Agha Salim: A Trail Blazing Writer and Literateur

Partition not only uprooted the Sindhi Hindus from their home land and forced them to disperse to unchartered territories of India but a large majority of even our Sindhi Muslim brethren were caught unawares in this tumultuous storm.

They had to work very hard to fill the vacuum left by Hindus in the fields of education, philanthropy, administration etc. Amongst a few such illustrious personalities there is Agha Salim whom we address as the magician of Sindhi literary world. Today, we interact with this brilliant and greatly talented Agha Salim

-Ram Jawhrani

You are associated with Radio, can you please elaborate on this? How did it become your bread & butter?
I was interested in literature and culture and as such it was my desire to join Radio. As luck would have it there was a job opportunity, I competed for it and got a senior post in Radio. I retired as Controller, World Service and External Services of Radio Pakistan.

You have worked for the film industry. How did this happen and for which films have you written the story, script, and dialogues?
I didn’t work for the film industry, I wrote stories for some films

Your novel ‘Oondahi Dharti Roshan Hath’ has had several reprints. A lot of people have been inspired to become writers by reading your book. How did its plot come into your mind? You have also added a few more chapters to it in its later versions.
I had written two novels in Sindhi ‘Oondahi Dharti Roshan Hath’ and ‘Hamaoost’ which means “All is He.” The period of Hamaoost novel is the period when Shah Inayat, the socialist Sufi of Sindh had raised the slogan of ‘land belongs to the tiller’ and had started a movement of distributing agricultural land among the cultivators and was martyred for that. The novel revolves around two characters, one a Hindu named Manic and another a Muslim named Sarang. Both are in search of their identity and a meaning in their meaningless life. Having roamed in the corridors of Sufi and Vedanta philosophies, they reach Jhok, the place of Shah Inat Sufi and fight along with
Shah Inayat’s followers with the forces of status quo.

I don’t know as to how much impact my novels had on the new generation of writers.

Why did you call your Indian travelogue, ‘Jhulelal’?
Because Jhulelal is originally God of Indus River and a secular God. It was very late that he became the patron God of Hindus who felt religiously insecure during one orthodox Muslim ruler of Thatta who was forcing one Hindu family to convert to Islam And Jhulelal, the secular God with a long beard and a saintly look, riding on a Palla fish, turned into a militant saviour God. He, with a sword in hand and riding a horse, came out of Indus River to save the family from conversion. Though it is a mythological episode without any historical basis it shows the state of insecurity Hindus found themselves in during the rule of some orthodox Muslim ruler. It was not something uncommon in those days. History tells us how Chandar Gupta, the great king of India, oppressed the followers of Budha and inflicted atrocities on them. But now times have changed, let Jhulelal be again the same secular Jhulelal, the God of Indus and the symbol of Sindhi Hindu – Muslim unity. This is the reason that I titled my travelogue Jhulelal. I must also tell you that Qalandar Shahbaz, the Muslim saint of Sindhi Muslims, is called Jhulelal by Muslims and he is the reincarnation of Saint Bharthari Hari for Sindhi Hindus.

You preferred to come to India and attend a seminar at Mumbai University instead of accompanying the then tPM Nawaz Sharif’s delegation on his American trip. It shows your commitment towards literature and education. Tell us about your other overseas trips.
It was not commitment to literature but to my people who had been separated since years. I wanted to meet them.

You have translated some surs of Shah Latif into English. You have also translated Shah’s Risalo into poetry form. We would like to know more about this experience of yours.
I have translated not some Surs of Shah’s Risalo but all the verses of Risalo into English and in Hindinized Urdu. The peculiarity of my Urdu translation is that it is musical and can be sung in the same tunes they are sung in the original.

Which writer or writers, have impressed you?
Many writers particularly Russian writers Chekhov and Dostoevsky.

What should be done to bring Sindhis of Hind and Sindh, together?
Forgetting the past history and rediscovering ourselves as Sindhis in the modern milieu is the way forward. We can consider establishing common TV Channel and telecast programmes that bring us closer. Rediscover the original Jhoolelal, the God of Indus River, the symbol of our unity.

Will you share some memories of your childhood when Sindh was part of United India?
I was very young and had seen only my native city Shikarpur. I had never observed any discrimination between Hindus and Muslims. Hindu Sindhis used to go for pilgrimage to the mausoleums of the Sufis like Qalandar, Shah Inat, Sachal and Lateef. Jhoolelal, the savior saint of Hindus, is pir of Muslims with a Muslim name in Udero Lal city. Muslims have built his mausoleum as a Muslim and Hindus have built his Samadhi. Qalandar is called Jhoole Lal by the Muslims and Bharth Hari by the Hindus. I saw Hindus and Muslims celebrating Hindu festivals like Diwali, and Holi jointly, and Hindus observing Eid and Muharram.

I was studying in New Era high school and remember my handsome and smartly dressed teacher Mr. Duni Chand whom I idolized very much. He settled in Mumbai after partition and lived in a building where presently Nand Jhaveri is living. I visited Nand but did not get information about my ideal teacher and could not meet him. I remember my beautiful teacher Shanti who was the daughter of our principal Mr. Megharam. Shikarpur, where Hindu and Muslim culture co-existed, was really a fairyland!

Tell us something about your future plans.
Nothing particular. Writing books on Sufi and Vedanta poets like Sachal, Sami and Baba Farid whose poetry is included in Granth Sahib, the sacred book of Sikhs and thus acquaint people with Sufi and Vedanta teachings.

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