An enterprising & peaceful community
By Puran D. Jethwaney
The Indus Valley civilization is at least 7000 –years old. History of Sindh begins with the story of Mohen-jo-Daro civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the East. The history of Sindhis part of history of India and the ancestors of the present-day Sindhi community lived in one of the world’s most immaculately planned cities during that period. Everything, right from the intricate jewellery & pottery to town-planning and other activities flourished during those times. Trade & business, the hallmark of Sindhi community today, traces its roots to our widely-travelled ancestors whose sound business sense and acumen of enterprise promoted a flourishing trade with Babylon, Mesopotamia & Egypt. Beginning essentially as traders, today Sindhi entrepreneurs have become captains of industry, manufacturing, construction, banking, retailing, shipping, entertainment, electronics, hospitality i.e. virtually all business sectors. Sindhis left their homeland in the year 1947 owing to partition of India. Because of the bloody partition, atmosphere in Sindh became tense and situation chaotic. Sindhis were taken to makeshift areas, called Refugee camps in old military barracks in various states in new India, on their arrival. There was no electricity, no proper toilet facilities. They had to fetch water from distant places. They had to walk miles to reach railway stations. Food distributed by the Rehabilitation Department was insufficient and irregular. Childrens’ education suffered greatly. From comfortable living to occupying tents and barracks, the change in all respects was traumatic. Various infectious diseases broke in the camps. Sindhis were the only people to lose their homeland, as they did not have their own piece of land in India unlike our other brothers, Punjabis & Bengalis, who got half of their provinces. They were therefore, scattered through the length and breadth of the country. They never imagined that they would have to go through such trauma and difficulties. Overnight masters became slaves and zamindars became labourers.
At first, Sindhis, who left behind everything in Sindh, had to struggle hard to fulfill the basic needs viz. food, shelter & clothing. Surprisingly they did not lose courage. Slowly but surely they picked up the threads of life. They were prepared to do any petty job, but they refused to do what they have never done, that is, begging. Traditionally Sindhis are a proud race. For a few years, a sense of loss prevailed among them. They could not reconcile to the idea of separation from their soil forever. They yearned for their childhood environment. Nostalgic memories troubled their minds and they found it difficult to adjust to the new surroundings. But Sindhis resolved to live. Every Sindhi started working hard. Children sold sweets in local trains, risking their lives by jumping from the moving trains if and when a policeman chased them. Women covered long distances and sold hand-made things from door to door. Men sat on footpaths and hawked hankies, underwears and matchboxes etc. They sold every empty gunny bag and cardboard box in order to eke out their daily living. In that hour of utter disappointment, no one succumbed to begging. They fought the grim struggle of survival against heavy odds and extraneous pressures. They went through this ghastly phase of history courageously. They faced bravely all sorts of exploitation, inconveniences, discomforts and difficulties. It was not a joke to start life from scratch but they did not lose their heart. Instead with sheer guts and wits and with a spirit of adventure and dint of hard work, they started business on a very small scale. Sindhis believe in the saying “Thore Khatye –Ghani Barkat” meaning “little but regular has got a good lasting effect”. So even with a small profit, a Sindhi will go on trading. He will not wait for a big profit doing nothing.
The Sindhis are known for their pioneering spirit. They do not restrict themselves to a limited focus. Their enterprise takes them to new lands where their innovative abilities for their natural instinct to be successful. The faculty to adopt themselves to new situations and single mindedness and sincerity and purpose are factors, which generally see them through in their business ventures. As an enterprising, self-reliant, hardworking and industrious people, they took the initiative to spread out in search of livelihood, not only in different parts of India, their motherland but almost to every corner of the World without depending on the charity or doles of Government or local people. Although scattered all over the globe, the community has strong ties with the mother country India and has been immensely contributing collectively to India’s economic, social, cultural, and educational development. They have won laurels in many walks of life - education, medical, legal, science, technology, social welfare, management, creative arts and above all, in building institutions of Social Welfare.
The tragedy of partition left an indelible mark on the displaced Sindhis and endangered their culture, tradition, language and literature and compelled them to adjust to a variety of other cultures. The average Sindhi suffered from identity crisis. In spite of this Sindhis have stood by themselves and contributed much in various spheres and fields, wherever they have settled down. They have contributed their mite in the cause of welfare and well-being of their countrymen, in one way or another.
They have greatly contributed in the establishing of industries like Blue Star, Weston T.V., Bush Radio, Gajra Gears, Jayems Engineering etc. They have constructed houses/flats - Ram Dadlani, R. J. Advani, Rahejas, Ahujas, Hiranandanis, Tulsianis to name just a few of them. Sindhis have also accomplished excellence in thefilm industry and given great film personalities like Sippys, Nihalanis and many T.V. / Film actors like Bhudo Advani, Deepak Asha, Gope Kamlani, Ajit Vachhani, Hari Shivdasani, Sheila Ramani, Sadhna, Babita. They have also served greatly the noble cause of education “Vidya – Maha Daan”, rightly so. Jai Hind, K. C. , H. R., MMK, National, Chandibai. Thadhomal Watumal & Tolani colleges and Vivekanand Education Society are well known educational institutions. Sindhi colleges started evening classes, so that needy students could conveniently learn and earn thereby making both ends meet. Sindhi Charitable Trusts have built upworld-renowned hospitals like Jaslok, National, Hinduja and Inlaks.
The Sindhi Community has given many great Freedom Fighters, Doctors, Engineers, Educationists, Legal Luminaries and several eminent persons, who have served the country selflessly and with a sense of dedication and spirit of devotion. Veer Hemu Kalani, Bhagat Kanwarram, Sadhu Hiranand, Sadhu Navalrai, Rishi Gidumal, Sadhu T. L. Vaswani, Jethiben Sipahimalani, Dada Jairamdas Doulatram, Dr. Choithram Gidwani, Prof. Ghansham Shivdasani,
Dr. L. H. Hirananandani, Dr. Indira Hinduja, Acharya J. B. Kripaalani, Anand Hingorani, Dada J. P. Vaswani, Vice-Chancellor T. M. Advani, Principal K. M. Kundnani, Principal Ladharam Mohandas, Gehimal Khilnani, Prof. Ram Panjwani, Admiral Ram Tahiliani, L. K. Advani, K. R. Malkani, Barrister Hotchand Advani, Ram Jethmalani, Nari Gursahani, are some of the doyens of the community.
Rev. Dada J. P. Vaswani makes us proud by saying that Sindhis are peaceful, hardworking, hospitable, open-minded community. They have faith in God and have many qualities of head and heart. Sindhis have built up the image of Indians abroad as a prosperous and dependable people. They are an international community. They are free from inhibitions of caste and creed or religion, racial and national barriers. In Sindhi temples one will find images of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna placed side by side with those of Shiva and Durga and Guru Nanak. Sindhis are cosmopolitan in their outlook. Someone said that today in India it is difficult to meet an Indian, every one belongs to one province or the other. The Sindhis are the only Indians in India. They are full of the spirit of faith and courage and know the noble psychology of influencing the customer, “Sindhi merchants” rightly said an Englishman, “Know how to hypnotise the customer”. Dr. Arnold Toynbee, a great historian paid a rich tribute to the Sindhis. He said that even in the remotest parts of the World, he always found some Gujaratis and Sindhis. In his interesting travel book, Peter Mayne says, “Sindhis are the easiest and most open of the Eastern people, I have come across. They do not seem to be fermented by any inhibitions”. Maharishi D. K. Karve, the celebrated founder of the Indian Women’s University, repeatedly urged that the “Sindhis are a most generous and hospitable people. Whenever you go, you will find a Sindhi to greet you and to extend his hand of fellowship and friendship to you”.
Time and again our poets and saints have given us glimpse of the light that has lit up the Soul of Sindh. It matters not at all whether these saints are Hindus or Muslims, for saints or dervishes have no religion, or rather, they are the essence of all religions. For them, religion is the worship of God and God is One, though He may be known by a variety of names. “Call me what you will. I am what I am”. Though Sindh is no longer on the map of India. It nevertheless exists, a very real and vital thing. Sindhis everywhere Sindhis are located and though it is not a part of India anymore, it still finds mention in the National Anthem, and thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru’s generous appreciation of our contribution to the diverse culture that is India’s.