Pakistan may be lacking on many fronts but the one thing that sets it above all others is its heritage. Baela Raza Jamil’s statement, declaring Pakistan’s supremacy in this regard, was a no-brainer for the audience at the session, titled ‘Mobilising living heritage from our literature’, at the Teachers Literature Festival, on Thursday.
What was unfortunate, according to Jamil, was the lack of interest being shown to promote and protect the heritage for the future generations. “The dilemma we are faced with today is that how do we revive the respect and admiration for our heritage in classrooms?” she asked of the panellists, Ayub Blaoch and Adal Soomro, in particular, and the audience in general.
When the mic was passed on to Ayub Baloch, one could tell that this man meant business when it came to protecting the heritage. “When Pakistan was formed in 1947, it was lacking in many aspects — financially, administratively and politically. The one thing we did have and will always cherish is our heritage.” But it was not until he started counting the blessings that we have so often heard of, that he managed to convince the participants of his argument. “Take a trip to the Quetta Museum,” he invited the audience. “There are relics that have been found in Mehergarh that date as far back as 11,000 years ago. The artefacts testify that the society inhabiting Mehergarh was far more sophisticated than any other place at the time.” The civilisation was so far ahead, according to Baloch, that animals were domesticated for the first time ever in Mehergarh.
Baloch went on to explain that historians believe that the Sumerian Civilisation found its roots in Balochistan. “It is from here that they migrated to other places. Moen jo Daro, the famous historical site in Sindh is only 5,000 years old. Imagine, Moen jo Daro is merely the great-grandson of Mehergarh,” he smiled.
Baloch carried on by quoting a famous Red Indian saying, “We borrow the Earth from our children.” Heritage is a gift from the past to the future, he reasoned. It is our duty to protect and preserve it and pass it on to our future generation. He pleaded to the teachers and those involved in the education sector to ensure that our future generation developed an appreciation for our heritage. “You may ask why I give so much importance to protecting our heritage,” he asked of the audience with a smile. “It is because heritage is directly linked to our dignity and identity.”
Baloch’s fellow panellist, Adal Soomro, is no novice when it comes to folk literature. The head of Sindhi department at the Shah Abdul Latif University, Soomro has authored 14 books apart from publishing various works of poetry. “Our literature, especially folk tales and stories, are a testament to our heritage,” he said. Soomro was of the opinion that literature was the one platform through which we could preserve and protect our heritage. What was lamentable was that we had ignored the lessons that we could have learnt from this heritage. “The despondency lies in the fact that Moen jo Daro, 5,000 years ago, was a far better planned and urbanised community than what we have today. I even wrote a poem requesting the authorities to allow me to live in Moen jo Daro,” he joked.
What the moderator and panellists agreed to was that for the protection and promotion of our heritage, it was necessary that teachers rise up to the challenge. “You have been commissioned with a cause,” Soomro addressed the teachers seated in the room. “Your cause is not to bring about a revolution. Each of you must play your part and collectively, we will be able to bring about the change we seek,” he advised.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2014.