RAM PANJWANI, ‘SUN’ OF SINDH, TALKS ABOUT US AND HIMSELF IN AN
EXCLUSIVE BIRTHDAY INTERVIEW WITH RAM BUXANI
He has been given many titles. A legend in his life time – the greatest living Sindhi, Padma Shri, a cultural Ambassador of Sindhis. Prof. Ram Panjwani is responsible, perhaps more than any other Sindhi for keeping the language and culture alive in India. Through the glorification of ‘Jhulelal’ he has sought to unite the whole community. His vim and determination without thought of material gain has brought him saintly veneration in the eyes of not only Sindhis but all others who have known and loved him as a humanist.
He is many things to many people or to all of them at once – writer, poet. teacher, dramatist, musician and linguist. To himself he is only one thing. A man, albeit a man who has loved in life and has 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. Good for us, the professor found time to impart the art into
three of our generations. That is how tradition lives. Passing it on.
Panjwani was born on November 20, 1911 in a Zamindar family of Larkana where he had his education. This education became a career in 1937 when he joined the famous D.J. Sind College, Karachi, as a lecturer in Sindhi. Much later on, he was to help founding of one of the most well-organized and respected higher education institutions, the Jai Hind College, Bombay. He became the Head of its Sindhi Department. Upon retirement from formal service, he went on to occupy the justice H.K. Chainani Professor of Cultural and Dramatic Activities.
An activist by birth and conviction, Prof. Panjwani has 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 Text Books, Board of Studies for Sindhi, University of Bombay, and a member of the Academic Councli of this University. Ram Panjwani has not only put his word into deed but spent the better part of his life persuading others too to do so.
What has it been like? What is it like now?
What will it be like from now on? Questions to a sage, the Sain of the chela. Unlike the old proverbial soldier, Ram Panjwani is not fading away despite his seventy years. On his birthdate the grand old man of Sindh is brighter than ever. Our interviewer even detected a new colour in his cheek in his talk, a novel design in a kaliedoscopic personality that has all the hues of youth and maturity of new and old in him. Others grow older in time. Our teacher, bon vivant, sipping from ordinary air some mystery elixir, grows younger with the years. To test the power of youth we threw eighteen questions at the professor. Here is how he fielded them.
Q. What were the early influences, the elements and urges that moulded your character and impelled you towards the educational, the philosophical and the religious in life?
A. It was a combination of many factors. There was my own inner urge fed per haps 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 stratas of learning. My guru, Bewas was a great influence the one perhaps that honed the feeling edge.
Q. You are a writer, poet, dramatist, musician and linguist. In short, the consummate artisrt. Are artists born or made. Which one are you ?
A. The artist is both born and made. The gift comes from God which is developed by practice.
Q. Assuming that it took many influences and experiences to mould your attiude and develop talent, can you tell us which one was most actuely felt – pleasure of an experience or its pain? Can you describe one of each?
A. 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.
Q. You were a learner before you became a teacher. Which was the greater pleasure, learning or teaching?
A. 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.
Q. How far has Sindhi culture been adulterated in lands of its adoption? If by some miracle the exiled culture were to find its way back to the original home, would it fit in?
A. 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.
Q. You have been active in organizations devoted to the promotion of Sindhi language in India. What assurance can there be that it will survive in adverse circumstances?
A. There is no assurance except the assurance of our own will. If from the moment of their birth, we instil 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.
Q. Has the Government recognized your literary efforts ? By an award, for example and when?
A. My book, Anokha Azmooda (Unique Experiences) was one work that received such recognition. It got the Sahitya Academy Award in 1964.
Q. How many books have you authored? Name some.
A. More than twenty. Ten of the more popular ones are Qaidil Dheear na Jawan; Ahe na Ahe; Latifa; Tyag Ain Mukti: Ayo Naon zamano; Anokha Azmooda; Tunhinja Munhinja Tajriba; Sipoon and Yadgiryon.
Q. Have any of them been reprinted ?
A. Each more than once.
Q. How about Drama? Have any been staged?
A. I have written a great many one-act plays. Of those Samaj Shewak and Qurbdar Kanwar are in a class by themselves. Full length plays are Ayo Naon Zamano, Tyag Ain Mukti and Shah Ja Sata Natak. These have been staged again and again.
Q. You are known to be fond of Urdu Ghazals. They are part of your repertoire. Have you not written in this medium ?
A. I have not only sung in Uudu and Hindi, I have composed songs in the two languages as well. A number of them.
Q. Have you ever thought of composing a Sindhi Anthem. Tell us anyway which song in Sindhi is closest to being one.
A. 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.
Q. Sindhi have never thought of having a territorial enclave of their own, Has this been wise ?
A. Well, we had the chance of having a “little Sindh”. a replica of Sind in Gandhidham. But that was not to be, for reasons which are best left unreferred 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?
Q We have had Sindhis in India succeeding in business and the arts. Why does not Sindhi society produce as many scientists of note and politicians of prominence ?
Q. 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.
Q. The Padma Shri award was the crowning glory of your cultural pursuits. What are you striving for now ?
A 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. But
“TU SHAHEEN HAI PARVAZ HAI KAAM TERA
TERE SAMNE AASMAN AUR BHI HAIN”
Q. What sort of dawn do you see in the aftermath of the evening of your life ? Is there someone else who can keep watch ? Tell us if you see other starts in the Sindhi firmament.
A Nobody is indispensable The world can do without us; but we cannot do without the world. Nature abhors a vaccum and will always fill it. Already many promising stars are beginning to twinkle in the sky.
“KHUDA JANE YEH DUNIYA JALWAGAHE
NAAZ HAI KISKI HAZARON UTH GAYA RONAO
VAHI HAI AB BHI MAJLIS KI”
Q. You have written many scripts for dramas, even movies. Can you script a dialogue that will take place between you and your maker when the final curtain falls ?
A. The whole world is a stage on which an infinite variety of plays have been performed. I too have written dialogues and scripts for plays and movies. But what can I write when I come up before the Supreme Dramatist, the Producer who has no equal, who will never have an equal : If at all I have to script anything before him, I would say, “See your goodness and not my faults.”
“RAHE-WAFA MEN HUSN-WAFA MERE SATH HAI
TANHA NAHIN HUN MERA KHUDA MERE
Q. What have your progency learned from you ?
Have they any of your talents ?
A. 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.