Reflections on Being a Sindhi
By Muthreja Suresh
God destined that I be born on April the 4th in the year 1956 at Chembur, a central suburb of Mumbai (earlier known as Bombay) in a Sindhi family. My ancestors – Sindhis; original residents of Shikarpur, now in Pakistan.
My mother's parents Talrejas; also Sindhis, and coincidentally, also from Shikarpur.
The place where I was born – Chembur, was at that time a camp. A refugee camp for displaced people from Pakistan. All Sindhis lived together, sharing water from one well and Municipal Taps.
The camp consisted of military barracks and is still known as R. C. Barracks (Refugee Camp Barracks). The refugees living in Chembur occupied single rooms in gallery type buildings provided by the government at a low cost (payable in installments, spread over a 20 year period of time) and those who paid the installments in full were given “Sanad”, meaning Conveyance.
All Sindhis lived together, did business together, studied in Schools run by Sindhis, spoke to one another in Sindhi, and tried to recreate the same atmosphere – of their homeland - Sindh.
Enterprising Sindhis ran different businesses – fast food outlets, hotels, lodges, guest houses, did odd jobs; agency/consultancy works; many doing business even while studying or employed.
Money lending, investments in savings/fixed deposits; life insurance policies; shares and debentures were the other avenues where Sindhis used their calculating minds to save and invest. Sindhis have always been considered clever businessmen; smart; shrewd; hard working and possessing a strong will power.
With passage of time some enterprising Sindhis went abroad to USA (sorry, not Ulhasnagar, but United States of America), Singapore, Bangkok, Indonesia, Spain, Australia, U.K., Gulf; for jobs, businesses, etc. Creating wealth, name and fame for themselves and making Sindhis famous.
Locally the Shahanis, the Thadanis – Philanthropists, created Trusts to provide medical facilities, lodging/boarding facilities, and financial assistance and scholarships to the poor and needy Sindhis.
Navjivan Society was completed in 1963 by the famous Thadani Group, part of Jethi Siphaimalani Trust (an ex-MLA and Social worker). A complete township with a Post Office, Bank, Ration shop / medical store / laundry / cafeteria, shops etc. including a school from K.G. to matric (eleventh standard). Sindhis booked apartments for as low as 18000 rupees (that too payable in installments over 20 years) for a 2 bedroom hall kitchen accommodation admeasuring 600 sq. ft., carpet area...whose value has risen to as high as 40 lacs by end 2006. An achievement that makes every sindhi owner proud. My father also bought a flat and we moved into Navjivan society on 6th June 1963. He still lives there with my brother and his family.
Between 1963 and 1973, I studied at the society school – Sadhu Vaswani High School, owned by Sadhu Vaswani group now based in Pune, a charitable trust and much more.
We got our first phone 521968 sometime in 1964. Communicating with other Sindhis became easier. The last four digits are still 1968 but the number is now of 8 digits.
In 1979 my grandmother finalised my marriage with Indu Tara Singh Madnani (born in Bombay but grown up in Chandigarh). We got married on 6th February.
Though she was Sindhi, she had lost her conversation power as she was brought up in a Punjabi neighborhood and her Punjabi was more fluent than a punjabi's. However after marriage she picked up Sindhi with ease and we talk in Sindhi. In 1980 and in 1981 we had a son and a daughter who went to D.B.C., or Swami Vivekanand Group of Schools. My son later joined M.M.K. College (also run by Sindhi Trust) at Bandra (West).
My brothers married in Sindhi families (Talreja, Chhabria, Masand) and my sister married in Govindani family. We Sindhis have a good track record of celebrating silver jubilees of married life. Besides we also respected the government's “family planning” programme. My brothers and my sister have two children each. Small and happy families.
During the last ten years a lot of other communities moved into Chembur. We now rub shoulders with people from all over India. The dhobi, the istriwallah, the rickshawallah, the kulfiwallah, the poojari, the phoolwallah, the bhajjiwallah etc. are people from different communities doing business at Chembur.
During the last fifteen years lots of Temples, Churches, Mosques and religious shrines have also come up in Chembur giving it a cosmopolitan and colourful look.
It is December 2006 and so much water has flown down the bridge. So many events occurred. The Indo Pakistan War, the Earthquake, the Riots, the “Bhaigiri”, the Bomb Blasts, etc.
But we Sindhis, stayed together, through thick and thin, giving each other solace, assistance and spreading love and happiness. Dancing when happiness abounds; crying when tragedy befalls; comforting, solacing, guiding, helping, assisting, walking together, taking care.
Sindhis are growing no doubt but their growth or population is dwarfed at Chembur by other communities that are far too many in number and diverse and different from Sindhis. Yet one can always identify a Sindhi from a mile away, by the confidence he/she shows, by the way he/she carries his/her body, grace, intelligence and charm.
Yes, I am proud to be a Sindhi and shall always remain so.