Sindhi community hopes to revive dying language with nursery rhyme competition
Sindhi Sangat, a Mahim-based Non-Governmental Organization's (NGO) nursery rhyme competition via WhatsApp, designed to keep alive the language, received more than 600 entries. The competition was open to children below six years of the Indian Sindhi community here and the Indian diaspora. What it entailed is that parents shoot a video of their child, reciting a Sindhi nursery rhyme, accompanied by actions so that the children know what exactly they are reciting, and, do not simply recite by rote. It is a small step towards ensuring that Sindhi is kept alive and the Gen Next of Sindhis actually speak it and can also read and write the language.
Sindhi Sangat members from (l to r front row) Ronak Shivlani, Niroo Asrani, Asha Chand, Ankush Matani and (l to r back row) Geeta Sharma, Damu Tejwani at the NGO’s Mahim office. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Asha Chand, one of the founders of Sindhi Sangat said, “There are four alphabets in the Sindhi language which are fundamental to the lingo. If one does not learn these as children, they cannot be picked up at a later age. Our nursery rhyme competition includes these four alphabets.” Chand rues that, “Many young Sindhis are not speaking the language. This was the sole reason for starting this rhyme competition, in a bid to catch them young.”
Banners of the competition were put around Sindhi localities
Let the ‘below-six’ bracket not fool people into thinking this is a flippant, ‘anything goes’ contest. The jury panel comprises actor Niroo Asrani, Sandhya Kundnani who is Chandibai Himathmal Mansukhani College, (Ulhasnagar) Sindhi department head, and Kajal Ramchandani, Sindhi lecturer at Jai Hind College. The judges have set the bar high. Asrani explains, “We will be strict while judging. The children need to say the words correctly, do the actions well and emote with sincerity. If I am lenient and laud cute efforts, with so many entries picking a winner will be tough.”
Fellow judge Kundnani said, “This contest is a great way to promote Sindhi. Pronunciation and body language are key.”
The Sindhi community needs to start at the grassroots to redeem their lost generations, according to Mohan Gehani, one of the trustees of the NGO. He said, “After Partition, when we settled in India, our community left out valuable pieces from the mosaic of our culture for future generations, by not giving importance to Sindhi. This is an effort to undo that. Soon, we will have a story telling competition coming up for seven to 16-year-olds and a conversational Sindhi competition, all that is in the pipeline.”
Young Sindhi Geeta Sharma, Borivali resident said, “I feel bad that I do not know how to write in Sindhi. This competition is a great way to develop the Sindhi connect amongst children. Our culture and history should and can be celebrated through these.”
Second year commerce student Ronak Shivlani from HR College said, “Many of my friends are actually ‘ashamed’ to speak the language. These competitions can change the entire paradigm. When you are young, you can learn a language faster; the competition is making good use of social media to spread Sindhi lingo.”
Dadar resident Ankush Matani said, “This gives children a sense of identity. Language is an aspect that unites, Sindhi is a beautiful way of expression but it is dying. We are moving ahead, but at the cost of forgetting our past. If children speak the language, the rapid extinction of Sindhi can be reversed and halted.”
The Sindhi Sangat will declare 20 winners of the contest by May 1, in a felicitation ceremony. The first place will be given an iPad and other 19 will be given tablets as prizes.
“After seeing so many people enthused by this venture, we are encouraged to take it ahead with other competitions. WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook have helped to spread the need to save the Sindhi language,” says Kishore Malani, another trustee.
Chand ends, “We have received a large number of entries from Chembur, Ulhasnagar, Kalyan, Panvel and Palghar. We just hope that we get more Sindhis, not just from these hubs but across the city to participate in other competitions.”