It took me many hours to sit here and think about what to write for my first blog on the new website. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping a blog in the past but I have to make sure this turns into a fun habit for me. It’s strange because as an editor, I am so wrapped up in the administrative and organizational aspects of running the magazine that I am left with very little time to do what I REALLY love: writing. I also made an editorial (and personal) decision to start a creative column in every quarterly issue of Beyond Sindh magazine from this point onwards… so wish me luck. (Or rather, I should wish you luck as now you will all be subjected to my eccentric lines of thought.) Anyway I digress. Here I was – with free reign to elaborate on whichever topic I want – and yet I was stumped.
Then I figured it out. You see, in the past few years since we have started this magazine, I had been asked so often about how the idea of Beyond Sindh magazine came about and got pushed into motion… and what better way than to answer this question through this blog, for once and for all?
About five years ago I had been back in Africa with my parents for just several months, after graduating from college in Boston. I remember spending my days trying to think of ways I could avoid getting into the family import/export business. I was writing short stories on my laptop when I was supposed to work on accounting on a desk near my dad’s in the office. I was sleeping at 2 a.m. reading books and oversleeping when I was supposed to wake up at 7 for ‘office’. Of course, my dad was strict so I’d end up showering and stumbling down the steps around 9 a.m, laptop under my arm and eyes half closed. It just got to me after a while… I needed something different, something big. I had no mind for numbers or finance but instead it was whirling designs, colors, pictures, words – waiting for something to come and piece them into cohesive pieces of creative work. But I had no idea what or how. And Lome, Togo, was such a place that I was just better off staying indoors, so there was no point applying for a more interesting job outside.
To pass time, I started taking way overdue Sindhi lessons in the evenings after dinner. My dad started off with numbers then colors and then body parts and so on. He patiently repeated Sindhi words with its nasal sounds and guttural speech until I could get the hang of it, pronouncing them slow but correctly albeit with an American accent. It was fun and not only did my vocabulary grow, so did my curiosity about my dad’s birthplace in Hyderabad, Sindh. These lessons progressed into stories about the Partition and what our grandparents went through, fascinating stories I vaguely heard as a child but forgot as life got in the way. From the stories alongside the riverbank of Sindh to how this peaceful land was stolen away in 1947, I was thirsting for more and more.
There was so much richness in our history and culture, and it made me wonder – how had it taken me this long to understand it? Forget that, why had it taken me this long to be interested in where I came from, in what made me Sindhi? I had taken it for granted – having been born in the Philippines, living 5-year stints in Africa, Chicago and Curacao, studying in Boston and now back in Africa – it always felt like we were international nomads. Sindhi only by elders’ language and Sindhi by tradition, but local by culture and local by lifestyle. But that was wrong… we were so much more. And to think about how our grandparents, parents and their generations had managed to hold on to the language, habits, beliefs, culture and knowledge of our history despite losing our country is astounding. If I was unable to feel that I could pass this luxury down to my children, then how many youngsters out there were like me too? And if this was the case, how do we keep this blessing of our heritage alive?
“There was so much richness in our history and culture, and it made me wonder – how had it taken me this long to understand it? Forget that, why had it taken me this long to be interested in where I came from, in what made me Sindhi?”
One day, I was going through my old publishing projects from college and came across a mini-magazine – ‘Spyglass’, an holistic & cultural lifestyle magazine that I had created from scratch. From writing the text of all the articles to handling the design & lay-out of the pages, I did a pretty good job if I may say so (and got a pretty good grade for it too!) And just the way the thought process works (or rather, how God works), I put 2 and 2 together and the seeds of this funky Sindhi magazine were sowed into my prolific imagination. I knew with my heart that this would work. Even if I was an amateur with no real job experience, I found my track and rode on ahead. I ordered magazine publishing books off Amazon and created a business plan – made a few sample lay-outs and casually showed my parents one day. I was wary of the typical Sindhi reaction to leave all else and focus on the business but to my pleasure (and natch to your pleasure too) they gave me all the support and backing I needed.
I started recruiting young and hip Sindhi youngsters (like myself, of course) among friends of friends to conceptualize this idea. Together, our passion knew no bounds. My new writers formed a niche in which they alone would rule, like a King over their territories. Nicky was the Agony Uncle who cared deeply about your problems (not); Shawn was the smart sarcastic guy who knew every angle of every topic; Chandru was the keen observer of society with his subtle innuendos; Pooja was the editor with the thoughtful eyes and ears for words; Manju was the steady journalist ready to interview you anytime, anyhow; Dina was pleasantly introspective about life and spirituality and Ajay was the doctor who made you pee in your pants laughing and yet knew how to keep your blood pressure low. Over the last few years our team has expanded into a group of intelligent, humorous, and just plainly awesome Sindhis who care about this magazine and its growth and have loyally submitted excellent work for our readers, time and time again (and have also patiently tolerated my Hitler-istic tendencies around deadlines).
As the years went by and Beyond Sindh magazine moved (along with me) from Africa to India to finally, Hong Kong, our issues went from strength to strength. We built a reputation for dishing forth unique & interesting content and highlighting the amazing achievements of various Sindhi personas worldwide that you would have never read of otherwise. Though our readership did exceed past our expectations, there is still much more work to be done and much more education in need. I know this year we will grow exponentially and hopefully reach all the little corners of the world. There are many Sindhis left for us to reach, who need to be aware of who they are, where they’re from, and to understand why they are part of one of the greatest communities on Earth.
Well, that’s that. I’ll leave you… for now. Don’t forget to subscribe to our magazine on your way out, if you haven’t already. Wishing you and your family a productive and brilliant 2009 ahead!