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Making a Place- People’s Story of a Town

25 April 2019

Pipariya is a small town in Madhya Pradesh, India along the east-west cross country railway line at a wide point in the Narmada valley between the Satpura hills and the river. Located at the foot of the Pachmarhi Plateau, this place is remembered in many ways by many people. Among them, local residents from different castes and communities, remember when and how their ancestors came to settle here in the last three or four generations. This blog post focuses on one such narrative from the pool of conversations recorded with the long time residents of the town. In a brief excerpt (translated from Hindi), Mr. Haridas Panjwani (89) sheds light on the migration of his family and community members from Larkana, Sindh province (Pakistan) to Sindhi Colony, Pipariya, Madhya Pradesh (India) and how the town has changed over the decades.

Pipariya is a small town in Madhya Pradesh, India along the east-west cross country railway line at a wide point in the Narmada valley between the Satpura hills and the river. Located at the foot of the Pachmarhi Plateau, this place is remembered in many ways by many people. Among them, local residents from different castes and communities, remember when and how their ancestors came to settle here in the last three or four generations. Documenting place-specific and lived narratives of and with the local residents of the town, we have tried to put together a public centric, multi-dimensional account of the town’s history that draws upon the archive of orality and memory. Conversations recorded with individuals from various communities reveal lesser known stories of the place, and have the possibility of disturbing meta-narratives with their access to alternative strands of knowledge.

This blog post focuses on one such narrative from the pool of conversations recorded with the long time residents of the town. Among others, the Sindhi community in Pipariya, largely based in and around Sindhi Colony, Pachmarhi road, is known in the neighbourhood as one of the stakeholders in small and big scale trading and business enterprises. However, it is the Partition of India in 1947 that elders from this community trace their coming-to-town memories to. In this brief excerpt (translated from Hindi), Mr. Haridas Panjwani (89) sheds light on the migration of his family and community members from Larkana, Sindh province (Pakistan) to Sindhi Colony, Pipariya, Madhya Pradesh (India), where he opened the first photo studio of the town in 1956:

“Before partition (1947), I worked as a typist at Central Secretariat in Delhi. Then I left my job and moved to Sindh. My family lived in Larkana district where my father worked as a grain trader. After a few months of partition, during the riots, we left Larkana and moved to Karachi. All of our belongings were looted in riots. From Karachi, a lot of Sindhi refugees were sent to Madh Island, Mumbai in a ship. We lived there in transit camps for almost two years and from there, we were sent to another transit camp in Katni, Madhya Pradesh. I got married while we were living in the transit camp in Katni. I remember how I and my wife came to the camp in a bullock cart after our wedding! We lived there for 2-3 years before moving to Pipariya in 1953 or 54’.

It was difficult to make ends meet for a while. In Katni, I had learnt photography from a person who used to click pictures of the refugees for the official records. I used to borrow his camera and work for additional income. While the Sindhi Colony w as already being built for the Sindhi refugees in Pipariya when we came here, we still had to live in transit camps in the rest house plots for two more years. Local people were more welcoming here than anywhere else. After some time, the government allotted compensatory land to those who had lost their property in Sindh. Since I had no job, I thought that maybe I could make a few bucks out of photography. So I opened a photo studio in Pipariya. In those days, photography as a profession was completely unheard of. When I started ‘Kamal Photo Studio’ in 1956 in Itwaara Baazar (Sunday market), next to Shyam Talkies (Cinema hall), a lot of people including my family discouraged me from getting into this profession. But soon, the studio became a household name in the whole town.

                                                                                                        

Even though this town became my new home, I never let go of my mother tongue Sindhi. I can still read, write and speak in Sindhi. People of my generation and the next knew the language. There was also a Sindhi School here, on the Pachmarhi road, in early 1970’s. But it had to shut down owing to unavailability of Sindhi Teachers. Over a period of time, I became adept at the local Bundeli as well. However, the new generations in our community barely know Sindhi language. Even in the town, people don’t speak the local Bundeli anymore really. It’s just plain Hindi now. The town has changed just as the people and languages have.”

                                                                                     

 *(The mentioned conversation was conducted and recorded by Narendra Maurya and Kumar Unnayan at Haridas Panjwani’s Sindhi Colony residence in Pipariya on March 1, 2017)

Comments

Coming-to-town document for ICAS

Dear Unnayan,Your document on Pipariya in Hindi was very well received in Manadalay. I do hope you will send us an updated printed version for display and sharing during ICAS as an example of the rich material collected in the AUD-CCK project. Many thanks and looking forward to more posts. 

Response: Document for ICAS

Dear Aarti,Thank you for your comments and inputs. I will send an updated printed copy of the Pipariya Manuscript for ICAS.