhi publishing scene presents a collage of juxtaposed images, at once strong and weak, complete and broken, brilliant and dismal. Independence brought in its wake the unfortunate Partition of the country into India and Pakistan – “unfortunate” because it was based on the ill-conceived and hastily executed two-nation theory. After the partition, the Sindhi Hindus migrated from Pakistan to India and settled in whatever part of the country they found place, especially in (numerical strength wise) Gujarat (704,088), Maharashtra (618,696), Rajasthan (336,523), Madhya Pradesh (322,074), Uttar Pradesh (52,168) and Delhi (37,381).

It must be noted here that these are the figures that reflect the number of people who returned Sindhi as their mother tongue in the 1991 census, comprising a total of 2,122,848, which constitutes 0.25 percent of the total population. Interestingly enough, the census figures from 1971 to 1991 show a decline in the percentage of Sindhi speaking people, e.g. 1971 (0.31%), 1981 (0.30%) and 1991 (0.25%). This downward trend could be attributed to the influence of western culture which resulted in a mass exodus to English medium schools and the mother tongue took a backseat.

As regards the regular book-publishing in Sindhi, apart from the periodicals in Sindhi, it was a matter of great reassurance that during the first decade and a half of Indian Independence, we had the Hindustan Sahitya Mala, a publishing scheme launched in 1952 by the printers and publishers of the Sindhi daily Hindustaan. Mansing Chuharmal, assisted by Jhamatmal Bhavnani, was the person behind the successful publishing of 50 popular books, meant for entertainment and instruction. Soon after its closure, the regular book publishing was taken over by the magazines like Koonj (est. in 1961), Sindhi Times (est. in 1962) and Sangeeta (est. in 1969), which periodically issued books under their respective RNI (Register of Newspapers of India) numbers. Among them, the Sindhi Times books, totaling more than 100, are the most numerous. Besides books, the Koonj has the singular honor of having published special issues on the Sindhi literary personalities.

After the Partition of India, the Sindhis found themselves to be the worst hit for they lost the whole of Sindh to Pakistan whereas the Punjabis and the Bengalis retained parts of their provinces in the new India. Stateless as the Sindhis have been, their attitude on matters like preserving their separate identity has been characterized by an ambivalence; on the one hand they would like to preserve their literature and culture and do everything to celebrate at a large scale the Chetichand (Chaitra-chandra-darshan) day as the Uderolal Jayanti day, year after year; on the other, they would not send their children to Sindhi schools. Soon after the partition, there were hundreds of Sindhi schools in India, out of which even ten have not survived. The Sindhi parents in their misguided enthusiasm to see that their wards do well in the new environs send them either to English-medium public schools or to Marathi / Gujarati / Hindi medium schools in their respective states. With the decline in the Sindhi education, the Sindhi readership and the Sindhi publishing have also correspondingly declined. The Sindhis have been looking forward to the state patronage, which they have been receiving as a fair share in the educational and cultural grants in the democratic set up of the country, subsequent to the recognition of their language Sindhi in 1967.

It was good of Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, and its first Secretary K. R. Malkani to have recognized Sindhi for its promotional programs on par with those for other languages, several years before 1967. Sahitya Akademi has published 78 books in Sindhi so far; 14 novels, 11 collections of short stories, 5 plays, 9 collections of poetry, 26 monographs in the Makers of Indian Literature series, one history of Sindhi literature and 12 general books. In the wake of the recognition of Sindhi language, an Advisory Committee for Production of Standard Literature in Sindhi was set up by the Government of India in 1972 and a good number of books, at least 20 of them, mostly reprints of the Sindhi classics, were published under its aegis. Considering the urgent need of English-Sindhi and Sindhi-English dictionaries, the Sindhi Advisory Committees of both the Sahitya Akademi and the Central Government published Parmanand Mewaram’s above mentioned dictionaries in 1971 and 1977 respectively.

Indian Institute of Sindhology
Indian Institute of Sindhology

Besides these two government institutions, others of the ilk are the State run Sindhi Akademies : Rajasthan Sindhi Akademi (est. in 1979), Madhya Pradesh Sindhi Sahita Akademi (est. in 1983), Maharashtra Sindhi Sahita Akademi (est. in 1983), Gujarat Sindhi Akademi (est. in 1986), Delhi Sindhi Adaemi (est. in 1994) and Uttar Pradesh Sindhi Akademi (est. in 1997) for the development of Sindhi literature and culture. While Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra Sindhi Akademies bring out annual journals Rihaan (launched in 1981), Adabi Chaman (launched in 1987) and Saahitakaar (launched in 1988) respectively, Delhi Sindhi Akademi publishes a quarterly journal called Sindhu Joti (launched in 1996). All these Akademies give financial aid to the Sindhi writers for publication of their works on the respective state levels and have instituted annual prizes for meritorious works in various branches of literature. But, as we ordinarily know, the governmental efforts cannot possibly match the non-governmental ones in quality and quantity. The Sindhi NGOs, non-governmental organizations, torn by general ambivalence of Sindhi community towards the question of preservation of self-identity, are not simply able to cut much ice in the matter. Excepting Prof. Ram Panjwani Cultural Centre at Sita Sindhu Bhawan, Mumbai (est. in 1987), the Indian Institute of Sindhology, Adipur (est. in 1989), Sahyog Foundation (est. in 1990) and Sindhuni Jo Sansaar, New Delhi (est. in 1995) by Ghanshyamdas Hotumalani, which hold good promise, nothing significant seems to be working out in the field of Sindhi publishing. After all, we have to understand that the Sindhi publishing will live by its own health and strength, will and volition, and no amount of state-patronage which is like artificial respiration will help it beyond a certain point in time. Things are so dismal that the Sindhi books sell very little. As on today, there is no Sindhi bookseller dealing with books published from various quarters in India. Whatever number of Sindhi books are published, they wait to be lifted in bulk (150 copies each) by the Central Government under its scheme for bulk purchase of Sindhi books as a promotional measure. So much so, the New Delhi office of the Library of Congress (USA), which used to procure books in Sindhi, has also curtailed this program, thinking rightly or wrongly that real place for procuring books in Sindhi is Sindh in Pakistan.

Lately, one more trend has emerged in that the young generation of Sindhis, cut off as they are, from the Sindhi education, look for the news and views of the Sindhi world in the journals in English and Hindi. Sindhi International launched in 1990 and edited by Lal Pushp; Aseen Sindhi launched in 1994 and edited by Jairam Rupani; Sahyog Times International launched in 1994 and edited by Ram Jawhrani and Sindhishaan launched in 2001 by Ranjit Butani are such journals in English, published from Mumbai. In the words of Ram Jawhrani, the editor of Sahyog Times International, these journals aim “at bridging the gap between Sindhis and non-Sindhis and making the Sindhi generations aware of the rich Sindhi culture.”

Likewise, three periodicals in Hindi, Dil-e-Sindh (est. in 1987) by Mahesh Chhabria, Sindhi Gulistaan (est. in 1994) by Anju Tulsiani and Samvaad Sindhi (est. in 1994 by Srikant Bhatia are being published from Delhi. And this list of journals in English and Hindi is representative, not exhaustive.

After five decades of Independence, the publishing in Sindhi (and about the Sindhi world in Hindi and English) has come of age. In the words of Shri Ranjit Butani, the theme of publishing in Sindhi should be – What next, what now is the need of the hour?


drmotilaljotwaniBorn in Rohri, Sindh, Motilal Wadhumal Jotwani was an Indian writer, educationist, and a former post- doctoral fellow of Harvard Divinity School who specialized in Sindhi language and literature. He passed away in January 2008 in Pune at the age of 72.

Courtesy: Sindhi Shaan Magazine (Published in July-Sep. 2003 issue)