From In­dia to Turkey

Southasia - - 60 - Re­viewed by Sidrah Roghay

Ti­tle: Foot­prints in Time: Rem­i­nisces of a Sindhi Ma­tri­arch

Edited & Trans­lated by: Rasheeda Hus­sain

Pub­lisher: Ox­ford Univer­sity Press, Pak­istan (De­cem­ber, 2010)

Pages: 144, Hard­back

Price: PKR. 525 ISBN: 9780195478907

Foot­prints in Time” are the mem­oirs of Ghu­lam Fa­tima Sheikh, a Sindhi ma­tri­arch who lived to tell the tale of the sub­con­ti­nent’s his­tory dur­ing some of its most po­lit­i­cally ac­tive

times. The book, orig­i­nally writ­ten in Sindhi, has been trans­lated in English by Rasheeda Hus­sain. It is an at­tempt to record oral his­tory and an ef­fort to rec­og­nize the strug­gles of Sindhi Mus­lims dur­ing Par­ti­tion.

Ghu­lam Fa­tima Sheikh was born to an af­flu­ent yet tra­di­tional Hindu house­hold but along with her par­ents she con­verted to Is­lam. She re­calls how mass con­ver­sions to Is­lam aroused fear in the Hindu com­mu­nity, which at­tempted to feed pork to the Mus­lims. Her mother was forced to re­side with her Hindu fam­ily on al­le­ga­tions that the con­ver­sion was forced upon her by her hus­band. Her plans to run away at night to join her hus­band were stopped mid­way. The drama con­tin­ued till she bla­tantly pro­fessed in front of sev­eral mem­bers of the com­mu­nity that she had ac­cepted Is­lam of her own ac­cord.

Fa­tima talks about the role of Su­fis in spread­ing Is­lam in Sindh and holds them in high re­gard. At the age of four­teen she mar­ried Sheikh Sham­sud­din, who was also her fa­ther’s stu­dent. Fa­tima was deeply im­pressed by Turkey, which was the cen­tre of Khi­lafat at that time. Mes­mer­ized by the only Em­pire which had man­aged to re­main independent of the colo­nial pow­ers, she joined her hus­band on his jour­ney to Turkey.

She traved ex­ten­sively through­out her life. In the book the author states, “man is like a mi­gra­tory bird. He wan­ders in search of liveli­hood, and leaves be­hind his loved ones to set­tle in dis­tant coun­tries.” From Turkey she trav­eled to Mad­ina, which was un­der the Ot­tomon Em­pire at the time. She de­scribes her ec­stasy at be­ing at the holy place, where she wit­nessed the out­come of the Khi­lafat move­ment. Fa­tima is all praise for the Turks, who she says “be­haved more like the ser­vants of the peo­ple than as their rulers.” She firmly be­lieved that had the Turks fo­cused more on con­sol­i­dat­ing the cen­tre than spend­ing on the Arabs, the Em­pire would not have met the fate it did.

Once con­di­tions in Mad­ina went from bad to worse, she and her fam­ily moved to Adana, Turkey. The book vividly de­scribes her jour­ney as she wit­nessed “trains of Turk­ish forces to the front sav­agely at­tacked by Be­douins” and “corpses that lay ev­ery­where.”

Adana was a place where the Ar­me­ni­ans and Mus­lims lived in com­plete peace. The repa­tri­a­tion of In­di­ans be­gan on govern­ment ex­pense dur­ing their stay at Adana and they were placed in

She trav­eled ex­ten­sively through­out her life. In the book the author states, “man is like a mi­gra­tory bird. He wan­ders in search of liveli­hood, and leaves be­hind his loved ones to set­tle in dis­tant coun­tries.”

tents for six months.

By the end of the First World War, Fa­tima states, the same Arabs who called the Turks tyrants and wished for the Bri­tish to take over “were long­ing for the re­turn of the Turks.” She de­scribes her jour­ney to Jerusalem with sa­cred en­thu­si­asm. On the way there, she stayed in Egypt for six months which was “yearn­ing for in­de­pen­dence” from the Bri­tish.

The book, how­ever, de­picts Fa­tima as a con­flict­ing char­ac­ter. While on the one hand she is a fe­male eman­ci­pa­tion sup­porter, on the other, she states “Women are known to be the weaker sex and as I read the news of deaths and sick­ness, I could not stop the tears flow­ing down my eyes.” Dur­ing fam­ily dis­putes over land she would al­ways side with the male heirs, yet she was a strong pro­po­nent of fe­male ed­u­ca­tion. She later set up a school for girls called “Madrasatul Bi­nat.”

As an ide­al­ist, she puts emo­tions and morals in high re­gard. “His­tory bears wit­ness to the fact that great world rev­o­lu­tions were brought of great pas­sions - a con­se­quence of as­pi­ra­tions and not ra­tio­nal­iza­tion,” she says.

“Foot­prints in Time” is es­sen­tially a mem­oir and like many mem­oirs, facts are of­ten shaded by per­sonal anec­dotes. Fa­tima al­le­vi­ates the Turks and the Caliphate to per­fec­tion and ig­nores the pit­falls in the sys­tem it­self. On the other hand she de­scribes the Arabs as a bunch of scoundrels whom the Bri­tish bought through gold. The lan­guage used is medi­ocre and the book drags at times. The re­viewer is a free­lance jour­nal­ist and an ac­tive blog­ger.

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