SINDHYAT IN HONG KONG
As related by NOTAN TOLANI to Ram Jawhrani during the latter’s visit to Hong Kong in July 2010.
The Indian Sindhi community is the largest amongst the various minority communities settled in Hong Kong. During the initial days we all considered ourselves Indian first and then Sindhis. Everyone was totally engrossed with settling down and establishing themselves and hence during those days there was not much of Sindhi specific activity prevalent. When we established the India Club, Indian Association, Gurudwara's, Hindu Temple etc. we had in mind the entire Indian community at large and not just Sindhis. And as a result, there developed a family bond and relationship with not only the Sindhis but also the non-Sindhis from India.
About 16 – 17 years ago I saw that the other Indian communities – Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, Rajasthanis had established their own associations. At that time we realized we needed to do something for Sindhiyat and our own culture and so Lal Hardasani and I thought of establishing the Sindhi Association. We spoke to other Sindhis, who were enthusiastic about this idea. Eight of us got together and decided to organize the Cheti Chand Mela.
Cheti Chand was usually celebrated at the temple every year by organizing 'Bahrana Sahib' on a small scale. But that year we decided to do it on a real grand scale, on the lawns of India Club so that non-Sindhis could become aware about our culture and our Lord Jhulelal. We decided to invite cultural groups from outside Hong Kong to participate in the celebrations. Our Sindhi brothers helped us financially and fully supported the cause. I still remember distinctly that during the very first year we invited Satram Rohra and his group. We invited the great Sindhi writer Kirat Babani and honoured him for his contribution to Sindhyat. The following year we invited Gobind Malhi and in this way every year we invited some renowned personality. Besides, we also invited different artists every year. The other initiative I would like to speak about was that we invited about 15 – 16 Sindhi elders and honoured them with Sindhi Ajrak and topi, and thereafter this became a regular feature every year.
As time passed by we started organizing more programmes. I have been associated with Akhil Bhartiya Sindhi Boli ain Sahit Sabha since the last 25 years through Kirat Babani. I asked him for his advice on serving Sindhyat and the community at large. He said “you can help financially by sponsoring awards so that budding Sindhi writers are encouraged.” So this sponsorship of awards has also been going on since the last 25 years. Whenever any Sindhi magazine calls us for support we always respond and help them. I have also been associated with “Koonj” magazine since the last 40 years. We have tried to assist them in whatever way we can. We have also given several other donations discreetly without publicizing such acts. We have given assistance to enable marriage of girls in India. Even now we take care of a few poor families on a regular monthly basis. There are several other activities like for instance if someone wants to make a Sindhi CD, we extend full help. Wherever we get an opportunity to serve Sindhis, we try to do so to the best of our ability. If it is not possible to serve through the Sindhi Association then we do so on a personal level. We get good support from the entire Sindhi community, and every year we spend about 200,000 dollars on the programmes that we organize here.
If we do not conduct regular functions and programmes then we shall not be able to keep our identity alive. We shall merge and amalgamate with the Chinese in such a way that in future no one will know whether Notan was an Indian or a Sindhi. Marriage ceremonies are also organized and conducted as per Sindhi rituals and traditions. We have Sindhi priests here who conduct engagement ceremony, thread ceremony, child's naming ceremony etc.
I feel that our children here are well versed with and can recite the Hindu mantras and prayers even better than the children in India. Here I give the example of my own family. My daughter and her friends go to the Sai Baba temple and the Chinmaya Mission and recite prayers and the mantras fluently, while my nieces and nephews of her age in India have no knowledge about this at all. Many of them don't even know the Gayatri Mantra.
Womenfolk here are basically housewives but don't have any house work to do as we all have servants and attendants. So they are able to concentrate on the upbringing of their children. As we are the first generation here, we concentrate more on our children so that they don't get influenced by the western culture. We try to teach them to speak Sindhi and enroll them in various religious classes etc.
I don't feel Sindhyat will ever be wiped off. Immediately after partition, we concentrated solely on settling ourselves and didn't pay much attention towards our culture, traditions, rituals, etc. But now after settling down Sindhis are realizing what they have lost and missed out. In just a few words I would like to say that Sindhyat is not extinct and will never be. I feel that we still think in terms of Sindhyat, we still behave as Sindhis should and we still lead a Sindhi lifestyle, albeit with a modern touch. About 25 years back hardly anyone over here knew about Sindhis, but today so many Sindhi functions and programmes are organized that everyone knows about us.
When a person becomes a global citizen and interacts with others thoughts about his roots torment him. So and so is an Englishman, so and so is a French person, who am I? With this thought comes the awakening and the realization that he is a Sindhi. If you go to see - there is much more Sindhyat in Hong Kong today than it was during the yesteryears. Recently we had organized a Sindhi film festival which was very successful. Recently, I got a call from Zee TV to inquire whether films are made in Sindhi? They were not aware that there are so many Sindhi films made. In the month of July, we telecast 5 Sindhi films, on 5 consecutive Saturdays on Zee Asia Pacific which covers the commonwealth countries in the entire far east and Israel.
To my mind all hope is not lost for Sindhyat and I can say with utmost confidence that in Hong Kong you can be rest assured Sindhyat will not only survive but flourish.
NOTAN TOLANI is a successful Businessman based in Hong Kong since 1968.
SINDHISHAAN LAUDS THE EFFORTS OF NOTAN TOLANI AND HIS LIKES IN STRIVING TO SUSTAIN SINDHYAT IN HONG KONG AND SHOWCASE THE RICHNESS OF SINDHI HERITAGE AND CULTURE TO THE WORLD COMMUNITY.