The Neglected Domain of Balochi Literature
by Fazal Baloch
Literature plays a pivotal role in molding one’s thoughts, ideas and, above all, the way of life. It also helps in cultivating moderation and tolerance in the society. Similarly, literature available to a child leaves drastic impact on his/her mind and also help set the course of his/her future. Besides, it not only broadens the horizons of their imagination but also helps them in understanding their society. The more a child is exposed to literature, the more flourishes his/her creative power.
In English and Urdu a variety of literature is available on the subject but when it comes to regional languages, especially Balochi, the picture is rather bleak. It has so for proved to be the most neglected domain of Balochi literature. The literature partly available to children is owed to classical literature; creation of unknown genius minds. Modern Balochi literature has so far failed to produce even a single writer whose work can rightly be placed in the category of juvenile literature. Most of the times our writers have looked down upon this faction of literature which has left a diverse effect on overall readership of Balochi of Balochi language. As Balochi is not a part of school curricula across Balochistan, the majority of the youth finds it difficult to read and write in their first language. This issue could have alternatively been resolved much earlier if children were switched to fascinating tales of fairies, princes, merchants and the likes. By exposing children to literature not only we can enhance the appalling readership ratio of Balochi but also pave the way for a book reading society. But, lamentably this has never been the case with Balochi even not right now as much reading material is not available in the market on the subject.
In the second half of the 20th century, some Baloch writers and researchers collated several folk tales which were published by the Balochi Academy Quetta under the series Geedi Kessah (Folk Tales) which has spun up to nine volumes. Apart from romantic sagas, and fables, a considerable number of tales, particularly woven for children, are also included in these volumes. But, unfortunately, all of these books have either run out of print or gathering dust on the shelves of the Balochi Academy Quetta. Since, there isn’t any reading stuff available in the market, in most sections of Baloch society parents refer to oral versions of these tales which vary from one place to the other. It may satisfy children’s appetite and somewhat develop a sense of wonder and quest amongst them but would probably not arise the sense of creativity to that extent as a book does. When children grow older, they either switch to literature other than Balochi or get indulged in certain activities which has nothing to do with character building. So what is the need of the hour is that these books must be reproduced on a priority basis because these tales not only enable us to trace down the roots of Balochi fiction but also help assume the behavioral psyche, attitude and approach of our ancestors regarding molding the life of a child. Additionally, the tales which comprise children’s literature need to be published in separate volumes for the convenience of children and the specification of the subject.
In 1980, Balochistan Academy took a step in the right direction by introducing children’s literature in separate series. Soorat Khan Mari’s compilation of Pariyani Kessah (Fairy Tales) and M. Sultana’s Moorenk, Mokoow, Benag Makisk (Ant, Spider and Bee) are worth mentioning here. But, unfortunately, these books are not in the market anymore. In the last six decades as many as hundred magazines and periodicals appeared on the scene but, with few exceptions, no editor bothered to cater to the need and interest of children on a regular basis let alone special issues. Until a few years, monthly Balochi, the oldest surviving and one of the most read magazines in the Balochi language assigned a special section for children under the title Zahgani Majlis (Children’s Gathering) but, unfortunately, this series didn’t last for a much longer period.
With the beginning of the 21st century, Balochi literature managed to attract a wide range of readership and hundreds of new books were launched. However, hardly there is any title which rightly falls in the category of children’s literature. In December 1998, Wahid Shakir, a Punjgur based writer, compiled a book under the title “Bachakkan Bachakkan Gwazi” (Come on children let’s play). As evident from the title the book contains around 86 games and their rules mostly played by children across various regions of Balochistan. Of these games 55 are played by boys while the rest of 31 are reserved for girls. Unfortunately most of children are even not familiar with a quarter of these games. In the August 2000, Hakim Wafa, another Baloch writer came up with Zahgani Chagird (The world of children), a compilation of 79 poems, 33 games and 09 jokes for children. Though both these books don’t fall in the category of children’s literature as they are part of the sport, the work of both compilers merits due appreciations as both have accomplished the task often people don’t care for. Moreover, Dr. Fazal Khaliq, a noted Baloch writer, compiled a thick book containing various genres of folk poetry including a genre Laib Lacha (Gaming Poems) which for the first time came to the notice of readers. These poems are new addition to children’s literature but again, they should have been brought out in a separate volume for the best interest of children. In the history of printed Balochi literature, Darwant (The Lesson) is the only magazine which was specifically launched for children.
It was brought out from Turbat under the editorship of a young Baloch writer Deedag Nazar who marketed its first issue in January 2009. Aside from children’s own creation, the journal also initiated a series to let the children get some basic information about celebrated Baloch personalities, historical events and archeological sites of Balochistan. In 2011, when “Darwant” has somewhat established itself and almost set the course of children’s literature, its publication was stopped. It truly served an umbrella for children and its cessation further added to the miseries of marginalized children’s literature.
It is quite lamentable that at a time when the eBooks has replaced the hard copies in the world, Baloch children are still far away from leafing through story books especially designed for them. It is high time that Baloch writers, publishers and all concerned bodies realized the due importance of children’s literature towards carving out a, moderate, tolerant and above all a book loving society.