Volume - 5 : Issue - 4

Published : Oct. - Dec. 2006

Group : Revival

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Reflections on Being a Sindhi

By Ajit Harisinghani

I thought it would be easy.

After all, what could be simpler than writing about what one has always been?

But how do I begin?

Should I say it makes me feel proud that I am a Sindhi?

Wouldn't anyone from any community say that?

Aren't Bengalis happy to be Bengalis?

So what's so unique about being proud that I belong to the Sindhi community?

I waited for a better thought.

Twenty minutes of staring at the blinking cursor on the blank screen convinced me that this was going to take much more time. Nothing was happening! I needed a catalyst to get me going. So I yelled out “Rekha… ek chai?” Rekha is our house-help whose cup of strong tea fortifies me. I am now ready!

I close my eyes and focus my thoughts on what it means to be a Sindhi.

I first feel it in my heart. A yearning for Sindh. A place I've never even seen. A place my mother talks about given half the chance. A place called Larkana… where her father (my nana Dr. Pohumal Butani) practiced his medicine. Mummy has stories galore of the happy days of her youth. One about the time Nana cured Nawab Nabi Bux Bhutto's constipated son and how the grateful Nawab had sent hampers of gifts including a degchi of deer meat curry! In another story, she tells about how, during that dangerous time of partition, they traveled from Larkana to Karachi protected by four armed pathans and from there by ship to Bombay. Another nawab had sent these body guards to make sure they were safe from attack. But these are stories we all know and want to forget.

This is because we are a forward looking community and have left those days of strife and poverty far behind. We have re-invented ourselves and the results are there for everyone to see.

But let me enumerate some of the reasons why I am proud to be a Sindhi :

Like most Sindhis, our family too has risen from the ashes and achieved a certain level of success. For 20 years, we lived in a Thane chawl which had public toilets. This means we value our success all the more because we know what it meant not to have enough money for my father to buy me a cricket bat at age 16.

Having experienced first hand, the violence of partition, we Sindhis are a peace-loving community. Never have we been involved in any type of riots or public disorder. Sindhis are a gentle race and I like that I am one of them!

A sindhi will never beg. He will sell handkerchiefs in a crowded local train; his wife will make papads at home to make some extra money, but no Sindhi will be caught begging. This trait of seeking financial independence through entrepreneurship is a common trait in our community.

From being a poor student, I went on to get a scholarship to go the USA where I got my master's degree. My efforts were a result of seeing my father (and so many first generation Sindhis) work hard and honestly.

Sindhis are a happy, prosperous, handsome community. We are a fun-loving people who find it easy to laugh. We can laugh at ourselves too – never taking ourselves too seriously. This gives us unparalleled abilities as diplomats and diffusers of tension.

Sindhis are from one of the most ancient civilization in recorded history. Muan-jo-daro.

For generations, we have been exposed to a unique confluence of many religions. Our base is Hinduism but we are no strangers to Muslim, Sufi, Sikh, Buddhist, Pashtun, Parsi and other religious philosophies.

Gone are the days when I was laughed at for being a Sindhi. My family spent the first 20 years after partition in a Thane chawl where everyone else was Maharashtrian. How often was I teased 'Papad Khau', 'uprya' (uprooted), etc. But this is now all changed. Sindhis have earned a name for themselves as a cultured, educated community and have assimilated themselves in Indian society.

Sindhis are at the forefront of inter-caste marriages and our is probably the most welcoming community in this regard.

To me, it is a privilege to be born in India and being a Indian Sindhi is like 'sone pey suhaga'!