Perhaps the treasure of words for humans, a language, is the greatest means of communication or to pass on the social, civil, political as well as ideological thoughts of a particular nation. Language and a rich literature is the only way for a nation to survive over centuries. There used to be a time when Balochi was a language that was only spoken but hardly written even though it has been around for a very long time.

A portrait of Syed Zahoor Hashmi
A portrait of Syed Zahoor Hashmi

After the 1950s, many Balochi writers, researchers and linguists commenced their work on Balochi but there was one person who sacrificed his entire life for the cause. That person was Sayad Zahoor Shah Hashmi.

He was born in the attractive peninsular town Gwadar on 21st April 1926 and completed his primary education from Saeedia School. Apart from the regular education at school, his father also taught him at home. From a very early age, Syed developed a passion for writing.

In the mean time his social and political struggle in Gwadar carried the movement. Later in his life, with the encouragement of a person named Qasim Hoot, Syed wrote his first serenade named “nagumani chist bant dar kayant oparag mani“. In the coming few years, Syed’s love for his mother tongue amazed everyone. It is said that sometimes, a person dedicates himself to something in such a way that the dedication takes him to the highest peaks of commitment and sacrifice. Syed’s work represents the same dedication and commitment. It won’t be erroneous to say that Syed revivified Balochi Language.

He traveled to various parts of Balochistan to find out the different words of Balochi used by three dialects of Balochi language known as Makrani, Rakshani and Sulaimani. He found out the ancient words and phrases, many of which were no more in use. He researched about the common mistakes while writing Balochi and explained some great patterns for Balochi grammar and writing in his famous book “Balochi Syahag-e- rast nibisag.”

Perhaps his greatest effort is the first Balochi dictionary “Syed Ganj” which contains thousands of words, their meanings, illustrations, opposites as well as usage. Syed’s authentic dictionary was published posthumously by Syed Hashmi Academy in Lyari, Karachi. Sayad’s lexicography is truly a tremendous treasure for Balochi language that he dedicated to his nation.

The first Balochi novel “Nazuk”, which recently got fame after PTV Bolan adapted it into a drama serial, is also another significant literary work. Through his novel, he sketched a picture of the people living near the coast and specially the social criteria of life for women in Gwadar during that time. His novel was later translated in Urdu by Ghaos Bakhsh Sabir and published by the Pakistan Academy of Literature, Islamabad.

His poems and serenades had a unique enthusiasm that encouraged the youth for unity and carried the love for his motherland as well as mother tongue, for his traditions and culture. The unprecedented innovative pattern of Balochi poetry that Syed brought forth increased the beauty of Balochi literature. Many of his poetry contained the name “Hanul”. No one knows who Hanul was but it is assumed that Hanul might only be a symbol that Syed used to represent his homeland. Most of his poetry carried eloquence to motivate the new generation. An excerpt from one of his famous poems is as follows:

Bya  pada  shtke’n  talarani   dila’n  dera’n   kan’en

Grabaha’en  dosti  o  mehra’n  pada  arza’n   kan’en

Mara  cha   raha  gisar  kurtag  e  berahe’n   saraa’n

E dil a hoona’n cha sohre’n madan’en randa’n kan’en

Through his poem, he encouraged today’s youth to unite in order to find new ways to prosperity, to weld together in a brotherhood so strong that they would even sacrifice their lives to gain that synergy. Today, just as Iqbal’s Dua, this poem by Syed is read at various schools of Balochistan in the morning assemblies.

Syed also motivated the youth to struggle for the nation and defined the importance of national liberty through his revolutionary poetry. Having great touches of literary devices, Syed’s poetry contained an affection that made the readers think about social and political situations. His poetry touched the hearts of millions of youngsters. As a poet, author and researchers, he penned all that he saw in his society which made him the author of the most researched books related to Balochi language. Following are some of his published books:

  1. Sayad Gunj (1st Dictionary of Balochi)
  2. Balochi zuban o adab ki tareekh (A research book in Urdu titled: “Balochi language and literature’s history”)
  3. Juz-Amma (Balochi Translation of the last part of Holy Quran)
  4. Balochi syahag a rast nibisag (Book about the pattern and grammar of Balochi)
  5. Balochi Bungiji (Beginners’ Balochi)
  6. Nazuk (Novel)
  7. Trap kane’n trump (poetry)
  8. Angar o trungal (poetry)
  9. Shakale’n shahju (poetry)
  10. britkage’n beer (poetry)
  11. Sistage’n dastonk (poetry)
  12. Balochi Urdu Bol Chal (Based on Balochi and Urdu Speech)
  13. Sichkan’en sassa (poetry)
  14. Sayad namdi (Syed’s letters)
  15. Shah Lachakar (A research Book)
  16. Mir Gind (Short Story)
  17. Gisad Gwar (poetry)

His research, poetry, essays and novels are exceptionally unique contributions to Balochi literature. Syed was a lingual expert not only in Balochi but also in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit and English. He faced barriers and hindrances while working for Balochi literature. Various times, people from other dominant languages victimized and discriminated him, but Syed never gave up. He was indeed always proud of his mother tongue. His dream was to see the literature of his language as rich as the other dominant languages of the world.

For his dream, he played his role sufficiently. In fact he sacrificed his entire life only for Balochi language. In his short life of fifty-two years, he only lived to write, to struggle and to research. For instance, he lived to serve his nation through his work. In the last few months of his life he suffered from tuberculosis. It was amazing how he continued to write even while he was admitted in hospital. In fact, he wrote three of his books in hospital.

4th March 1978 is remembered as the day when Syed left this world. Today several research institutions are named after him. Some of the greatest examples are the Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi Reference Library in Malir Karachi and Sayad Hashmi Academy which was established in Karachi in 1985 but was later shifted to Gwadar. The academy has been successful in publishing numerous books and thanks to it, hundreds of people are still benefiting in the shadow of knowledge. Undoubtedly, Syed’s extraordinary initiatives have immortalized him in the hearts of millions forever.

Cross-posted from The Balochistan Point

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