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Zarina Baloch

The great legendary heroine of Sindh, the brave and restless sprit of all political struggles and the symbolic mother "JEEJEE" of entire Sindh, Zareena Baloch has been admitted to Agha Khan Hospital Karachi Pakistan in critical condition. She is facing acute multiple health complications, including short term memory loss, severe diabetes, ulcer and liver disorder.

While referring to Jeeje Zareena Baloch in a literary evening at National Centre, Leading drama writer Madam Noor ul Huda Shah once declared her the rebirth of Marui and Baghal. She said I feel privileged that I m living in the era of Jeejee Zareena Baloch, a continuity, a resurrection of modern Marui, Baghal, Mai Bakhtawar, Qurat ul Ain Tahira and Lukholan. Jeejee Zareena Baloch is an enigma, more of a character than anyone from her own works of fiction and music.

When Jiji Zarina Baloch sings, you must listen. There is little choice as you loose yourself to the timeless appeal of her voice. Her voice, you sense, has been wafting down the centuries over the arid landscape of tiny hamlets in Sindh, lifted on the cool breeze caressing the sand dunes of Thar, rippling over the coastal waters, even as it blends with the song of the fishermen. Now the same unique and celebrated voice has been encircled in the marble blocks of red-mosaic in room No 202 of Agha Khan Hospital.

For the last four decades Jeejee Zareena has remained a symbol of hope, revolution and struggle for downtrodden and oppressed Sindhi and Baloch masses. Since the early movements of anti-one-unit and 4th March till the latest MRD, Bhutto Bachayo, anti martial-law and Anti Kalabagh Dam movements she has always been at the forefront, marching with people and facing
lathi-charges, jails and tortures.

Jeejee Zarina Baloch is the only non-controversial national champion of modern Sindhi cause, who enjoys the support of PPP, Awami Tahreek, Jeaay Sindh Qomi Muhaz, STP, Sindhiani Tahreek, JSSF, SST, SPSF and even of Baloch and Seraiki nationalists, socialists and democrats. She has remained in Sukkur, Karachi and Hyderabad Jail for two years in General Zia ul Haq's period and has also been given the Shah Latif, Sachal, Shahbaz, SGA, SANA, WSC,Ram Panjwani and other National and international Awards and Pride of Performance in different parts of the World. When she sings, "Man chuk-e Balochani, Man hakim-e mulakni" and Gul Khan Naseer's "Man aas aan grokan shamsheeran, Man tob aan bam aan bandooq aan, Man yagehan man yagehan" the thrill which Baloch youth feels can not be described in words.

Jiji Zarina has made a name for herself as a writer too. When she wrote her first story people thought "How can she become a writer overnight". "I am an artists." She replied to Daly Dawn, "If I can become a political activists suddenly, a singer suddenly and a teacher suddenly, so I can become a writer."

She is a great believer in the rights of all nationalities on an equalfooting. It was in this background that she took up the cause of Neelam Band Karyo, 4th March and anti-one-unit movement in Sindh. In the early 60s her songs became almost an anthem in every political gathering for the rights of Sindh and its people. Because of her songs the anti-one-unit movement, MRD movement and Anti Kalabagh Dam movement gathered such momentum that even politicians like G.M. Sayed, Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo, ZA Bhutto, Rasool Bux Palijo and Mumtaz Bhutto emphasized upon the role of culture in national struggle. She is so averse to religious obscurantism, exploitation of the poor that she was castigated by some lobbies as a communist and a heretic. But I know that sis a deeply spiritual individual.

She tries to depict feelings of rural Sindhi masses, which are true and plausible. When Jeejee sings "Jieay Sindh aen Jieay Sindh, Jam-e Muhabat Pieay Sindh" and "Sindh hareeea jee Sindh Mazdoor Jee, Sindh kenhan Meer Ya Peer Jee keen Aa" and "Samraji kuta bhoonkanda bhal rahan, paan khey haan azad ghurjey watan" the entire Sindh daces with her words, because what she sings, what she teaches and what she writes, comes straight from her heart. Jeejee Zarina wrote with the same abandonment that she sang with. She even drew plaudits from Shaikh Ayaz, "there is Ismat Chughtai in Hind and Zarina in Sindh." Jeejee (mother), they call her from a six-year-old who breaks into "Mor tho tille" to the sixty-year-old who enjoys, " Bee khabar nah per maran khan poi, tosan gadjan joon hasratoon rahindioon" But Jiji, the singer, activist, writer or teacher was not born overnight. With each moment of reckoning she took up the challenge.

She was born Amina Baloch in a conservative Baloch family. Her mother died when she was five-years-old and she says, "I grew up all of a sudden, as if I were twenty-years-old." Her bond with her father was nurturing in many ways. Sensitive to the young girl, and guided by the her well-intentioned step-mother, he taught her to read the Quran. "He even read to me Latif's kafis and Abul Hasan's Sindhi Noor Namah and Ahad Namah. After the difficult Arabic, all learning seemed easier, besides Sindhi and Urdu are easier languages to learn." Once she cleared her exams (Class 7 in those days) she told Dadi Leela she wanted to work. Dadi Lila took Zarina to the Training College and had her enrolled. There was resistance but Dadi Lila prevailed, " 'sometimes in life one has to break rules and be flexible to help out' said Dadi Lila to them. Maybe Hindus are more generous or it was the respect that she commanded.." Jiji Zarina trails off. Dadi Lila had swiveled open not one but two doors for her. Armed like Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning with a book in one hand and a musical instrument in another, there was little that go wrong.

Some of the tunes are so popular like Mor Tho Tile, Utarto tho lagey, Pereen Pawandee San, Chalro, Dana pe Dana, Man tokhey geet dian aee dhartee, Yar Daadhi, kang lanwey, laila o laila, Tiree Pawanda Tarieen, Man bi goolioon halayan, Vashmalle, Saath Halando Raheey, Munhinja preen o banwara. These songs are in our regional languages but everybody wants to sing them. "When I hear these songs, images of people swim in my eyes" mother Zareena says.

"Molana Grami, Haider Bux Jattoi, Manzoor Ali Khan, Ibrahim Munshi, UstadJumman, Shaikh Ayaz, Imdad Husaini, SeeN Rasool Bux Palijo, Sarwech Sujawali, Tanvir Abbassi, Ustad Bukhari, Saeen G M Sayed, SaeeN Ghulam Mustafa Shah, SaeeN Joyo sahib." The process of osmosis continues. Jiji Zarina also acted in the award-winning PTV play, Dungi Manji Dariya written by Alibaba and which made it to the third place at a festival in Munich.

Playing the female protagonist, Jiji took to the role like fish to water. The life-sustaining waters of Sindh were not alien to her. " I lived in a fishing village for five days to observe the women." The play was yet another door that Zarina pried open. " I did fifty more than programs with T.V. producers Ada Haroon Rind, Iqbal Ansari, Sultana Siddiqui, Mumtaz Mirza and Abdul Karim Baloch. Her famous T. V. dramas & serials include Rani Ji Kahani, Jangal, Karwan, Guddi, Chand Raheen Tho Door, Kedo Karoonbhar (written by Jiji Zarina), Anna, Banhi & Baleshahi.

The women activists in the Sindhiani Tehreek, Aurat Foundation, HRCP, Sindhi Naree Tahreek, Aurat Sabha, Shirkatgah and Asar seek her out to sing for their cause. "I am a fankar. I have kept myself free, I am a part of them because I am Palijo Sahib's wife. They do the work, I am with them, I sing national songs like Jeay Sindh, Maan bi Goliyoon Halayan, Jahan Khe diyo Mubarekoon, Sindhiani Sindh Ji Jaee Aa, Kafan Mathay Saan Badhi Wadhan Tha, at their functions because I want people to be aware, to surge ahead."

She loves peasants and proletariat of Pakhtoonkhwah, Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Seraiki and praises them in words of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz. Jeejee Zarina talks about Sindh with the same timbre that her songs carry. Of timelessness." Sindh azal se hai, Sindh hamasha rahega. She quotes Hyder Bux Jatoi, Jam-e-mohabbat piyay Sindh. (Sindh has been there since
eternity and will be forever.) There is optimism laced with practicality in her assessments of how things stand. "Change will come. Revolutions come in a hundred to two hundred years, if they are not for us then they are for our future generations." She knows that the good people in upper classes of Pakistan are "like salt to flour," that "the poor man is butchered like cattle," that the "foundation laid in the last fifty years has been faulty,"

that "army generals and their agent politicians push their scions and line their own pockets." She says awareness is on the rise," but in slow motion". The bane of karo-kari in Sindh she says exists more in upper Sindh as compared to lower Sindh. "There has been an anna reduction from a rupee, but there is concerted effort being made to raise the level of awareness. This curse exists in all parts of the country. In Balochistan, the N.W.F.P, you hear of women being paraded nude in the Punjab. "Bara hai dard ka rishta yeh dil ghareeb sahee," she quotes Faiz Ahmed Faiz, "if there is one voice raised in protest in one part of the country then there will be two raised in unison in another. We share the same pain."

She criticizes power greedy army generals and autocratic and fascist Punjabi Rulers. The feudal stranglehold she says stifles the progress of the country. She talks about "the wadera's and Sardar's exploitation and the hari's perspiration, the finger-in-every-pie politician. It is not like India where a Phoolan Devi makes it to parliament." Ask her about the present lot of singers and she is very generous with her praise but spikes it with an insight. "Sarmad Sindhi, Manzoor Sakherani, Shazia Khushk, Samina Kanwal, Taj Mastani, Bedal Masroor, Fauzia Soomro, Sadiq Faqeer, Shafi Faqeer, Allahdino Khaskheli & Ameer Ali have what it takes to click.

 The young writers should select good and realistic plots and singers should select good poetry, compose their own music. Abida Parveen she rates very highly. "There will never be another Abida, another Ustad Juman, another Mahdi Hasan, another Reshman, another Latta Mangeshker, another Mohd Rafee, another Mukesh and another Pathaney Khan. A great deal of credit goes to them, their masses, their composers and their families"

Jeejee Zarina Baloch is an intriguing combination of mellowness and spiritedness. The fires may not be raging inside but at a just provocation they could burst into flames that would singe. And her voice, as she sings "Hum Jo tareek rahon men marey gayee" and Bulleh Shah's "Kee janan main kaun" cuts through our skin and enters in our bloodstream. "My days are winging past. Time is just passing me by. I have not been able to discover my true self, neither my family, nor my colleagues. Who am I? No one knows". She quotes Shaikh Ayaz, "If I go away, you will remember me a lot, then all you will do is bite your finger and miss me." The world will do more. They will listen to her.


Legendary heroine of Sindh Jeejee Zareena
Ji Ji Zareena Baloch-Sindh's Cultural and Natural Voice Jiji does not have any shagirds but she is proud of a whole legion of children that she has nurtured as a primary school-teacher in Hyderabad in the last twenty-two years. For a woman who set out to gain a formal education when she was in her twenties, Jiji Zarina has made a name forherself as a writer too. When she wrote her first story people thought it was her husband, Rasul Bux Palijo who was ghost writing for her. How can she become a writer overnight, they asked. "I am an artists. If I can become a singer suddenly and a teacher suddenly, so I can become a writer." Jiji Zarina's response is characteristic of a woman who does not dwell on past glories. She is willing to explore hidden facets of her own personality and take on new challenges. Zarina wrote with the same abandonment that she sang with. She even drew plaudits from Shaikh Ayaz, "there is Ismat Chughtai in Hind and Zarina in Sindh." Though one may well pepper the praise with a pinch of salt as it is singing which has been her first love.

Jiji Zarina took a break from baby-sitting her grandchildren in Hyderabad and was in Karachi early this year, singing Sufi waees in the play Roshni ke Dareechay. Her voice pierced through the darkness as she sang from the wings. "My voice is not dependent on any musical instrument. Give me a Thalhi and I will hold it and sing. It is Allah's gift and my people's love," she says.

Jiji (mother), they call her from a six-year-old who breaks into Mor tho tille to the sixty-year-old. But Jiji, the singer, writer or teacher was not born overnight. With each moment of reckoning she took up the challenge. The test by fire she says, "made her into kundan. Hard times can be educating," she says in a simple matter-of-fact tone. Neither is there any self-congratulatory tone to her manner as she narrates the story of her life. She clears her throat like a true singer as the spool on the tape begins to turn slowly.

Nature gave in to the strong-willed girl and things fell into place. Once she cleared her exams (Class 7 in those days) she told Dadi Lila she wanted to work. Dadi Lila sent her to the radio station. "I used to sing the dua at the prayer time and Dadi Lila was the first one to notice my talent. I was afraid and said baba would kill me but she insisted I go for the audition.

In those days Rubina Mustafa Qureishi was there a year before me." It was Dadi Lila who gave the wheel of fortune yet another flick. She took Zarina to the Training College and had her enrolled. There was resistance but Dadi Lila prevailed, " 'sometimes in life one has to break rules and be flexible to help out' said Dadi Lila to them. Maybe Hindus are more generous or it was the respect that she commanded.." Jiji Zarina trails off. Dadi Lila had swiveled open not one but two doors for her. Armed like Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning with a book in one hand and a musical instrument in another, there was little that go wrong. "In radio we were taught the tune a day earlier for four items in the morning and four to six items in the evening. It was a difficult but a valuable learning experience. If we made a mistake then we had to begin all over again." Ask her where classical music is today and she says, "to learn classical music you have to be rich, the ustad (teacher) has to walk home to the shagird's (student's) home. How can one expect the poor man to pay and learn.

Earlier the radio station was the repository of culture and music. Maybe people don't wish to work hard anymore. There is no honesty left. The ustads in the past like Mohammad Juman, Ibrahim, Niaz Hussain were made of sterner stuff. There was truth in their voice, they had a compelling presence. No lies, no pilfering other people's tunes." Zarina says with a silvery laugh, " they procreated their own children and nurtured them like mothers. Some of the tunes are so popular like Mor Tho Tile, Dana pe dana, Yar Ladi, Vashmalle. These songs are in our regional languages but everybody wants to sing them. When I hear these songs, images of people swim in my eyes.Manzoor Ali Khan, Jumman, Shaikh Ayaz, Imdad Husaini, Tanvir Abbassi, Ustad Bukhari. These songs have been sung by Noor Jehan to Shazia Khushk. But when history will be written the names of the original composer will be etched." The process of osmosis continues. " I compose my own tunes." Dr Nabi Bux Baloch compiled a book of folk songs but these did not give any clue about the tunes. But the words rooted in the socio-cultural milieu evoked the emotions. I am a mother, daughter, sister too. The happiness and the sadness inside me gave the melody to these words." Jiji Zarina says she was suddenly imbued by a sense of urgency to have as many songs recorded as possible for posterity. I implored them to take the songs from me before I forget them. I did not seek any remuneration for them too."

This was a sequel to an earlier effort two decades ago when on the suggestion of Rasul Bux Palijo and with the encouragement of like-minded people like Hamid Akhund, Agha Saleem, Amar Jaleel, Ghulam Hussain Shaikh, Imdad Khawaja we tried to preserve the heritage like Lok Geet & Maulood. Quivering songs like a translucent mirage on the hot sands of Sindh were lured into the sound-proof recording rooms. Preserving the past and present became a passion and " the recordings continued for hours like water flowing endlessly," she says.

Jiji Zarina acted in the award-winning PTV play, Dungi Manji Dariya written by Alibaba and which made it to the third place at a festival in Munich. Playing the female protagonist, Jiji took to the role like fish to water. The life-sustaining waters of Sindh were not alien to her. " I lived in a fishing village for five days to observe the women." The play was yet another door that Zarina pried open. " I did fifty more than programs with T.V. producers Ada Haroon Rind, Iqbal Ansari, Sultana Siddiqui, Mumtaz Mirza and Abdul Karim Baloch. Mumtaz Mirza was the guiding spirit too. In fact, the concept of the chorus was introduced by Ada Mumtaz.". Her famous T. V. dramas & serials include Rani Ji Kahani, Jangal, Guddi, Chand Raheen Tho Door, Kedo Karoonbhar (written by Jiji Zarina), Banhi & Baleshahi. She is quite happy with her three children Akhtar, Aslam & Ayaz and eleven grand children. Her son Ayaz Latif Palijo and daughter Akhtar Baloch are also well known writers. Names of people pop up in her conversation. She is loyal to her family,

colleagues & friends and she lights the candle of memory shorn of self-consciousness. There are no wisps of nostalgia that cloud the picture. It is more of a candid shot. The awards had begun early in her career, she names a dozen awards in a single breath, including the Pride of Performance, Latif Award, Shahbaz Award, Rama Panjwani Award. Jiji Zarina is a committed activist too she has remained in jail for her political commitment and nationalist role . The women activists in the Sindhiani Tehreek seek her out to sing for their cause. "I am a fankar. I have kept myself free, I am a part of them because I am Palijo Sahib's wife. They do the work, I am with them, I sing national songs like Jeay Sindh, Maan bi Goliyoon Halayan, Jahan Khe diyo Mubarekoon, Sindh Harre Ji Sindh Mazdoor Ji, Sindhiani Sindh Ji Jaee Aa, Kafan Mathay Saan Badhi Wadhan Tha, at their functions because I want people to be aware, to surge ahead."

The feudal stranglehold she says stifles the progress of the country. She talks about "the wadera's exploitation and the hari's perspiration, the finger-in-every-pie politician. It is not like India where a Phoolan Devi makes it to parliament." Ask her about the present lot of singers and she is very generous with her praise but spikes it with an insight. "Sarmad Sindhi, Manzoor Sakherani, Shazia Khushk, Samina Kanwal, Taj Mastani, Bedal Masroor, Fauzia Soomro, Sadiq Faqeer, Shafi Faqeer, Allahdino Khaskheli & Ameer Ali have what it takes to click. The world is moving at such a frenzied pace, people are tired of the baggage of life, so if there is a moment or two of respite and people get to be merry, the credit goes to youngsters. Though she can't figure out the get-up that Shazia dons," the women in Thar do nothave so many clothes that she wears. But people like it and I wish her well.

Even I want to listen to fast music." However, she puts in a word of advice. The young singers should select good poetry, compose their own music. Abida Parveen she rates very highly. "There will never be another like her. A great deal of credit, goes to her husband, Ghulam Husain Shaikh too. Her art is a treasure for the nation."

Jiji Zarina Baloch is an intriguing combination of mellowness and spiritedness. The fires may not be raging inside but at a just provocation they could burst into flames that would singe.

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