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KARACHI: The book launch of Dr G.M. Mehkri’s works focusing on the sociological and cultural aspects of Sindh on Monday at the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, marked the culmination of centennial celebrations of Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo.

The book titled A Great Engagement Sindh, Joyo and Mehkri is an omnibus of three publications written by Dr Mehkri — On Sindh, Sorrows of Sindh and My Dear, Joyoji. These comprise articles and essays that were edited and compiled by Saeen Joyo along with letters exchanged between the two.

Speaker after speaker commented that it was not remarkable that Saeen Joyo would be marking his hundredth year on Aug 13 but that he spent his entire life consistently disseminating thoughts on socialism, secularism, minority rights, rationalism and nationalism.

The programme began with M.A. final students heaping tributes on Saeen Joyo in their mother tongues such as Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi, Pushto and Shina.

Following this, the director of Pakistan Study Centre, Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmad, read out a paper ‘Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo — Dil Shikasta ki Riffat-e-Khayal’, the title of which was inspired by Saeen Joyo’s article Musings of a Wounded Heart. In his paper, he highlighted three main aspects of Saeen Joyo that made him such an outstanding scholar. “From a young age he spent his time studying Western philosophers and thinkers which profoundly affected his thinking and writings. Secondly, the qualities of passion and commitment kept him busy throughout his lengthy life and finally he had the skill to effectively manage time.”

He also stressed the impact the 1930s had on Saeen Joyo’s thought process. “This was the decade in colonial India when defining issues were being debated. The movement to separate Sindh from Bombay was gaining momentum. The Government of India Act 1935 emphasised the importance of provincial autonomy. He also became deeply aware of the ill-effects of feudalism.”

It was in this context that Saeen Joyo wrote a thought-provoking book Save Sind, Save the Continent from Feudal Lords, Capitalists and their Communalism in 1947 when he was merely 32 years of age. This book, according to Dr Ahmad, was an endeavour to come up with original political thought and was also a “charter of demands” of sorts by Sindh.

Mohsin Joyo, the grandson of Saeen Joyo, was up next and unfortunately did not live up to the expectation that one would expect from the progeny of such a great scholar. This happened because of an anecdote the young man recounted when he had to give an interview at Sindh University whereby he was unable to answer some basic questions.

“When I told my grandfather about the interview, he said: ‘Mohsin, even if you had read just one article of mine, you would not have faced this situation’,” he said.

He then went on to speak about Dr Mehkri who had migrated from Bangalore and settled in Sindh. “He did not seek any material gains so much so that he never made a claim for property after he migrated. He was a journalist and spent his time in intellectual activities.”

Dr Mazharul Haq Siddiqui, the former vice chancellor of Sindh University, called Dr Mehkri “a great friend of Saeen Joyo and a great benefactor of Sindh.”

He said Dr Mehkri was “an example of love for Sindh. His concept of patriotism is expansive and encompasses family, province, country and humanity at large. He immensely loved the worker in the fields and the labourer in the factories.”

The former VC was most impressed by the student-tributes in their mother tongues and said that when Saeen Joyo finds out he would be most happy as it epitomises his philosophy.

Prof Sahar Ansari spoke about Dr Mehkri and his interaction with the unassuming scholar. “He was from Bangalore. People belonging to this place and Madras prefer talking in English; same was the case with Dr Mehkri. He had a good sense of humour. When people would ask him about his initials G.M. he would say it means Great Man.”

Mazhar Jamil, the biographer of Saeen Joyo, brought to light an event in the scholar’s childhood that shaped his entire life. “His love for books took root at the age of six when he passed his school examination and he was rewarded with two books by the inspector of schools.” He would often spend his time reading and re-reading these books. Whilst he was engrossed in reading, someone said to him: “This is not a book, it is a path of life.”

Published in Dawn August 11th, 2015

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