Tribute to Dr Charu Gidwani (1970-2013)

Dr Charu Gidwani was born on 21 August 1970 in Pune, Maharashtra (India). She was the daughter of the renowned scholar Dr Parso Gidwani (1932-2004) and of Pushpa Khubchandani. Parso was born in Dadu, Sindh, nowadays in Pakistan and Pushpa was born in Karachi. In 1947 both their families migrated to India, leaving their ancestral Sindh. Dr Parso Gidwani finally established in Pune where he taught Sindhi linguistics and literature at the Deccan College. Born after an elder brother named Rohitesh, young Charu grew up in the academic environment of the Deccan College in Pune.

Dr Charu Gidwani (centre) “at home” with friends, in the Sindhi-speaking area of Banni
Dr Charu Gidwani (centre) “at home” with friends, in the Sindhi-speaking area of Banni

Charu showed great interest in English Literature. In 1990, she graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Pune and with an M.A. in 1992. The same year Charu Gidwani started her teaching career in Abeda Inamdar College in Pune (Maharashtra) where she was to stay two years. In September 1994, she shifted to R.K. Talreja College in Ulhasnagar. In 2004, she defended a Ph.D. in the University of Pune on “Depicting of childhood in the works of Tagore”. Later on, she was Associate Professor in English Literature at R.K. Talreja College.

Despite her specialization in Tagore’s work, for which she was considered an expert, Dr Charu Gidwani was familiarized with Sindhi spirituality since her early childhood. Among other Sindhi mystics, Hindu Sufis used to visit the family, as for example Dada Ajwani (1920-2001), the author of several Sufi kalams, for whom she had a deep affection. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that her father’s Ph.D. had been devoted to a comparative study of Hindi and Sufi poets (Sagaur University, 1966). In sum, the Gidwani family, where she grew up, thus perfectly mirrored the open minded conception of Sindh culture, based on toleration expressed in the sharing of poetry and the performance of devotional songs.

When Dr Parso Gidwani passed away in 2004, Charu started to look at her father’s papers. Her   will was to publish a number of them which were still under manuscript form. Among her main achievements in this field, there was Dr Parso’s seminal work on “Similarities in Sindhi and Dravidian Languages” in 2007, for which she had written a post-face. Another one was the publication in 2010 of Sindhi Lok Geet- Bolia Ji Osar by the Sindhi Language Authority, in Hyderabad, Sindh (Pakistan), with a preface in Sindhi of her own. She was thus, with her father, one of the very few Indian Sindhi scholars to have been published in Pakistan. Dr Charu Gidwani was still fighting to edit her father’s magnum opus: the “Etymological Dictionary of Sindhi”, containing around 10 million entries which lies with the Deccan College unpublished, a unique piece of scholarship which is still missing many students and scholars.

Progressively, she became more and more involved in Sindhi literature and culture. After her parents acquired a house in Kutch, in the Sindhi speaking area of Banni, she had the opportunity to spend days in a rural Sindhi milieu. She had to be back there for research fieldwork on Sufi Sindhi legacy in summer 2012. Her fame in the field of Sindhi Studies was growing every day. Dr Charu Gidwani was in touch with Sindhi scholars in India, but also in Pakistan, such as Professor Ghulamali Allana, a former director of the Institute of Sindhology (University of Sindh, Jamshoro) and former vice-chancellor of Allama Open University in Islamabad.

In the same time, Dr Charu Gidwani was more and more concerned with the future of Sindhi literature and language. She was very upset to see the decline of Sindhi language in India, and concerned that the treasure of Sindhi Sufi poetry remains unknown. In Ulhasnagar, a place which has been a hub of Sindhi refugees, she began to regularly visit Sindhi darbars like that of Rai Rochaldas in Shantinagar. She was fascinated by Sindhi Sufi poetry and singings and was fond of attending satsangs where her discrete, sweet and charismatic presence was much appreciated.

She had already participated in a number of seminars and workshops (see the list below) where she had delivered talks on the issue of Sindhi identity. More and more, she felt that the Sindhi Sufi legacy was the core of Sindhi identity and interestingly in the wake of her father’s work, she was working on an anthology of Sufi texts, with the Sindhi original and an English translation. She had also started to study different Sindhi Sufi traditions in India. To implement her study, she had travelled in a number of cities like Ulhasnagar, Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri, Delhi, Haridwar, Vadodara, Nagpur, and many others.

Her short but so rich life will not give her the opportunity to realize the many projects she had in mind. Last but not least, she had created with her family The Parso Gidwani Centre for Sindhi Studies in 2011. This is a living testimony of the richness of the Sindhi culture she has cherished. Among the Sufi poets she was fond of, there is Dalpat Sufi (1769-1842), a Hindu Sufi who was born in Sehwan Sharif and who had died a year before the British conquest of Sindh. The English translation is Dr Charu’s one, and it perfectly reflects her poetic sensitivity:

 

وﻥﺀ ﭘﻨﻬﺟﻲ وﻂﻦ ڏﻱ ﺳﭸﺎﺛﻲ ﺩﻟﭘﺕ ﺩﻡ

ﻧﻚﻮﺳﺎڌ ﻧﻴﻤﻦ ﮐﻲ ﻧﻚﻮ ﺳﺎڌﻳﻢ

ﮀڏ اﭜﻤﺎن دﻳﻬﻪ ﺟﻮ ذات ورن ﻛﺮ ﮔﻢ

 ﺳﮑﻪ ﭤﻲ وﭸﻲ ﺳﻣﻬﻪ ﺳﺎﻣﻲ ﺳﺖ ﺳﺮوپ ۾

(Deewan Dalpat, Ed. Gidumal Khatanmal Harjani, Kalyan, 1965, p. 68)

Go to the land of your origin, knowing give you breath Dalpat

Do not pursue rituals, nor on death do medidate,

Leave all arrogance of the body, caste and colour renounce,

Be blissful and go immerse, in the True Master’s Being

 

List of Dr Charu Gidwani’s achievements (prepared by Rohitesh Gidwani)

 

Abstracts in Seminar Proceedings

Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages, Deogiri College, Aurangabad, July, 2008

Language: Preserver and Nourisher of the Ethnic Self, NEHU, Tura, Nov-2009

Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages, West Goalpara College,Goalpara, Nov-2009

Identity Crisis Of The Displaced Sindhi-Hindus In India. North Gauhati College, Gauhati, June-2011

Language: Preserver of Sindhi Identity, Narrativizing margins, Assam University, Diphu, Jan-2012

Sindhi Sufi poetry in post-partition India. CLAI & Central University of Rajasthan, Ajmer, Feb-2012

Papers in Seminar Souvenirs/Proceedings

Tagore- poet,critic. Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Sep-2008

Tagore- Indianness in the face of colonialism Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Feb-2009

Language: Preserver and Nourisher of Ethnic Self,  Jaihind College, Pimpri, February, 2012

Research articles/papers in International Journals

Contributed to “Similarities in Sindhi & Dravidian Languages”, IJDL, Jan-2007

Translations of Jhulelal Panjras in Newsletter, MIFS, Sep-2009

“Sindhi Customs, Literature and Oratures”, The Marginal Voice, Vol-II, NINAD, May-2011

Research articles/papers in National Journals/Books

‘Some ceremonial milestones in the life of a Sindhi male”, DLA, Kerala, March-2006

Book review of ‘Pages of My Life’, JJCL, Vol. 48, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, 2010-2011.

‘Tagore: Indianness in the face of colonialism’ in Multiplexity of postcolonial literature, Author’s Press, New Delhi, 2010, pg 53-56

Book review of ‘Divine Dwellers in the Desert’, www.tpgcss.org

International Book

Sindhi Lok Geet- Bolia Ji Osar, Sindhi Language Authority, Hyderabad, Sindh, 2010

Creative Writing

Short Story- Green Leaves of Life, Melange, Guwahati, Sep-2008.

Short Story- Convenience, Melange, Guwahati, Dec-2008.

Short Story-  Lines, Melange, Guwahati, March-2009.

Sufi Stories of Sindh, www.tpgcss.org

Sindhi Folksongs  www.tpgcss.org

‘Manto: Burden of Pain’, Muse India May-June,2012, http://www.museindia.com/featurecontent.asp?issid=43&id=3360

Seminars / Workshops/ Conferences/ Meetings attended          

Workshops

Improved Instructional Skills, Disha Research and Resource Centre, Pune,May,2006

FYand SY syllabus, Jhunjhunwala College, Ghatkopar, 11th September, 2007

National Seminars

’Emerging trends in contemporary American Literature’, 7th February,2008, conducted by Dept of English, CHM College and The American Center, Mumbai

Indian Literary Criticism, Deogiri College, Aurangabad, July, 2008. Title of paper- Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages

Indian Literary Criticism in English, Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Sep-2008. Title of paper- Tagore- poet,critic

Postcolonial Indian English Literature, Nabira Mahavidyalaya, Katol, Feb-2009. Title of paper- Tagore- Indianness in the face of colonialism

Subaltern Studies in the Global Context, Mahatma Phule College, Panvel, March-2009.

Culture and Ethnic Persistence, NEHU, Tura, Nov-2009. Title of paper- Language: Preserver and Nourisher of the Ethnic Self

Postcolonialism, West Goalpara College, Goalpara, Nov-2009. Title of paper- Rethinking William Jones’ Family Tree of Languages

Tribal Literature, Gauhati University, Gauhati, Feb-2011. Title of paper- Sindhi Literature- A case of Cultural Dislocation.

Social Exclusion and Inclusive Development, North Gauhati College, Gauhati, June-2011. Title of paper- Identity Crisis Of The Displaced Sindhi-Hindus In India.

International Seminars/ Conferences

Understanding and Interrogating Fourth World Literatures, AN University, Guntur, September-2009. Title of paper- A Lost Voice, A Lost Identity: Sindhi

Expanding Territories, CLAI & Sahitya Akademi, Saurashtra University, Rajkot, March-2010. Title of paper- Sindhi Language and Identity

Sociological Imagination in Comparative Perspective, CLAI, Gujarat, March 2011. Title of paper- The curious case of Sindhi Literature and Art.

Narrativizing margins, Assam University, Diphu, Jan-2012. Title of paper- Language: Preserver of Sindhi Identity

Minority Discourses, CLAI & Central University of Rajasthan, Ajmer, Feb-2012.

Title of paper- Sindhi Sufi poetry in post-partition India.

Other achievements

a) Refresher courses/orientation programs attended-

Refresher Course -Goa University, March 2008

b) Guest speaker/Judges/Co-ordinator-

Guest speaker

Momin College, “Enjoying Poetry”, 29th January,2008

SB College, “Analysis of Register”, 5th December,2008

SB College, “Feminism”, 27th February,2009

Momin College, “Indian Literature”, February,2010

Momin College, “Indian Literature”, January,2011

Judge

Smt KC Gandhi School, Kalyan 9th August, 2008

c) Resource Person at Conference/Seminars/Workshops/Symposia/Refresher  courses

Women’s Day at Kohinoor Technical Institute, Kalyan March 2011.

National Seminar on “Ravindranath Tagore: Image & Influences”, 27th January, 2012

State Level Seminar on “ Sindhi Language & Young Generation”, 18th February, 2012

Chairperson at International Seminar on ‘Religious minorities in India and Pakistan’, CSH (French Centre of Social Sciences and Humanities), Delhi, 25th April, 2012

Resource person at Refresher Course, University of Mumbai, 23rd October, 2012

Talk on ‘How to write research articles’ at Bharat College, Badlapur on 23rd August, 2012

Administrative work at University

Paper Setter for TYBA-February, 2008 and February, 2009

Moderator- June, 2010

Examiner-April-May, 2008

Examiner for MA- April 2005, April 2007, April 2008


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