Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sindh is For Lovers

When I was a little girl growing up in Virginia, I used to watch a commercial on TV made to attract tourists to the state. The tagline: "Virginia is for lovers". I was too little to understand what they meant by lovers - ah the innocence of youth - but now that I'm an adult, and I don't live in Virginia anymore, I know there are many different types of lovers. And the lovers that I am most taken by now are not the ones found in Virginia, but the ones found in Sindh: the Sufis, who are Lovers of Allah, their Beloved.

This is always brought to my mind when I bask in the beauty that is Sindh's religion, its philosophy, its mantra and its atmosphere: Sufism, that branch of mystical Islam that believes music, poetry and dance is the heart of the connection to the Divine. That believes in tolerance, peace, and love for all of God's creations. That will never take up a gun or a bomb but relies on the beautiful poetry of Shah Abdul Latif, Sachal Sarmast, Qalandar Shahbaz, and countless others, old and new, dead and alive, who promote love to draw people close to God. That reveres the saints buried in the mysterious shrines all over the land as enlightened beings, in whose presence you feel your soul elevated and filled with knowledge of the mystery that is our Truth.

Listen to the music of this lovely Sindhi Sufi rock band, The Sketches, from Jamshoro in Sindh, to understand why we in Sindh can never abandon our traditions of music, of poetry, of dance and art, but instead think of these disciplines as sacred pathways. Even if you don't understand Sindhi, even if you aren't religious, the message will go straight to your heart and purify it, freeing it from the everyday concerns and the small vanities and all the grievances, burning them out until all that is left is gratitude and joy.

I didn't fail to notice the sentiments of people after the recent elections - we were run down and lambasted for voting traditionally - some call that foolishness, others, loyalty. Politics is, to be honest, a fool's pursuit, far beneath the worth of what is truly important - striving for the next world, not to be caught up in the dirt and squalor of this one. Still, we must balance both the din and the duniya, be in this world but not of it. I too was hurt by those who called us jahils, uneducated, fools and idiots, berating us because we didn't vote the way they wanted them to. They are arrogant, but arrogance and ignorance are so often directly proportional, so often go hand in hand, that the ones pointing the finger are often the ones most ignorant of all.

Sindh is the land of Sufism, of enlightenment, of icons and heroes and heroines and martyrs. The land of Shah Abdul Latif's Seven Queens. The land that accepted the refugees from India with open arms after Partition, the land that moved the Pakistan Resolution in the Indian Assembly when others opposed it. The land of Moehnjo Daro, one of the world's oldest civilizations. A land of prosperity, bounty, and beauty. We have a heritage and a history that should make us feel privileged and proud, yet we remain humble and self-effacing, because that is what our culture teaches us.

If you are from Sindh, as I am, a special message to you: never, ever let anyone make you feel ashamed of being a Sindhi. We have every reason in the world to hold our heads high.

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