Tuesday, February 13, 2007


My book, "Sindhi Reflections" has been reviewed in "The Pioneer" in February 2007. Here it is:

Pain refuses to subside
MV Kamath
Sindhi Reflections, Lata Jagtiani; Jharna Books, Rs 800
When Partition took place and Pakistan came into being, murder and looting became the order of the day. But neither Punjab nor Bengal was handed over to Pakistan in toto. Just as these States were partitioned, so should have been Sind.
Sind, too, should have been partitioned. One part of it, howsoever small, should have remained with India. It should not have become necessary for all Hindu Sindhis to leave their homeland and come to India, too often penniless, in addition to being homeless. What is most ironic is that our National Song includes Sind as part of our heritage, if not of the country itself. But none of that mattered and Sind was handed over to Pakistan on a platter. What followed was utter misery for lakhs of Hindu Sindhis.
Now, 60 years later, Lata Jagtiani has taken up the challenge with commendable determination. And what stories have these Hindu Sindhis have to tell? Thousands went through hell after they landed in Mumbai as migrants. They went about systematically to rebuild their broken lives and forget the past.
In his forward to the book, LK Advani says, "It is amazing that our community has survived and survived well. Like the phoenix (risen) from the ashes, we have risen from being down and out, to a people who take the lead in commerce and have fair representation in the arts, medicine, engineering and a variety of fields... It seems almost unreal that our community suffered so much when what you get to see is educated, progressive and successful Sindhis today." Not only have they prospered, but they have also built schools and colleges, hospitals and public service organisations.
What Lata Jagtiani has done is to put together a fascinating collection of over 140 true accounts and profiles of Sindhi Hindus who came to India to make it their next home and build a new life for themselves. Says Jagtiani, "Many had a zero balance after they left Sind; today, it might be difficult to count the number of zeroes in most of their balance sheets..." But that is really putting on a brave face. It could be that the Sindhis do not want to live in the past and let the dead past bury its dead.
One, however, cannot still forget the pain and angst of another day, Jagtiani recounts the story of a Sindhi woman with several children who was told to quit her home at once along with her kids before a riotous gang came to kill them all. She has to run to the nearest railway station with as many of the children around. It was only when she and her lot were safely in a train coach that she realised that her teenage daughter was missing. There was no way to get the teenager as the train started moving. For long nobody knew. Then it turned out that the abandoned daughter had been adopted by a Muslim family which raised her to become a well-established doctor.
Writes Jagtiani, "A meeting was arranged between the daughter and the mother at Ulhasnagar. After the initial joy of the reunion, they parted and returned to their lives - the mother back to selling pappad in India and the daughter to heal the people ill in Pakistan."
Sindhi Reflections is divided into eight equally important sections. Jagtiani herself interviewed many people. A few who were interviewed later did not want their thoughts and experiences recounted in print.
Jagtiani starts her book with an account of a brief historical background to Sindhi life and culture, while it ends with the tragic Partition.
Of about 14 lakh Sindhi Hindus, as many as 12.25 lakh had to leave Sind for India and other parts of the world. Some of the stories recounted came straight from the mouths of those who left Sind between January and match 1948. Jagtiani says, quite rightly, that Sindhis left Sind "not out of cowardice but, in fact, they chose wisdom over foolhardiness" and "faced an unpleasant reality and did what was necessary for survival".
Jagtiani has brought alive a past which many would rather forget. But the historian has a duty to perform and Jagtiani has done it well.