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Saga of Sindhi struggle

Through a film and poetry, remembering a forgotten chapter

Saga of Sindhi struggle

A still from ‘Aakhareen Train’, based on a story by Thakur Chawla.



Krishnaraj Iyengar

There is no India without Sindh, says filmmaker Susheel Gajwani, reminding us how the words ‘India’ and ‘Hindustan’ originate from ‘Indus’ or ‘Sindhu’. His fierce passion has finally found form. After having directed several Hindi and Marathi movies, Kolhapur-born Gajwani’s first Sindhi film, ‘Aakhareen Train’ (The Last Train), with English subtitles, has drawn huge acclaim. The film is inspired by a story written by renowned writer Thakur Chawla.

A poignant love story of Prem, a Hindu boy, and Allah Dina, a Muslim girl, it is set against the backdrop of Partition and the struggles of the Sindhi community. “It’s a myth that Sindhi Hindus and their Muslim counterparts were at loggerheads. In fact, they were always united. The Muhajir Muslims from Uttar Pradesh were the ones who drove our forefathers out of Sindh,” Gajwani says. “Fearing a massacre, Prem’s brother has to leave Sindh and is forced to sell his property for a meager amount. Prem laments the agony of separation as his beloved has to stay back.”

In the background of the film’s titles plays a heart-melting poem ‘Des Khe Chhaa Chaoon?’ (What Do We Say to the Homeland?) by celebrated poet Vasdev Mohi, recited in the poet’s own voice.

Gajwani is proud of his community’s literary legacy that was shaped by poets Shah Abdul Latif, Sachal and Sami. Today, he believes, Sahitya Akademi awardee Sindhi poet Nandlal Javeri remains the torchbearer. Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) recently celebrated his anthology ‘Akhar Katha’ (Story of Word) through ‘The Roots — The Time Traveller’, an event curated by Gajwani. Writers and poets such as Barkha Khushalani, Khushi Budhwani and Menka Shivdasani recited poems in Sindhi and other languages.

Javeri remembers his journey from Sindh. “It was January 1948. I was around eight. We boarded a train from Shikarpur to Karachi and a three-day ship voyage brought us to Bombay,” reminisces the octogenarian. “In my poem ‘Jooti’ (Shoe), I mention how my father left behind his shoes; in other words, his culture and roots, inseparable to his existence.” Like many refugees, Javeri’s family had to begin life afresh; first selling bananas and then self-stitched brassieres on Mumbai’s streets.

The pain is felt through generations. Says Khushalani, daughter of Thakur Chawla: “Although we were not born then, we feel connected to Sindh. Before leaving Karachi, my dad hid the keys to his haveli in its water tank, hoping to return one day.” Perhaps that’s why, despite the language barrier, ‘Aakhareen Train’ has touched many lives.


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