The Sindhis in Spain
Sindhi merchants had moved to Spain in late 19th century. The investment opportunities in the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves in northern Africa were the main incentives attracting the Sindhi community who were largely traders.
A Spanish Sindhi woman in her poetry says ‘she thinks in English, argues in Spanish, offer prayers in Sindhi and sings in Hindi.’
Sindh Courier Research Desk
The Sindhis in Spain are an interesting lot, being fairly large with many families who have moved there in the late 19th century and reached its peak in the 1970’s. The investment opportunities in the Canary Islands and the Spanish enclaves in northern Africa were the main incentives attracting the Sindhi community who were largely traders. The Sindhi business community has flourished and blended into the mainstream, and now run around 70% of the retail and wholesale businesses and are concentrated in Madrid, Catalonia, Malaga, Valencia, Las Palmas, Barcelona and other regions.
In Gibraltar also, the Sindhis are settled since 19th century, where they had established their trade factories. The ancestors of late Daulat Mahtani had also businesses in Gibraltar, and for that reason, the Mahtani family’s buildings in Karachi were named as ‘Rock House’ etc. The arrival of Sindhi merchantsin Gibraltar began when Egypt and France opened up the Suez Canal on November 16, 1869, and the distance between Asia and Europe was reduced by half in an instant. Ships no longer had to take passage around Africa. The businessmen around the world were quick to take note. The savviest of the business people of British India were merchants of Sindh, who looked at the map and found the axis of British influence along the new trade route – Gibraltar. Today there are more than 500 Sindhi merchants in Gibraltar.
There are over 4000 Sindhis in Las Palmas alone, all successful businessmen. Most of them have gone there in 1950s.Pre-partition links due to sea trade and great entrepreneurial skills helped Sindhis establish businesses quickly.
According to Barcelona Center for International Affairs, Sindhi community in the Canary Islands is one of the oldest Asian Diasporas in Spain, and is characterized by its hectic trading activity and, particularly, by the fact that it maintains a network of transnational contacts that shows that the community is established in over 100 countries.
The Sindhis are a community that, while it has remained faithful to its traditions and is relatively secretive, since the 1950s and with the rise of tourism, it has diversified in its areas of business and its establishment in the territory.
Sindhi communities in different cities have formed their own associations for community welfare and cultural gatherings. In Madrid, the capital of Spain, Indian Sindhi Association of Madrid (ISAOM) is very active had also established a cultural center.
The Bal-vihar Group aims to educate children about the Hindu religion, Sindhi culture and Sindhi linguistics. Children meet twice a month whereby they learn Hindu prayers, values and beliefs.
Similarly, Indian Women Charity Association (IWCA) is Spain-based women’s non-profit NGO.
Aside from Sindhi Community in Madrid, they also have various religious centers around Madrid – one of them includes the Geeta Ashram at ISAOM Cultural Centre premises. Further, they have Jhulelal Mandir, Baba Mahtani Sai Mandir, Radha Soami Satsang Hall, Satnam Sakhi Satsangs and much more.
The website of ISAOM states that soon after partition of India in 1947, Sindhis migrated all over the world and with the result Sindhis today live in over 150 countries worldwide.
“Our community here in Madrid has a beautiful history of its own. Thanks to the integration of the early pioneers of our community, we have such a closely knit society and today, we are able to celebrate the cultural richness of our heritage through festivals, community events and other activities,” it said.
Flashing back in time the association stated that between 1962 and 1969 when there were just a handful of Sindhis settled here in Madrid, small events and Diwali parties were organized at outside venues where the young and old, all would celebrate together. “Today we have a large community of over 300 families of which majority of them are members of the ISAOM. Till date, we continuously celebrate all occasions with great zeal, but today with even more gratitude as we now have a Centre of our own – The ISAOM Cultural Centre.”
Inaugurated on April 5th, 2009, by our beloved Dada J.P. Vaswani, the ISAOM Cultural Centre is the strength, pillar and emblem of the Indian Sindhi Association of Madrid. It is what unites the Sindhi community together, whether it may be for a cultural, religious or a social event. It is what brings about energy, unity, love and cultural awareness amongst the generations. It truly is a dream come true and one of our community’s biggest hope and blessings.
Past Presidents of ISAOM
Following are the current office bearers of ISAOM:
President – Nari Ramnani; Chief Advisors – Shankar Uttamchandani & Bobby Belaramani; Vice Presidents – Renu Uttamchandani, Sangeeta Sukhwani & Ajeet Nebhwani and Secretary – Geetika Valiramani; Joint Secretary – Peter Sukhwani.
Committee Members: Anju Khatwani; Chandni Lalwani; Dinesh Amarnani; Karishma Sawlani; Poonam Shivnani; Raghu Manghnani; Suresh Hathiramani.
Sindhi weddings in Spain are a beautiful mélange of Indian and Spanish-traditions. The pre-wedding party is great fun and a perfect way for both families to meet. All guests arriving are treated to a Spanish guitarist and flamenco dancing and all. Similarly during the ‘mehendi’, which was a garden affair, the guests enjoy the tastes and sights of a live paella show by a local Spanish chef before the wine and dinner.
There are many more ways in which Sindhi couples combine the beauty of Spain with the traditions of India. While the bride looks resplendent in her traditional maroon and gold saree with gorgeous gold jewellery and lots of bangles, bridesmaids both Indian and Spanish are in sarees making the most of Indian traditions. Guests enjoy live jazz vocals and drinks in sunshine in venues like Marbella, where the mountain views are breathtakingly beautiful.
The traditional Indian nuptials are usually followed by evening celebrations with a cake cutting and dancing to complete the magical few days of celebrations. While guests dance around to some funky Bollywood music, it’s amazing to see how much fun it’s been to combine an Eastern inspired venue with Spanish flair and a Sindhi twist for this Indian couple.
How it feels being a Sindhi in Madrid
Following is an outstanding poem that exemplifies what it feels being a Sindhi in Madrid. The poem is written by Goldie Nanwani, a woman of Indian origins, born and brought up in Madrid, Spain. Goldie graduated from the United Kingdom, speaks four languages fluently. She is a married working mum, and currently lives in Barcelona. She is a life coach, writer and motivational speaker by day and spends her free time enjoying her children, playing a variety of sports and her special hobby is her passion for writing. Goldie enjoys the little details in life and especially finds what brings her joy is working with the youth and learning from them, for they are going to be our tomorrow. Goldie believes in the constant learning process which one gets from an ongoing education and also through wisdom acquired via the environment and individuals that surround you.
A señorita they call me here
Here is where I was born
But here is not my only home
I possess a double chromosome
Café con leche for breakfast
Chapatti or two for lunch
Masalas and olive oil
Quite the culture crunch
A thought in English
Argument in Spanish
A prayer in Sindhi
I’ll sing to you in Hindi
I am the morena madrileña
The foreigner who orders a tikka baguette
Will search the aisles for Spanish vino
Get excited to see a chai latte
But get the cappuccino
I am the changing traveller
The linguistic gambler
A Spaniard in India
An Indian in Spain
A mish mash runs through my vein
In a fight to be one or another
Creeps in a third other
A lover of the orderly fashion
A lot of irony and sarcasm
Britannia you will always in me remain
I will always carry my umbrella
For in case it rains
I am from many soils
I wear multiple coils
Do I have identity crisis?
I call it a universal Soul license
Source: ISAOM, TheDispatch, Barcelona Center for International Affairs, WeddingExperience, Madras Courier