MemoirsSindhis Beyond Sindh

Sindhi Children and the 1947 Partition of India

A US-based Sindhi lady speaks about her memories that include emotions and physical sensation

I have been talking with my parents and their siblings about a crucial turning point in their lives, the move from Karachi to Bombay after the Partition of India in 1947, when they were still children.

Umeeta Sadarangani

Our childhoods remain with us, coloring our experiences as adults, affecting how we make sense of the world. The older I get, the more I realize how much of my past I keep with me, how vivid my seventh birthday is, how clear the memory of a high-school field trip in Kuwait. My memories include emotions and physical sensations. As I have entered middle age and this awareness about my past has grown stronger, I have realized that my parents, thirty-one years older than I, also have their childhoods inside them–an obvious conclusion but one that is also startling.

My notebook, pen, and voice recorder on my parents’ bed in Bombay in 2012. I had been sitting across from my Aunt Koshi, my father’s younger sister, and asking her about the Partition. It was probably the longest conversation we had ever had–though interrupted and added to by relatives coming in and out of the room–and one I enjoyed very much.

In recent years, I have been talking with my parents and their siblings about a crucial turning point in their lives, the move from Karachi to Bombay after the Partition of India in 1947, when they were still children. During these conversations, I have been listening, through these adults’ memories, to the experiences of those children.

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The house in the left foreground and in the photo below is on the spot where my father’s family home stood.


A view of the lane looking out towards the street.

My short essay, ‘How to Interview Your Mother About Her Lost Childhood’ was published in Bluestem magazine.  The link given here will take you to the essay and to an audio recording of my reading of the essay. (Here is the link to my essay)

The house with the bicycle in front of it is on the spot where my mother’s family’s house was. It was a much simpler, one-story structure with a small loft that held a bed.
Another view of the lane, looking towards the railway tracks at the end, just beyond the wall.

Before that issue of the magazine was released, I showed my mother the essay, nervous about her response.  “It’s all the truth.  It’s short and sweet,” she said.  And then she added, “You write really well.  You should write a book.”  I thought of the essay and laughed.  After you read it, you’ll see why.

This alley runs perpendicular to the lane. My paternal grandparents moved to Block 16 of the Sion Sindhi Colony, and my brother and I walked countless times down this alley from the house of our Nani, our maternal grandmother, in Block 8 to the house of our Dadi, our paternal grandmother, whom everyone in our family called Ama.
This is the Sita Sindhu Bhawan, a community center for Sindhis in Bombay. In 2012, I visited during a gathering, and I was touched that several elderly Sindhis there were willing to share with me their stories of the Partition. Being surrounded by Sindhis reminded me of my childhood, when on the weekends, visiting my grandparents in the Sion Sindhi Colony, I would hear the sounds of Sindhi being spoken, see the Sindhi script on the newspaper on my grandmother’s bed, and smell the aroma of Sindhi food cooking. I lived in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, where for most of my childhood ours was the only Sindhi family. So the weekends were the only time I had this experience of being immersed in Sindhi culture.

I have shared some photos I took in 2012 in the Sion Sindhi Colony, the location of the first permanent homes in which my parents lived in Bombay. They happened to live two doors from each other.  When I returned there, after a gap of many years, I was struck by how narrow the lanes were.  The homes on that lane now are sturdier and fancier than the ones my parents’ families built in the late forties.


Umeeta Sadarangani is a reader, a writer, a teacher, and an artist. She was born in India, spent her adolescence in Kuwait, was educated in the eastern United States, and is settled in the Midwest.Raised in multiple faith traditions—Hinduism, Sikhism, Sufism—I am an agnostic Unitarian Universalist. These identities and experiences are the lenses through which I see the world. Paying attention to the small acts and interactions, the moments that make up daily life, I learn about myself and about the world,” this is what she says.

Courtesy: Transplanted on the Prairie (Published on October 31, 2015)

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