Sindhis – Journey from Indus Valley to Jamaica
The first Sindhi families to arrive in Jamaica almost 80 years ago were B. D. Dadlani, K. Chandiram, N. T. Vaswani, C. Chatani, and the Harjanis.
Today, the Sindhi community has expanded, and names like Thakurani, Daswani, Ramchandani, Uttamchandani, Hindujas, Tewani, Mansukhani, Rochlani, Khemlani, Samtani, Mahtani, Melwani, and many more are as much Indian names as they are Jamaican names.
By Rungsung Masakui
High Commissioner of India to Jamaica
Much gets written about the ethnic and cultural diversity of India. But do you know that the Indian diaspora in Jamaica mirrors the same diversity, representing a microcosm of country and its people? One of the most prominent Indian communities that has made Jamaica their home is the Sindhis.
The Sindhis were the original inhabitants of Sindh, a north-western province in undivided India. In fact, the words India, Hindi (official Indian language), Hindu have all been derived from Sindh (the land of Sindhis) and Sindhu (a river in Sindh province).
Also, the world’s oldest known civilization, the Indus valley civilization, prospered in Sindh more than two millennia ago. As Sindh had a long coastline with natural ports, long-distance trade and commerce were in their blood. After the partition of India in 1947, the Sindhis and other communities were systematically prosecuted in the newly formed Pakistan and thus had to leave their homes overnight. They had no choice but to build back their lives from scratch when they reached India. Because of their hard-working nature and never-say-die attitude, the Sindhis eventually re-established themselves and are today one of the wealthiest communities. Their contribution to Indian industry, manufacturing, real-estate, healthcare, media, politics, retail, finance, and education is unparalleled. So is their love for poetry, music, and dance.
Having explored the world for many generations, the Sindhi community soon branched out to all parts of the world for various business opportunities. Whether it is Australia, Europe, Asia, South America, North America, and the Caribbean, there is no place in the world that does not have a Sindhi presence. As Sindhis moved around the world, they easily adapted to their new homes, creating new roots, especially in Jamaica.
In Jamaica, the Sindhi immigration started as early as the 1930’s with the assistance of the local government. The Sindhis settled across the Caribbean and soon established their own businesses, bringing products and skills from the East to the West. Soon, the Sindhis made a name for themselves as serial entrepreneurs, connecting India with Jamaica.
Jamaica benefited from their success with the growth of bilateral agreements between India and Jamaica, manufacturing, tourism, BPO, retail, duty-free shops, shopping malls, jewelry stores, and their contribution in many other industries. In addition to being entrepreneurs, some Sindhis became professionals in medicine, finance, education, and management.
The Sindhi community has integrated with and adapted to almost seamlessly the local population, sharing their entrepreneurial skills and helping to provide many jobs across various sectors for Jamaicans. The community embraced the Jamaican culture. Some have married locally and became sons of the soil. The first Sindhi families to arrive in Jamaica almost 80 years ago were B. D. Dadlani, K. Chandiram, N. T. Vaswani, C. Chatani, and the Harjanis. Today, the Sindhi community has expanded, and names like Thakurani, Daswani, Ramchandani, Uttamchandani, Hindujas, Tewani, Mansukhani, Rochlani, Khemlani, Samtani, Mahtani, Melwani, and many more are as much Indian names as they are Jamaican names. The Jamaican society has made the Sindhis feel at home, sharing their resources and never discriminating against them. I am happy to say that there has hardly been any adverse incident in Jamaica involving the Sindhi community in the past 80 years of their presence in Jamaica.
The Sindhi community worldwide and in Jamaica are also recognized for their philanthropy. They believe in giving without acknowledgement. In Jamaica, the community members are involved with many notable charitable organizations near and far, facilitating medical camps, feeding the poor. The Jamaican Government has bestowed many Sindhis from the community with national honors and awards in recognition of their contribution to society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Sindhis have distributed free meals, medicines, and financial support to the less fortunate without any publicity or fanfare.
Jamaica is their home, but India is always in their hearts. The Sindhis visit India frequently, maintain contacts with their family and friends, and also have business links with India, thus strengthening the trade relationship between India and Jamaica. They still cherish their Indian values and have preserved their Indian cultural practices. The respect for elders, a joint family system, and law-abiding nature are still alive among the Sindhi community. The community also observes the Jhulelal (Sindhi deity) and Guru Nanak Jayantis while also celebrating Holi and Diwali. As for the food, on Mondays you will still find the traditional Dal Pakwan (deep fried, crisp bread) and Sai Bhaji (a vegetarian curry) cooked in most Sindhi homes.
The Sindhi community is another example of the shared cultural heritage of India and Jamaica, radiating the Jamaica national motto of “Out of Many One People”. Along with the descendants of Indian indentured workers, teachers, doctors and nurses, IT professionals and accountants, the Sindhi community shines prominently through the socio-cultural rainbow that the Indian diaspora in Jamaica is. I am sure that the Sindhis will continue to enrich this land with their entrepreneurship and vision while also deepening India-Jamaica relations. To the Sindhis, I can only say that India is proud to have daughters and sons like you taking India to the world.
Courtesy: The Gleaner, Jamaica (Published on March 6, 2022)