Popati Hiranandani was a versatile Sindhi writer who authored over sixty books in her lifetime. A formidable presence in twentieth-century Sindhi literature, she tried her hand at multiple genres: the novel, short fiction, poetry and biography, as well as literary criticism. She won several awards in the course of her distinguished writing career, including the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Gaurav Puraskar from the Maharashtra Government.
But the most defining moment in Hiranandani’s life was undeniably the experience of Partition in 1947. She speaks in the interview of the violent fracture and the legacy of anchorlessness that was to haunt her and her community for decades to come. She describes it as a yagna, a sacrifice, in which her community was betrayed by self-serving statesmen, their willful blindness and their false promises, and doomed to remain landless and fugitive ever after. One also hears a young writer’s anguish in her poignant line: “We had to leave everything that was dear to us – the house, the garden, my writing table!”
Her life in Mumbai continued to be one of struggle, as she tried to come to terms with the trauma of dislocation, battled health issues in her later life and fought various cultural battles, including an ongoing crusade to invigorate a fast-dwindling readership in her mother tongue as well as a feisty defence of the Sindhi script against those who sought to replace it with Devanagari. Her love of language is evident in the passionate argument she offers to justify the Sindhi script which she describes as a syncretic amalgam, “nourished by Sanskrit, Arabic and Urdu” and yet uniquely itself.
The two poems in this edition, translated by accomplished poets Menka Shivdasani and Anju Makhija, are resonant with nostalgia and loss, preoccupations that were never to leave her as long as she lived. Ironically, when Hiranandani died in Mumbai at the age of eighty-one after a long struggle with cancer, it went largely unnoticed, while condolence meetings were held in neighbouring Pakistan in recognition of her contribution to Sindhi literature.
In her poem, ‘A Homeless Sindhi Woman’, she condenses her abiding life theme into a single phrase: “homeless in history’s graveyard”. Although a refugee for the greater part of her life, there is little doubt that she finds a secure resting-place in the annals of Sindhi literature.
PIW would like to offer special thanks to Lakhmi Khilani, Director of the Indian Institute of Sindhology, for his help in sourcing material related to Popati Hiranandani for this edition.
Man Sindhin, Lok-sur Publications, Mumbai, 1988
Rooh – Sindhi – Runjh, Popati Hiranandani, Mumbai, 1975
The Pages of My Life (autobiography and selected stories; translated by Jyoti Panjwani), Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2010
Zahiru ain insan, Suhini Publications, Jaipur, 1998
Sachu tha marda chavan (Men Speak the Truth), Deepshikha Publications, Mumbai, 1997
Maniku-moti-lala (biography), Popati Hiranandani, 1993
The Coward (in English translation), Popati Hirandani, Mumbai, 1987
Munhinje hayatia ja sona ropa varqa, Kunja Pablikeshani, 1981; Lok-sur Publications, Mumbai, 1992
Sindhis -The Scattered Treasure (dited by Gopi Chand Advani), Malaah Publications, New Delhi, 1980
Sailab Zindagi-a-Jo (Flood of life), Kunj, 1980
Muhinji Hayati-a-Ja Sona-Ropa Warq (autobiography), 1980
Hasiratani ji turibata, Bharata Jivani Navili Malha, 1961
Popati Hiranandani reading extracts from her work as part of The South Asian Literary Recording Project
An extract from Popati Hiranandani's book Sindhis –The Scattered Treasure
Tamil writer CS Lakshmi pays homage to Popati Hiranandani on her death in 2005