They were indeed remarkable and so moving as this is the first time I have heard an Indian leader even speak of our community, culture and language. I only wish my departed mother were alive to have heard this! She’d be so overjoyed,” said Ramesh Advani, former president of the New England Chapter of Indian American Forum for Political Education.
Suresh Dewani, an Andover resident, said: “What he (Modi) says about language and culture is true. I have always asked are we still Sindhis in the original sense of the word? Much of our culture has disappeared, and our children don’t even understand it anymore.” Dewani, who has been active in local Indian community organizations, added: “Surprisingly what I have observed that even in our get-together here, Sindhis pretend and show-off as if they don’t know Sindhi language. The Sindhis are on the path of being extinct culturally and looks like we will be the first ethnic group in India to disappear. Kind of sad!”
Dr. Manju Sheth, a local community leader and activist and former president of the Indian Medical Association of New England, said her Sindhi heritage has not only given her roots but also wings to fly as high as she wants. She said: “I loved the Modi speech, and especially the part where he talks about power, Sndhis and Gurjartis. I am married to a Gujarati so can identify with that synergy.”
“My parents taught me the value of hard work, commitment and giving back to the community and the country. Growing up ,I always heard from my nani about her brother Hemu Kalani, who was perhaps the most well-known Sindhi freedom fighter who gave up his life for his country. I heard stories from my family about being uprooted from ‘life of zamindari’ in Sindh in Pakistan and moving to India with nothing, living in shelters and making a living with tremendous hard work and sacrifices,” said Dr. Sheth. “My dad always said with pride that he had never seen a Sindhi beggar because Sindhis work hard and never beg. He would tell us stories of families who gave up a wealthy life in Sindh and lived in old army barracks in Ulhas Nagar near Bombay (now Mumbai) and sell ‘papad’ and food in trains to support themselves till they found a job.”
Dr Sheth said she also learnt the value of resilience and the need to grow as a person from her family and the Sindhi culture.
“Sindhis also really know to enjoy and live life large with beauty and elegance and have fun. All three of us siblings speak the language, love Sindhi food and culture,” said Dr. Sheth. “I feel very blessed to have been born in a Sindhi family.”
INDIA New England News also spoke with three prominent Sindhis in Greater Boston: Advani, Prakash Parwani, Deepak Takhtani and Narain Bhatia of Lexington, MA. Here are the unedited excerpts:
QUESTION: What have been the main reasons of success of the Sindhi Communities worldwide?
BHATIA: There is no single reason but a word we call ‘Sindhyat’ encompasses all: Sindhis have a culture of entrepreneurship; they value education; they are hardworking; they are religiously and politically moderate; they are fun loving but have high family values; they are community minded and very hospitable; they embrace all cultures; and they do business all over the world. They say “Sindhis are like water and will mix with every drink.”
ADVANI: I believe they are the very qualities Mr. Modi talked about – perseverance, hard work, never giving up and pushing to succeed. I also think though the most significant is our ability to adapt to any economic circumstance and learn to integrate with any and all societies. In this process of integration, we adopt ways of life and local norms and practices, like they were our very own. We are also not obsessed with rituals and outdated ideas and are open to new influences.
QUESTION: How do you look at the future of the Sindhi Culture and heritage and how can they be galvanized?
BHATIA: I think core Sindhi values will continue through generations because it is in their genes but Sindhi culture as seen in language, dress, food and festivals will be a challenge to preserve. It is hard to galvanize Sindhis because they are spread all over the world and use of Sindhi language in homes has declined. However, there are numerous local, national, international associations and Social Media groups that are trying their best.
ADVANI: The future of Sindhi culture and heritage can be very bright if we listen to the words of Mr. Modi. Make sure our language, food, history, etc. are no forgotten by us and our children. Our very traits of success that I mentioned above can become the cause of the Sindhi culture disappearing if we forget the fundamentals.
QUESTION: Would you like to say anything else on the Sindhi heritage and its future?
BHATIA: They are resilient as a group. Hindu Sindhis left Pakistan as refugees in 1947 but soon built up their communities and businesses in India without government handouts. To help the Sindhi community the internationally settled Sindhis built schools, colleges and hospitals in India.
QUESTION: What does Sindhi heritage mean to you?
BHATIA: A sense of responsibility to pass on the core values of ‘Sindhiyat’ to my children and grandchildren.
ADVANI: To me Sindhi heritage means: the yummy delicious food, the songs of Jhulelal, the dazzling looks and beauties of the region, the clothes, the jhoolas, its colorful language, including some phrases that would be unprintable. But above all, its the history of the people of Sindh that crossed all religious boundaries – Hindu, Muslim and others that reflects the open welcoming lively culture of the people.
TAKHTANI: Two words- adaptability and resilience. No matter where Sindhis are, they tend to integrate well into the society and contribute their best to the adopted country. Even in India, while Punjabi and Bengali refugees had relations across the border in India, Sindhis had no such luck but they struggled it out and re-established their homes within a generation. Every family has a story and I mean every family. Credit also goes to people of India who opened their heart to the refugees of partition and provided them shelter but more importantly provided them HOPE. Lastly, Sindhis have learnt to move on- there is nothing permanent about this life, so one has to let past fade away for the new beginning. Source