Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sindhi newspapers gasping for breath in India

Sindhi daily Hindu edited by Harish Varyani

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

I have a copy of 'Hindu', a Sindhi daily in my hands. It's after a long time that I am trying to read a Sindhi newspaper

While its famous English namesake, 'The Hindu' is one of the leading newspapers in the country, this Sindhi newspaper which also has a rich history is facing a tough challenge.

'Hindu' is a multi-edition Sindhi newspaper. It is being published from the pre-partition era and is amongst the few Sindhi papers that have survived in the 21st century.

But, most other Sindhi publications are facing an existential crisis. Sindhi is not taught as third language in schools except in some cities in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharastra.

As Sindhis aren't concentrated in any state unlike speakers of Kannada, Telugu, Punjabi or Tamil, it doesn't enjoy state patronage which other languages get. Quite similar to the problems of Urdu, but circulation of Sindhi papers has seen an unusually sharp decline in recent years.

There are half-a-dozen Sindhi newspapers published from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ajmer, the Sindhi-dominated Ulhas Nagar town, Bhopal, and a couple of other towns, there numbers are few. Despite attempts by certain individuals to exhort Sindhi youths to take interest in their mother tongue, the situation hasn't improved.

In the 80s, the movement to write Sindhi in devanagri script had gained momentum. To an extent it was understandable, as Sindhis wanted their language to survive in India. While the spoken language remains alive, the literature has suffered in process. 

Writers rue that the vocabulary is getting lost and a strange 'mixture zabaan' has emerged. In recent years, Sindhi academies, organisations and trusts have tried hard to organise Sindhi mushairas, Kavi Goshthis, Cultural events and pumped money to publish Sindhi books, but the lack of interest shown by young generation has hampered the efforts.

Editorial on political drama in Karnataka
Till early 90s, I often got to see Sindhi newspapers in a few public reading rooms and in Sindhi households. But now you won't get a copy except perhaps at the newspaper office or a Sindhi academy, except in Ulhas Nagar and two-three other pockets where few bookshops keep the papers.

When Sindhi daily, Farz, was a mass circulated daily, I often saw it. As it is quite similar to Urdu, a person who knows the Perso-Arabic script can read Sindhi, though it requires some extra effort and attention.

After the death of the Farz' publisher, Rajesh Udhwani 'Guide', his son--Ravi Anand Udhwani, told me that there were few readers now and it was getting increasingly difficult to bring out the paper.

I am not aware of the situation in Pakistan where Sindhi does seem to flourish due to state-support and concentration of Sindhi speakers in the Sindh province.

However, the situation in India, is really bad and there is little hope of a revival for the Sindhi publications. A few committed persons are still trying to run classes and promote the language. While Sindhis, a community that has a sharp trading acumen, has seen collective success and achieved prosperity, the loss of the language is something that they should ponder upon.

I still have a thick Sindhi dictionary, which was gifted to me by my neighbours when I was a kid. They also tried to teach me the basics of the language. Since then I haven't seen any newspaper or periodical of the language in a Sindhi household though I have umpteen friends of the my community.

An elderly Sindhi friend was livid when he told me about the disinterest of young generation towards learning their 'mother tongue'. It takes centuries for languages to take shape and get popular. And, then to see the decline!