THE PARTITIONED MIND
- SINDHI IMAGE TODAY
by - Arun Babani
The Sindhi, scattered and stateless, is today found in every part of the world. But like with the partition of India, a Sindhi belongs to the partitioned state of mind.
A Sindhi from the US is mentally far away from his brother in Nigeria. At the time of migration from Sindh, the Sindhi brought his body with him, leaving behind his heart and soul, in Karachi or Nawab Shah. He came here, and from here he went everywhere in partitioned pieces. His family spread out to various corners of the earth, and generally spoke broken Malyalee, broken Mongolian, and broken English and broken Sindhi. It was a break of psyche in various tongues, various colours, and various ways of spelling of the word Sindhi.... He stayed in Hong Kong and ate Chinese cuisine and chose a girl from Ulhasnagar who rolled papads for a living; two things matched and gave birth to a totally new culture; a Chinese papad.
Partitioned food, like the partitioned mind is a rootless phenomenon. Further it may possibly look like a floating cloud that belongs nowhere, or like omnipresent winds being blown every which way, depending on the whims of nature. A partitioned mind doesn’t have a fixed image, a final personality, a solid backdrop against which to view it. In each state, in each corner, they become parcel of that horizon, naming them is a difficult game. Then it’s denomination is like of a dollar which is found in several countries but in each it’s value is different!
So can we find a self image of ourselves as Sindhis? A self-image, which is distinct, unique, and acceptable to us? A self image or a definition of a community is formed from the qualities and characteristics a community has, which in turn depends upon it’s actions, upon the way the community conducts it’s business of living. What are then the images of Sindhis that others around us have?
To begin at the beginning. Back in Sindh of the pre-partition days, Sindhis were known as peace loving, content and a happy lot. The Sindh of those days was populated with Muslims, Punjabis, and most of all the British, who generally spoke well of the Sindhis, and considered them dependable and honest workers. Many Sindhi Diwans of those days worked for British companies of the government or even in British police, and enjoyed high esteem. They were looked upon as uncorrupt, able and responsible staff members. Muslims on the other hand trusted their Sindhi brethren, since most of them were employed in Sindhi households. Well, so far so good. Then came the partition and the Sindhis went out into all directions of the world, and the Sindhi image suffered a setback.
Notan Tolani of Hong Kong has this to say about a Sindhi’s image as seen by the local Chinese population “If I halt a local taxi, and if at the same time a local Chinese halts it, the cabbie will ignore me and go to his fellowman. The locals here just hate us, maybe they envy our success.”
Gobind Khushalani of Ahmedabad has this to say “Local Gujarathis here just cannot stand us. In an identical business deal, a local will prefer a Gujarathi, even if I offer him better terms, because the local Gujarathi does not trust us. May be because we have been able to beat them at their own traditional areas of business.”
Dr. Narayan Bharti of Ulhasnagar says “Just after partition Sindhis owned Ulhasnagar with 90% of the population being Sindhis. Today, fifty years later, Sindhis comprise only about 30%. Rest are all local Maharashtrians who look at Sindhis as a dishonest and untruthful community..Sindhi ka bacchaa kabhie nahi sacchaa... they say.”
In Adipur, Gandhidham which itself is considered as the official Sindh in Hind, the situation is not any better either. The local Kutchis have grabbed most of the local land and business opportunities. Confides an insider “When we came here in the seventies the ratio was in our favour, but today majority is of the local Kutchis who compete with us”
In place after place the Sindhi image has taken a beating. We just don’t seem to be liked, trusted and respected by the local population. The reasons for this are not far to see. Says Gobind Khushalani “Traditionally we Sindhis were lovers of truth and simplicity. But in the last fifty years, we have been able to progress in only one way, which is that we have made a lot of money. This aspect of Sindhi culture has rather annoyed locals everywhere. It is literally we came, we saw, we conquered. The Sindhis have taken over from the locals in state after state. We have captured markets. This fact naturally doesn’t go well with the locals who have by and large remained where they were fifty years ago. But in the process of acquiring wealth we have forgotten about our simple Sindhi culture. Today whenever four Sindhis meet they open a bottle. So the locals look at us wide eyed and wonder about our morals”
Dr. Bharti says “Simplicity? Nowadays Sindhi women too have become conscious of their wealth. They are money minded and measure everything in gold. They even go to Dubai, Hong Kong, to make money. The whole Sindhi image of a simple saintly person has taken a back seat. This pomp and glamour of Sindhis leads to locals grudging them.”
Is it perhaps that Sindhis have come to believe themselves as a superior race? Beating locals everywhere in terms of sales charts and bank balance? Is it because Sindhis believe they possess the touch that turns dust into gold? Facts perhaps point the other way. In state after state Sindhis seem to have grabbed opportunities either by hook or by crook and the locals, having lived with them and known their dealings since partition have come to form a certain image of the Sindhis which is not exactly something to be proud of. For instance a well-known image is described thus, “if you meet a snake and a Sindhi on the way, better kill the Sindhi” How has such a deadly image been carried and circulated about us?
Perhaps we need to ask searching questions, to introspect within ourselves. How a Sindhi, a believer in the proverb “sach ta beetho nach”came to be known as “Sindhi ka bacha kabhie nahi sachha”?
The search for this answer will lead us to our shortcomings as a community and perhaps redressal of those mistakes we have been making in our effort to rehabilitate ourselves after partition. This search will naturally point at our make-up, our false decorations. This search may finally bring us at the doors of our true Sufi ways, the home from where we had originally started our journeys of the seven seas.
The legend has it that the Buddha had many trees as his friends; they bloomed out of season whenever he happened to cross the forest! Legend also tells us about Krishna who attracted cows and other animals whenever he played on his flute! It is also well known about Tansen’s bringing rains with his Alaap; the friendly skies just loved his melodies Jhulelal too befriended the mighty oceans and went around with living beings of the sea. However a Sindhi of today may have turned dust into gold but in that process he seems to have turned many friends into foes.