March 9, 2013 4 Comments
This hitorical account of Sindh as I was reading in a book actually reminded me somehow of the current political and ethnic scenario in the Urban Sindh V Rural Sindh. Here is how it goes. Matthew Cook writes in the “Introduction” of Robert Huttenback’s book “British Relation With Sindh”:
Sindh generally attracts little attention in South Asian history. Perhaps the best known historical ‘document’ about the region comes from the pen of Sir Charles Napier. According to many reports, he sent a laconic dispatch to Lord Ellenborough, the Governor-General of India, after Sind’s conquest in 1843. It consisted of a single Latin word: peccavi (I have sinned).
Matthew Cook writes in the “Introduction” of Robert Huttenback’s books “British Relation With Sindh” that some historians question the veracity of Napier’s pun. Philip Woodruf, in “The Men Who Ruled India” writes: “Sir Hugh Dow, the last British Governor of Sind but one [i.e., second to last], traced its origin to Punch in 1846. Woodruf is correct to note that the pun originates in the satirical magazine “Punch”, but is incorrect regarding another fact: the year of the pun’s publication was 1844.
Ignoring the rest of the discussion over the veracity of this pun allegedly by Charles Napier, let’s get to the bonafide record straight.
Cook writes further that inconsistencies regarding the “peccavi” pun clear when one rejects Napier as its author. In an ignored 1938 Sind Historical Society lecture, N.M. Billimoria states that the pun’s author was Catherine Winkworth, a young schoolgirl living in Britain. Billimoria reports that Winkworth originated the pun during a class discussion on Napier’s conquest of Sind. Her teacher, obviously struck by his student’s wit, suggested that she sent it to “Punch”. She did and it appeared in the magazine’s 18 May 1844 edition.
How the “peccavi” links to the present political and ethnic dilemma in Sindh must now be plain and clear: people are trying to sin, more in the urban centres.
Reference: Robert Huttenback, 2008. British Relations with Sind 1799-1843: An Anatomy of Imperialism. Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.