Project SynopsisOn September 30, 1988, a wave of ethnic violence tore through the historical city of Hyderabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province. It tore through the fabric of a once multi-ethnic city, home to an indigenous Sindhi community, and a more recently arrived community of migrants who arrived here in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947. Curfew was imposed for days on end, according to my parents and members of my family who were living in the city at that time. There was looting, attacks and rioting carried on for days. What remained in the wake of this event had wide repercussions that continue to affect the lives of the residents of the city, and even those who may trace their roots to it but have not called it home in decades. At the end of all this, what remained was a city divided. Sindhis and the Urdu-speaking migrants found refuge in barricaded and separated neighborhoods, a division and separation that remains till today. It was a separation however that had an inevitable impact on my family, where my father, a Sindhi, and my mother, an Urdu-speaking migrant, found themselves defending their family against the political fault lines revealed by the ethnic violence. One consequence of this defense was a loss of connection to history, heritage, and memory. They chose to look away from the past and never speak about history. This was the world that I grew up in; silent, incomplete, evasive, and made largely incomprehensible because even our culture and language were not given to us. This is the world that I want back.
The world is richer in its hybrids – Aatish Taseer
Aatish Taseer’s words reflect my search for the hybrid, which is a search for the richer. A richer sense of the history of my family, as much of myself. It is what Hyderabad has always been; a rich mix of peoples because of the many invaders and rulers that have come and settled here. It was once the beloved capital city of the Kalhoras and Mirs of the Talpur dynasty. Founded in 1768 by Ghulam Shah Kalhora and established in 1768 because of its access to trade roots and placed a military garrison here. It wasn’t until the British arrived that the city lost its status as a major economic, military and cultural hub to the fast-growing city of Karachi. A rich mix of communities, ethnicities, languages, and faiths could be found here. Until that afternoon in 1988, this hybridity, this plurality, this mongrel-ness was also my history, my heritage, and my identity. Born and raised in the unparallel region has given me a sense of discomfort and insecurity about my roots in this land- is about untangling my hybrid identity. To find the elements of my identity which link me to this land. It is equally a retracing of my own roots and a desire to rediscover those sides of my heritage that were erased, hidden, or forgotten. The project is a history of a wounded city, as much as it is a history of a wounded family. We never spoke about the past, but the scars of those events continued to have their reverberations even within families like mine; some who decided to leave this city decades ago and some who decided to stay. As I search for stories of the aftermath of these riots, I search for myself, and that which remains of a world that I feel within, experience surreptitiously within the walls of my family home, but remains silenced and hidden. The story of Hyderabad’s aftermath, under the shadow that still hangs over the lives of the people here, is my story. At least that is the hope that inspires this work.