As Good as it Gets
14th annual convention of the Sindhi Association of North America was held at The Westin Hotel O’Hare airport Chicago Illinois from July 2-5, 1998.
The 1998 SANA convention was one of the most memorable conventions as it attracted so many individuals and organization with a variety of programs and missions. Indeed, it achieved one of the SANA’s important mission goals to serve as a meeting point where all Sindhis feel at ease to debate issues, exchange views and share their experiences. The multi-dimentional interactions on intellectual, literature, family, friendship and political spheres were thrilling. The diversity of ideas and themes were delightful, stimulating, challenging and inspiring.
Here, we had former Chief Justice of Pakistan Sajjad Ali Shah, who stood by his convictions and single handedly fought the combined forces that consider themselves above law, calling the “religion” as more important binding force than language and culture. From the same stage, we had Sobho Gianchandani, who had been struggling relentlessly against the Sindh’s exploiters, calling “language” and “land” as the essential requirements for a nation. Yet another opinion from Nooruddin Saraki told us that it is the similarity of culture that binds people. In the same convention, we had a Dr. Ghulam Qadir Kazi from Isra University (supported by a religious charitable organization) speaking about the great work they have been doing to offer quality education in Sindh and organizing eye camps. Yet the mosaic of the ideas continued with candid and controversial discussion of women’s issues stimulated by the showing of two documentaries “KNOWING HER PLACE” and “BRIDES OF QURAN”.
The richness of participation included an exhibition of photographs showing workers of Al-Basar organization treating patients in many poor countries of Africa and Asia. There was an exhibition of rare Sindhi books and manuscripts. The Sindhi books & Music area set up by World Sindhi Institute alone had more than 50 books, 25 video cassettes, Shah-Jo-Raag CD produced by Institute itself and impressive T-shirts with a photograph of Moen-Jo-Daro. Needless tosay, the 1998 SANA convention was an exhilarating experience that will remain with us for many years to come. Indeed it was as good as it gets.
For those of you who missed this memorable event, here is a synopsis of what exactly happened over the three days. It is to be hoped that, many of the readers who could not join us this time will attend the next SANA convention on the weekend closest to July 4 in San Francisco.
FRIDAY -- JULY 3, 1998
CHILDREN’S TALENT SHOW --
The first official segment consisted of Sindhi Children Talent show MC’eed by Gul Agha and included speeches in Sindhi and about Sindh; Sindhi Thari dances and songs. Every one was impressed with the
show and felt programs such as this will go long way to encourage our children to come closer to Sindhi culture.
The participants were taken by buses to a local park just a few miles away from the hotel and served lunch. As the number of participants was larger than anticipated, a few had to do with mangoes only. Although we were short on food, there was an abundance of love and Sindhiat and every one enjoyed this opportunity of katchahary and open discussion.
WOMEN’S SESSION --
Organized by SANA women under the leadership of Rakhshanda Mehar (SANA Vice President for Women Affairs), the session was open to men as well. The two documentaries, whose names were mentioned earlier, challenged the stereotyping of South Asian women and presented a modern woman’s point of view. This unconventional discussion of women’s issues, who were primarily raised in traditional male dominated society, were
educational, thought provoking and controversial. This was followed by a tableau of Sindhi Mehndi ceremony, Sindhi Jhumer dances, songs and a fancy dress show. This bold segment is another example of creativity and inclusiveness that SANA charter professes. It is to be hoped that, the organizers of future conventions will build on this initiative and continue
the tradition of a session organized by SANA women and devoted to Sindhi women’s issues.
SINDHI ADABI SANGAT -
This late evening session was attended by Qamar Shahbaz Hidayat Baloch and other leading poets and writers from Sindh via Telephonic link. On stage were Nooruddin Sarki, Altaf Memon, Iqbal Tareen and Ishaq Tunio. This was yet another example of the creativity and hard work by the convention organizers. The session was dedicated to the memory of Shaikh Ayaz. The conference call and the session continued for more than one and half hours with some very memorable rendering of Shaikh Ayaz’s poetry and poems by others about Shaikh Ayaz.
SATURDAY -- JULY 4, 1998
ADDRESS BY EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MEMBERS & INVITED SPEAKERS --
In this session, the Executive Council members presented their annual reports. Those presenting reports included Iqbal Tareen (President), Rakhshanda Mehar (Vice President, Women Affairs), Mehar Hussain Shah (General Secretary), Ramesh Tharwani (Joint Secretary), Ajaz Memon (Treasurer), Ajaz Turk (Regional Secretary - Mid-West) and Akhtar Hashmani (Regional Secretary for Canada).
Ali Mohammed Ansari, Nafeesa Hoodbhoy, Ghulam Qadir Kazi, Amar Lal, and Agha Zahid spoke on various aspects of the challenges and opportunities faced by Sindh and Sindhis. The main themes that emerged from this discussion were the ideas for unifying Sindhis, lobbying efforts on behalf of Sindh and Sindhis, improving education standards in Sindh and networking between Sindhi organizations.
LUNCHEON SESSION - NETWORKING OF SINDHI GROUPS -
This brief one hour session was attended by many of the office bearers of SANA, WSC and WSI and other active SANA members and some guests from Sindh including Dr. Ali Mohammed Ansari and Nafeesa Hoodbhoy. Every one agreed the need and importance of building a networking mechanism that would allow SANA, WSC and WSI to quickly synergize their efforts on the issues that required common
stand. Due to the lack of time, no agreement was reached on networking mechanism. However, Aftab Kazi and Khalid Hashmani committed to continue to work with the General Secretaries of the three organizations and present recommendations in the near future.
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS -
SaeeN Nooruddin Sarki talked about the current problems faced by Sindhis including Kalabagh Dam, NFC award, census and the state of politics in Sindh. SaeeN Sobho Gianchandani focused on “Sindhi Identity” and the struggle Sindhis are carrying out for the protection of Sindhi language and culture. His oratory made audience spellbound and he received several standing ovations. Justice Sajjad Shah traced the constitutional history of Pakistan with emphasized on human rights and liberties of Pakistani citizens. This was followed by a lively “Question & Answer” session with bulk of questions soliciting responses from Justice Sajjad Shah about his views and reasons for his judgments for/against the Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif governments. All three speakers received standing ovations.
PROJECTS AND RESOLUTIONS --
SaeeN Manzoor Shah presented his report on the SANA Scholarship Fund appealed convention participants for generous donations for this worthy cause.
The following resolutions were passed:
- Strong opposition to the Kalabagh dam and demand for its immediate cancellation - Strong opposition to the recent NFC award and demand that the Sindh be given fair share of revenues
- Demanded that the government not to manipulate census results and warned of serious actions by SANA if the population of Sindhis is under reported
- Condemned the continued firing of Sindhi employees from government and demanded that theybe given their due share in employment opportunities
- Expressed alarm at the continued violence in Karachi and demanded that the Government provide safety and security in Sindh
ANNUAL DINNER --
The annual dinner was a popular segment. All 300 seats were pre-sold earlier and many friends could not be accommodated. In a gesture of great Sindhi hospitality, some of the SANA EC members and the Convention Organizing Committee decided to give their dinner seats to other guests. This seven-course buffet affair offered some of the best Indo-Pak cuisine.
STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS AND LATIFEE LAAT --
After a short break following the dinner, the audiences regrouped in the main auditorium where several bright Sindhi students from grade 1 to 12 were given awards for their school achievements. This was soon followed by Sindhi music and songs by Adi Koshee Lalwani and Ada Mohan Lal. Koshee lives in the United Arab Emirates and specializes in children Sindhi songs. She has recorded several audio and video CDs and tapes containing popular and traditional Sindhi songs. During this segment, the SANA donation committee made appeals and ollected pledges totaling to several thousands.
SUNDAY -- JULY 5, 19981.
SPONSORED MEDICAL INFORMATION SESSION --
Many joined to hear Dr. Raffat Ansari, Dr. Ashfaq Turk and Dr. Ajaz Turk talk about common health problems such as cancer, blood pressure and gastric. These lectures were sponsored by several pharmaceutical companies and generated a donation of $ 6,000 to SANA.The lectures were followed by a lively QUESTION & ANSWER session that continued for more than half an hour.
GOOD BYES --
Not many people were happy when they realized that soon they will be bidding good-bye to their friends and families. But, the realization that only 11 months and twenty-eight days remained to the next SANA convention made every one cheerful. One could see so many friends and families promising each other that they will be in San Francisco on July 4, 1999.
A. On several occasions during the convention, the convention attendees thanked the Organizing Committee that consisted of: Ajaz Turk, Anwer Kazi, Arshad Umrani, Asif Quraishi, Amjad Memon, Almas Khoja, Beena Jagwani, Bhagwan Dass, Deen Mohammed, Gul Agha, Ishaq Tunio, Kaloo Thadhani, Mumtaz Ishaq, Maqbool Bhatti, Nadeem Jamali, Prem Lalwani, Safdar Sarki, Shams Thalho, Shahzad Memon, Soomar Rajpar and Imran Soomro.
A. The Souvenir published on the occasion of the 14th annual SANA convention contained the following articles:
- “Whither Pakistan?” by Mohammed Ibrahim Joyo
- “The Sindhi Ajrak: An Ancient Art Form” by Saima Shah
- “Review of Halla-Gulla! CD -- containing 14 tunes including 6 Sindhi and 3 Seraiki
songs” by Gul Agha
- “Indus Valley Civilization Review - Researchers Paint New Portrait of an Ancient
People” by John Noble Wilford
- “Roots of Sindhi Civilization -- Its Glory and Greatness” by G. T. Shahani
- 6.”Shahu Latiifu of Bhit 1689 - 1752 -- Rag Basant (The Song of the Rain) from Sr.
- “Preserving Historical Sites” by Mir Mohammed Solangi (Letter to Dawn newspaper Nov/97)
- “Sindhis Demand Fair Census” by Nafisa Hoodbhoy
- “An Assessment of the Kalabagh Dam Project on River Indus, Pakistan” by Dr.
Mohammad Nasir Gazdar
- SINDHI RESOURCES ON INTERNET: web and e-mail addresses for BOOKS, SINDH PAGES, POLITICS, SHORT HISTORY, PICTURES/HERITAGE, SINDH
PICTURES, MAP, MUSIC, ENVIRONMENT, ORGANIZATIONS, EVENTS,
SPIRITUAL, HUMOR, CULTURE, NEWS, LANGUAGE, SINDHI FONTS,
WRITINGS, BUSINESS, INSTITUTIONS, and SINDHI MAILING LISTS
- “Ali Baba -- Noted Sindhi short story writer and playwright
- Profile of ADEEL QALBANI (winner of Rhodes Scholarship) and NADA MEMON
(included in America’s top 20 scholars list)
By Khalid Hashmani