Resilience is native to Sindhis

Updated: May 18, 2019, 07:44 IST | Snigdha Hassan

Diaspora researcher Saaz Aggarwal on The Amils of Sindh, her new book on the community that started afresh after Partition to contribute to the newly independent India

Resilience is native to Sindhis
Diwan Tekchand Gidwaney with his family at their home in Hyderabad c1940. Pribhdas and Gidwaneys trace themselves back to a common ancestor as many Amils do.

The community seems to have gone through several challenges over the centuries; first by having to migrate to Sindh, and then having to leave the region during Partition. What role did these circumstances have to play in building the resilience of the community? Resilience is native to Sindhis. Of the many historical factors that nurtured it, the most striking is the capricious course run by the Indus, the great river that made Sindh a place of agricultural bounty. One year your home could be two miles from the river; the next the river might be running by your door; then years would come in which your house would be washed away and you would have to move and start all over again. One year your home could be two miles from the river; the next the river might be running by your door; then years would come in which your house would be washed away and you would have to move and start all over again.

Guide
Saaz Aggarwal and Shyam Chainani

For someone who may not have much knowledge of the community, how would you introduce him/her to the Amils of Sindh?
Amils are a Sindhi community with a tradition of commitment to education. Amil youngsters today can look back on 3, 4, 5 or even more generations of educated ancestors. Sustainable use of resources, empowered women and understated but discerning lifestyles are key characteristics of Amil families.

The community seems to have gone through several challenges over the centuries.What role did these circumstances have to play in building the resilience of the community?
Resilience is native to Sindhis. Of the many historical factors that nurtured it, the most striking is the capricious course run by the Indus, the great river that made Sindh a place of agricultural bounty. One year your home could be two miles from the river; the next the river might be running by your door; then years would come in which your house would be washed away and you would have to move and start all over again.

What kind of research process did you undertake to find the families from across India whose life histories have made their way to the book?
Most of the people I met were through the community network, one led me to another. There were also wonderful coincidences while travelling and quite a few came from my previous research.

Being in the space of researching the Sindhi diaspora, what were some of the insights that you gained while working on this book, which you hadn't otherwise discovered?
Basically that Sindhis are a rather heterogenous lot. But this book reinforced some fundamental observations: Sindhis lost everything – not just their possessions but also a rich cultural heritage, their history and their language. And what they contributed, refugees in a hostile land that even today tends to classify them as unscrupulous and tasteless, has been tremendous and unappreciated.

In 1947, the Hindus of Sindh were a happy and prosperous lot. Abruptly made homeless and penniless, there was no whining and complaining. Instead, they put all their misery, fear and confusion aside and buckled down to rebuilding their lives. They looked around them and started doing things useful to others which could earn them a living.

It wasn't just one family or group of families who did this. It was the entire community, which behaved as one entity in that moment of trauma. Sindhi communities in ports around the world originated not in Partition but in the mid-1850s – a long and fascinating story for another time!

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