Hira Munir

Visual Storyteller
   
People of the Language
Location: Pakistan
Nationality: Pakistani
Biography: Hira is an independent photographer and visual storyteller.The connection between people, their surroundings, and their community has become her main focus for the past few years. She is a person well connected by emotions, and her images... MORE
Public Story
People of the Language
Copyright Hira Munir 2022
Updated Sep 2022
Location Sindh
Topics Culture, Culture stories, Documentary, Essays, Ethnography, Family, History, Personal Projects, Personalproject, Photography
Since childhood, I have been told that I was born on sacred soil, rich in culture, literature, and heritage. But in a new city (Karachi), with a higher literacy rate, and said to be more civilized than the rest of Sindh. I started witnessing the indifferences created based on language and culture. Born to a Sindhi father and an Urdu-speaking mother, I call myself a hybrid daughter to this land. My family moved to Karachi When I was 7 years old. This project is all me, tracing footprints of my family, visiting memories, asking questions and searching for answers; only to rediscover my lost roots with this land.

The memories from my childhood narrate that I and my brother were raised as bilingual children. My family from my father’s side is more open to different languages and cultures than in the city of Karachi where I was raised, considered to be more diverse and open. As Rita Kothari beautifully sums up this whole disconnection between me and my roots, and what actually happened in her article The Persistence of Partition, “For this third generation, Sindhiness is a cluster of undesirable traits and the easiest way to distance oneself from them is to refrain from speaking Sindhi – the only historical marker of this linguistic identity.” [Kothari 2011]And that’s what I did. I stopped speaking Sindhi – stepped back and ignored my roots and culture in order to best fit in. Somehow, Urdu stayed alive in our existence as it was a common language spoken among my parents, and Sindhi- slowly faded away from our present.

“On the departure of the British, partition of the country and creation of Pakistan, refugees (Muhajir) immigrated here, settled down and have socially adjusted themselves with the local people, so much so that apart from leaving the Sindhi language, there have been many inter-marriages at several levels of society.” [G.M Syed – Sindhudesh]. And my family is one of the examples of intermarriage that G.M Syed has mentioned above. My mother belonged to an Urdu-speaking family, migrated from Delhi (India), and settled in Karachi after the partition. My father was from a Sindhi-speaking family based in Hala, a small town near Hyderabad. He along with his other siblings has been raised in Hyderabad.  My father was an advocate by profession. He served as an OSD (Officer on Special Duty) to then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. And while working as a government servant he met my uncle (my mother’s brother) and they became close friends. So, it was all quite normal, a Sindhi coming and hanging out in an Urdu-speaking household. No tug of war on languages or culture whatsoever. My parents got married in 1980. During that time my father’s home was in Gari Khata mohalla, in the old city of Hyderabad. From there, they moved to Latifabad Unit No.5. And I was born there in 1985.

During my school days, Sindhi-Muhajir clashes were at their peak. In school, I was asked “Who are you” and “what is your caste”. In social surroundings, we were discouraged to speak Sindhi, but only Urdu or English. So, I began questioning my identity.
I have witnessed these differences not only socially but in both the paternal and maternal sides of my family as well. So, I started questioning my father what connection do I have with this land? Did this soil, this land always had these indifferences and this war of belonging, when did it begin and why?
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People of the Language by Hira Munir
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