A TRIP TO SINDH –A JOURNEY TO MY ROOTS
The ‘Mehman-navazi’ (welcoming of guests) for which Sindh is famous for, still exists today.
I visited ‘Mulchand Mahal’ (The Khiani Residence) which was the place of my birth in Hyderabad. My birth house was as lovely as I had heard it to be, and is still well-maintained.
Shakun Narain Kimatrai
In mid-1986 we finally made it! To Hyderabad Sind that is! My husband Narain and myself, finally left on a trip that would make us set foot on the very soil that we had left 39 years ago. When I told my Sindhi friends in Bombay that I was leaving for Pakistan, they showed a lot of interest-in fact more interest than had I told them that I was going to London, New York or to Timbuktu for that matter. But why was I surprised at their reaction? After all I was going back to the land of our birth, to the land and houses which we had left reluctantly with tears in our eyes and to which we had been denied access for so many seasons. Those friends to whom I told about my trip to Pakistan, not only showed interest but a variety of emotions. I sensed in them envy, apprehension and fear for my safety—as a matter of fact a friend of mine asked: “Going to Hyderabad Sindh, Shakun, are you sure you will be back? Though I was a little apprehensive myself I was not really afraid. After all the kind of frenzy we have faced during partition, I had the confidence on the fact that we Sindhis having drank from the same Indus Sindhu water for centuries prior to the sad separating event, they would welcome us with the age-old ‘Sikka’(affection) of the Sindhis.
From Bombay, we first landed at Lahore where the hotels are comparable to any other good 5-star hotels in the world. Whenever one goes out of India, one is in midst of strangers from a different land, so to speak-one looks different and talks a different tongue. While in Lahore, what struck me was that no, one could tell that I was a foreigner there we looked alike and spoke the same language. Then why? Why did one have to go through customs and immigration at the airport like an outsider? I felt sad. Amongst the elite, the ladies do not practice purdahas a rule. They wear salwar kameezes made in the latest style. The people of Pakistan enjoy good food, though alcoholic beverages are at least visibly absent. My charming Pakistani hostess took me around sight-seeing and shopping and she proudly presented me everywhere around as her Indian friend from Bombay. Her friends and the sales people generally welcomed me warmly and even courteously gave me discounts on their goods. Amongst the common citizens of Pakistan whom I met, I felt that there was competition with India as far as economic progress or a game of cricket was concerned which according to me is healthy and natural for any set of neighbors.
At a couple of parties that I attended and where my host learned that I enjoyed singing, they requested me, not to sing a ghazal or a film song, but a ‘Bhajan’! Is it possible that they subconsciously miss the Hindus and their culture in their midst? I myself having lived in Bombay in cosmopolitan surroundings almost all my life, did feel rather restricted being surrounded by only Muslims in their country. From Lahore we flew to Karachi from where it was a mere 2 hour drive to my birth-place Hyderabad in Sindh.
It was unfamiliar seeing the Arabic Sindhi script strewn all over on hoardings and advertisements and the milestones on the road; though odd, the feeling was pleasant. Once we approached Hyderabad I found my husband’s voice getting more emotional. He remembered the roads, as he was 9 years old when he had to leave his home-town. He instructed our friend who was driving to take us to a certain spot, to stop; after which he wanted to find the way up to his old house himself. Amongst the chirping of birds and the hustle bustle of rickshaws, motor cars and cycles stood ‘The Jhamatmal Kimatrai Building’. It stood majestically as though defiantly proclaiming that it would stand no matter what happened to the surroundings, and it would stand because it had been built with love. I entered my ‘sasural’ (in-laws home) like for the first time. I had always felt that my elders had exaggerated in their account for the grandeur that we had left behind-but I was wrong. The house was magnificent. It was well maintained and is presently occupied by a Doctor and his family. Even though the present owners were out of town, the servants at the instance of a marble cutter who had known the family and who lived down the stairs since 1935, opened the door to us. I visited ‘Mulchand Mahal’ (The Khiani Residence) which was the place of my birth. There, people came from the neighborhood proclaiming that they had heard about the ‘Asli Maliks’ (The real owners being Khianis) and they insisted on our visiting their house to have papad and water at least! My birth house was as lovely as I had heard it to be, and is still well-maintained. The ‘Mehman-navazi’ (welcoming of guests) for which Sindh is famous for, still exists today and I observed that the Sindhis strive to stand apart from their Pakistani counterparts by wearing a typical quaintly embroidered cap. I saw the other landmarks like the fort, remains of the Mir’s palace inside the fort, the Katcha fort, the Homestead Hall. The Civil hospital, The Hirabad Jail, Vidyalaya, The Convent with its new constructed wall, The Nanikram Hall, The Shahi Bazar (narrower now) , The Das Garden, and the collapsed remains of the Nanikram School. They all stand as a reminder of a past which will not return, but which no-one can take away as belonging to us-The Hindu Sindhis. A famous Sindhi singer in Pakistan sings today: “Umar desh pehenjo visaarandukhyo aa!” (It is surely difficult to forget ones land).I wonder if we would have still lived in Hyderabad Sindh if partition would not have taken place, and I feel yes! We would have made Hyderabad our home Center just like today Bombay is. But what happened, happened. Who is to argue? On my return to Bombay, I felt I was coming home. Bombay is home now. It was good to be absorbed amongst the Hindus, the Catholics, Zoroastrians, and Muslims etc. here. One is much more enriched living in a colorful combination of cultures.
However, though Bombay is the branch of the tree on which I happily sit, Hyderabad in Pakistan is the roots. How can one forget that? Both are important. Roots and branches to make a tree live and prosper. And a complete human being blossom.
Note. I said human being. Not Sindhi, not Indian. And a human being belongs to humanity and the essence of God shines in him just as brightly as in anybody else no matter where he geographically comes from.
About the Author
Shakun Narain Kimatrai is author of several books. Having her early education in Spain, it was her enquiring mind which led her to go deeper into the whys and the wherefores of Hindu customs and traditions which resulted in her authoring the book “Hindu Customs and Beliefs“, and subsequently, another work entitled “Symbolisms in the Ramayana“.
“In touch with Masters“, her third publication, introduces her readers with the various Spiritual personalities that entered her life and left a deep imprint on it. All the afore-mentioned three books have been published by the ‘Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’.
Her fourth book “The Wisdom of Sindh“, makes an effort to immortalize, the Sindhi proverbs and give an insight into the Sindhi way of Life, both modern and ancient. This book has been sponsored by the ‘Group 21′, a Ladies’ club, of which she is a member, and whose members contributed in putting together most of the ‘Pahaakas’ as proverbs are called in Sindhi.
She has completed the translation of ‘Nisaadhanta‘, a series of discourses rendered by Sri Morari Bapu, from Hindi to English. She has recorded the various meetings she has had with her Guru and Mentor under the title”Remembering Maa, through the pages of my diary“ Shakun’s sixth book ‘Dadi Nani ki Kahaani‘ was released by Shri L.K. Advani.
Dadi Nani ki kahaani (Hindi) has been translated by Ms Shashi Mahajan
The book includes the lives and teachings of Lord Krishna and great prophets like Jesus, Mohammed, Zarathustra, Mahavira, Buddha etc., aside from stories from Shrimad Bhaagvad and Ramayana.
Her expertise includes Spanish translations. Her articles have appeared on Indian as well as International magazines. Shakun is widely traveled and has a keen interest in music. She was successful in the Radio test that she appeared for in 1986. Around 1980, she started a ‘Bhajan Group’ which consists of ladies who enjoy singing. Today they are much sought after, to give performances at various Spiritual gatherings.
Shakun also conducts classes on Hindu Philosophy where she instills an awareness of the richness of the Hindu heritage in the young minds.
Today she is the Chairperson, Head of the Spiritual Desk and one of the Founder Trustees of ‘The Women’s Movement for Peace and Prosperity’. She is also an active volunteer for Spiritual activities for ‘Times Foundation’.
She was brought up in Spain where I was the only Hindu girl in a class of over 40 Spanish students. She lived in Spain during the 50s and during that times Hinduism was not well known.
Courtesy: Monthly bilingual (Sindhi and English) paper Amil Samachar – Issue August 2, 2007. The paper is an organ of Khudabadi Amil Panchayat of Bombay, and Shakun Kimatrai .