Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on May 20, 2007
SINDH is the land of devoted Sufis and sand dunes. It has been home to the most advanced of ancient civilisations — the Indus Valley. It is blessed with a legacy of the poetic works of Sachal Sarmast, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and many others.But do we also know that ages ago, Sindhi women were given prime importance in decision-making, Sindhi folk tales and fiction always depicted strong and central female characters and the process of acculturation, after the advent of Islam in Sindh, took around three centuries.
Mohammad Ali Shaikh’s work makes one realise how little we actually know about the place we live in, of its history, culture and society (both primitive and present). The book will be of interest to marketers, advertisers, media persons, mass communication professionals, sociologists, anthropologists, other social scientists and anyone who cares for history and wants to gain a basic insight into the rich and complex culture of Sindh.
Several Pakistani and foreign authors and travellers have written about Sindhi society, as it was during different epochs. However, this is the first time somebody has acknowledged and investigated the kind of impact that a popular medium like television has on the rural society of Sindh (which is actually 60 per cent of the entire population of the province).
Technological advancement is said to be directly related to social progress. Television is a medium that affects everyone in society, directly or indirectly, since it is so easily accessible. The satellite exposes us to a range of value systems, belief systems, social institutions and so on. It perhaps not only brings about changes in traditional and indigenous values and customs, but also helps in the process of social and cultural evolution.
The author makes us aware of prevalent mindsets in the region. For instance, many people in Sindh do not watch television because they consider it un-Islamic or a satanic practice. Another interesting example of influence on thinking patterns, is as follows:
“A group of college students remarked that they knew now that MBA is a much sought-after degree as almost every second hero in a television drama is shown to be a holder of this degree and that chartered accountants get very high salaries as they are shown to be leading a luxurious life.”
With the statistics of survey results provided for a number of categories, a base is established for addressing issues such as linguistic barriers, illiteracy, the issue of Karo-kari, the lack of cultural diffusion between Sindhis and Mohajirs (immigrants from India) and so on. With further research and updates, goals may be chalked out and television content adjusted accordingly, to achieve these for the betterment of society.
The book will also prove to be an amazing guide for those preparing a dissertation and/or conducting a research on this subject. Shaikh has devoted an entire section to explaining the research methodologies used by social scientists (quantitative and qualitative), which in his opinion, are perhaps more important than the actual end results obtained. He elaborates on why he chose a certain method, how questions and surveys were developed and how to get the best response from the target audience.
Inclusion of colour photographs or sharper black and white images as well as slightly better proof reading of the text would have considerably added to this otherwise brilliant work of research.The research is intensive but the work is not exhaustive with regard to understanding the Sindhi people. It is merely a beginning (hopefully) that will inspire others to delve further into the subject, the use of which cannot be emphasised enough. — Ayesha Hoda