Daan-Punj Sindhi Style
“Give me so that i may give”
By Arun Babani
Noted philanthropist of the Sindhi community, Shri Chander Manghnani of Hotel Rosewood recently related an incident: Sri Satya Sai Baba, His Guru, was approached by some Sindhi tycoon, who wanted to donate a huge sum to ‘Baba’. The God-man told his secretary to stop the tycoon from entering his room and refusing his donation, he said, “This man is after publicity. His money would hinder my work, not help it.” A donation however large, but offered with a pinch of selfishness, doesn’t reach its goal, concludes Mr. Manghnani.
The Sindhi community, over past five decades has gone through varied situations, with many flourishing Sindhi ventures, as well as many failures and downfalls. And so the phenomenon of philanthropy has been an active element in our community. From Sindhi poor ladies’ marriages, to publishing young writings, donations have been part of many worthy causes. There was a time in the sixties and seventies, when every book published, even books by high ranking revolutionary visionaries had the first and last few pages filled with advertisements of well wishers encouraging culture and creativity. Infact the entire gamut of Sindhi culture, whether it is literature or music, theatre or film, ‘dharamshalas’ or schools, has been managed by the kind hearted and conscious hand of Sindhi philanthropy. From awarding talent to helping poor, from curing the sick and aged to sponsoring T.V. serials, it has been the Sindhi donors who have seen the community through thick and thin.
The reasons for Sindhis depending for all their projects on donations are simple.
Sindhis being refugees, scattered without a state to call their own, have had a very step-motherly support from governments of all hues and shades so far. Even for a simple Sindhi library, or a small Sindhi warishala, the Sindhis usually have to find their own resources from within, rather than spread their palms in front of the powers. And so the Sindhi donations, gifts and prizes come in to fulfil that needed and valuable support for the displaced community.
In a similar way, the Parsi community too has fulfilled many of its community projects through philanthropy. In fact it is a matter of pride for the Sindhi community that apart from purely Sindhi projects, they have played a role during many national emergencies like the Gujarat Rehabilitation programmes or Kutch Earthquake rehabilitation or even smaller but important projects like eye donations, blood donations and so on.
On the flip side of philanthropy, there is some misuse of this branch of helping humans in the Sindhi community also. One knows of many instances where donations are offered at a price label, either for cheap publicity or for some prestigious post or seat of power. There have been instances where business houses or social organisations have twisted the arm with an eye for personal rewards. But these kind of incidents keep happening in human society and is part and parcel of being human.
But by and large, Sindhi community has depended largely on philanthropy or donations to fulfil major helpline projects which have been a blessing to the community and helped it grow.
The Sindhi word for donations is exemplary – ‘Daanpunj’. Sindhis use two words. One is ‘Daan’ which is sufficient as donation, but they add ‘Punj’ which literally means virtue. Together the Sindhi word for donation is the virtue of donation (daanpunj). Further, Sindhis grow up believing ‘Daan-punj’ is a short cut to blessings of heaven. There is small wonder, that almost every Sindhi is a philanthropist at heart, because he prays to God every morning, “de ta diyen”, which means ‘give me so that I may give’.