Home Sindhis Beyond Sindh Tribute to Dr. Charu Gidwani who believed that Sindhi Sufi legacy was the core of Sindhi Identity

Tribute to Dr. Charu Gidwani who believed that Sindhi Sufi legacy was the core of Sindhi Identity

Tribute to Dr. Charu Gidwani who believed that Sindhi Sufi legacy was the core of Sindhi Identity

Dr. Charu was very upset to see the decline of Sindhi language in India, and concerned that the treasure of Sindhi Sufi poetry remains unknown.

Dr. Charu Gidwani was born on 21 August 1970 in Pune, Maharashtra (India). She was the daughter of the renowned scholar Dr. Parso Gidwani (1932-2004) and Pushpa Khubchandani. Dr. Parso was born in Dadu and Pushpa was born in Karachi Sindh. In 1947 both their families migrated to India, leaving their ancestral abode. Dr. Parso Gidwani finally established in Pune where he taught Sindhi linguistics and literature at the Deccan College. Born after an elder brother named Rohitesh, young Charu grew up in the academic environment of the Deccan College in Pune.

Charu showed great interest in English Literature. In 1990, she graduated with B.A. in English from the University of Pune and did M.A. in 1992. The same year Charu Gidwani started her teaching career in Abeda Inamdar College in Pune (Maharashtra) where she stayed for two years. In September 1994, she shifted to R.K. Talreja College in Ulhasnagar. In 2004, she defended Ph.D. in the University of Pune on “Depicting of childhood in the works of Tagore”. Later, she joined as Associate Professor in English Literature at R.K. Talreja College.

Despite her specialization in Tagore’s work, for which she was considered an expert, Dr. Charu Gidwani was familiarized with Sindhi spirituality since her early childhood.

Among other Sindhi mystics, Hindu Sufis used to visit the family, for example Dada Ajwani (1920-2001), the author of several Sufi kalams, for whom she had a deep affection. Furthermore, her father’s Ph.D. had been devoted to a comparative study of Hindi and Sufi poets (Sagaur University, 1966). In sum, the Gidwani family, where she grew up, thus perfectly mirrored the open minded conception of Sindhi culture, based on toleration expressed in the sharing of poetry and the performance of devotional songs.

Dr.-Charu-Gidwani-Sindh-CourierWhen Dr. Parso Gidwani passed away in 2004, Charu started to look at her father’s papers. Her will was to publish a number of them which were still under manuscript form. Among her main achievements in this field, there was Dr. Parso’s seminal work on “Similarities in Sindhi and Dravidian Languages” in 2007, for which she had written a post-face. Another one was the publication in 2010 of Sindhi Lok Geet- Bolia Ji Osar by the Sindhi Language Authority, in Hyderabad, Sindh, with a preface in Sindhi of her own. She was thus, with her father, one of the very few Indian Sindhi scholars to have been published in Pakistan.

Dr. Charu Gidwani was still fighting to edit her father’s magnum opus: the “Etymological Dictionary of Sindhi”, containing around 10 million entries which lies with the Deccan College unpublished, a unique piece of scholarship which is still missing many students and scholars.

Progressively, she became more and more involved in Sindhi literature and culture. After her parents acquired a house in Kutch, in the Sindhi speaking area of Banni, she had the opportunity to spend days in a rural Sindhi milieu. She had to be back there for research fieldwork on Sufi Sindhi legacy in summer 2012. Her fame in the field of Sindhi Studies was growing every day.

Dr. Charu Gidwani was in touch with Sindhi scholars in India, but also in Pakistan, such as Professor Ghulamali Allana, a former director of the Institute of Sindhology (University of Sindh, Jamshoro) and former vice-chancellor of Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad.

Dr. Charu-Friends-
Dr. Charu Gidwani (center) at “home” with friends, in the Sindhi-speaking area of Banni

In the same time, Dr. Charu Gidwani was more and more concerned with the future of Sindhi literature and language. She was very upset to see the decline of Sindhi language in India, and concerned that the treasure of Sindhi Sufi poetry remains unknown. In Ulhasnagar, a place which has been a hub of Sindhi refugees, she began to regularly visit Sindhi darbars like that of Rai Rochaldas in Shantinagar. She was fascinated by Sindhi Sufi poetry and singings and was fond of attending satsangs where her discrete, sweet and charismatic presence was much appreciated.

She had participated in a number of seminars and workshops where she had delivered talks on the issue of Sindhi identity. More and more, she felt that the Sindhi Sufi legacy was the core of Sindhi identity.

Interestingly in the wake of her father’s work she was working on an anthology of Sufi texts, with the Sindhi original and an English translation. She had also started to study different Sindhi Sufi traditions in India. To implement her study, she had travelled in a number of cities like Ulhasnagar, Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri, Delhi, Haridwar, Vadodara, Nagpur, and many others.

Her short but so rich life will not give her the opportunity to realize the many projects she had in mind. Last but not least, she had created with her family The Parso Gidwani Centre for Sindhi Studies in 2011. This is a living testimony of the richness of the Sindhi culture she has cherished. Among the Sufi poets she was fond of Dalpat Sufi (1769-1842), a Hindu Sufi who was born in Sehwan Sharif and who had died a year before the British conquest of Sindh. The English translation is Dr. Charu’s one, perfectly reflects her poetic sensitivity:

وﻥﺀ ﭘﻨﻬﺟﻲ وﻂﻦ ڏﻱ ﺳﭸﺎﺛﻲ ﺩﻟﭘﺕ ﺩم

ﻧﻚﻮﺳﺎڌ ﻧﻴﻤﻦ ﮐﻲ ﻧﻚﻮ ﺳﺎڌﻳﻢ

ﮀڏ اﭜﻤﺎن دﻳﻬﻪ ﺟﻮ ذات ورن ﻛﺮ ﮔﻢ

ﺳﮑﻪ ﭤﻲ وﭸﻲ ﺳﻣﻬﻪ ﺳﺎﻣﻲ ﺳﺖ ﺳﺮوپ ۾

(Deewan Dalpat, Ed. Gidumal Khatanmal Harjani, Kalyan, 1965, p. 68)

Go to the land of your origin, knowing give you breath Dalpat

Do not pursue rituals, nor on death do mediate,

Leave all arrogance of the body, caste and color renounce,

Be blissful and go immerse, in the True Master’s Being!

Here is the list of Dr. Charu Gidwani’s achievements (prepared by her brother Rohitesh Gidwani)

Abstracts in Seminar Proceedings; Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages, Deogiri College, Aurangabad, July, 2008; Language: Preserver and Nourisher of the Ethnic Self, NEHU, Tura, Nov-2009; Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages, West Goalpara College, Goalpara, Nov-2009; Identity Crisis of the Displaced Sindhi-Hindus In India. North Gauhati College, Gauhati, June-2011; Language: Preserver of Sindhi Identity, Narrativizing margins, Assam University, Diphu, Jan-2012; Sindhi Sufi poetry in post-partition India – CLAI & Central University of Rajasthan, Ajmer, Feb-2012

Papers in Seminar Souvenirs/Proceedings

Tagore- poet, critic – Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Sep-2008; Tagore- Indianness in the face of colonialism Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Feb-2009; Language: Preserver and Nourisher of Ethnic Self, Jaihind College, Pimpri, February, 2012.

Research articles/papers in International Journals

Contributed to “Similarities in Sindhi & Dravidian Languages”, IJDL, Jan-2007; Translations of Jhulelal Panjras in Newsletter, MIFS, Sep-2009; “Sindhi Customs, Literature and Oratures” – The Marginal Voice, Vol-II, NINAD, May-2011.

Research articles/papers in National Journals/Books

“Some ceremonial milestones in the life of a Sindhi male”, DLA, Kerala, March-2006; Book review of ‘Pages of My Life’, JJCL, Vol. 48, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, 2010-2011; “Tagore: Indianness in the face of colonialism’ in Multiplicity of postcolonial literature, Author’s Press, New Delhi, 2010, p-53-56

Book review of ‘Divine Dwellers in the Desert’

International Book

Sindhi Lok Geet- Bolia Ji Osar, Sindhi Language Authority, Hyderabad, Sindh, 2010

Creative Writing

Short Story- Green Leaves of Life, Melange, Guwahati, September 2008; Short Story- Convenience, Melange, Guwahati, Dec-2008; Short Story-  Lines, Melange, Guwahati, March-2009; Sufi Stories of Sindh; Sindhi Folksongs; “Manto: Burden of Pain’, Muse India May-June,2012.

Dr. Charu attended a number of national and international seminars where she presented her papers on topics like Sindhi Literature- A case of Cultural Dislocation; Identity Crisis of the Displaced Sindhi-Hindus in India; A Lost Voice, A Lost Identity: Sindhi; Sindhi Language and Identity; The curious case of Sindhi Literature and Art; Language: Preserver of Sindhi Identity; Sindhi Sufi poetry in post-partition India.

Moreover, She presided over several seminars like State Level Seminar on “Sindhi Language & Young Generation”; International Seminar on ‘Religious minorities in India and Pakistan’ etc.


Courtesy: Sindh Hypotheses – Sindhi Study Group