Author: Mariyam Suleman
As a teenager I was introduced to Anne Frank’s diary by a dear friend. That was perhaps one of my first literary experiences. I was fascinated by Anne’s story and her simple but creative and beautiful writing technique. I shared it with my siblings, friends and later with my students. Anne has since then become one of my favorite figures. I’m not sure why I admire her so much; perhaps because her diary is the first I read or I found her thoughtful and a rebellious little girl or perhaps because she lived under extreme systematic oppression. I’m not sure and it doesn’t matter anyway, what matters is she is remembered and recognized for the little she contributed to the world.
Now can we really evaluate remembrance and recognition, especially of writers and researchers?
We perhaps can, by seeing how much their important work and books are read, translated, even criticized and their work and lives researched to produce more valuable knowledge, and whether or not some of this responsibility is taken by the state heritage, literary and academic institutions as well as individuals with a love of literature and knowledge. And also whether or not the places these writers or literary figures lived are preserved as cultural heritage, literary tourism destinations or historic and biographical museums, giving people like us a glimpse of authors’ lives, working styles or the time they lived.
Last year, I found out Anne’s secret annex in Amsterdam is now a historic museum. It is where she wrote her diary and hid with her family during WWII to escape persecution under Hitler’s brutal Nazi regime.
It might sound a bit of a weird connection or comparison that I am trying to make here but today on social media I came across two pictures of an abandoned ruined house. Bricks fallen, some windows and doors missing, walls of sides fallen, no flooring or proper ceiling really remains. The caption said it was where once Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi lived and made some of the greatest contributions to Balochi language.
For those who don’t know, Syed Zahoor Shah Hashmi is the first person to write a Balochi novel, first collections of letters in Balochi, first Balochi dictionary, first Balochi writing-technique guide or grammar book and the list goes on, that too during 1950s to early 1970s and without any research institute or government support. This man lived for the love of his language and made every effort to purify and standardize Balochi Language. As Dr. Badal Khan says, “He gave more to Balochi than Shakespeare to English and Danthe to Italian but he still lacks any official recognition from the state and its successive rulers.”
Today marks Syed’s 94th birthday and his home in Gwadar rightly shows how we as citizens and our government hardly take responsibility for preserving these historic properties and important works that add value to our own heritage, culture, language and history.
Syed with so much contribution to a language hardly written before 1950s and Anne with her little diary perhaps lived in the same time period but in two different parts of the world. It’s good that Anne didn’t live and die here, or else her diary would have never made it to the world’s most-read book’s list and her home would have been left to ruin, and vanish forever with her story.