When I entered my brother's home in Singapore, I found a Cambodian painting in his drawing room depicting a scene from the Mahabharata; an oil painting of a half naked girl from the Bali island, sculptures of a Korean bride and bridegroom; dolls showing a Mombasa couple in one corner, and a dancing Spanish boy and girl in the other corner. The house was modern and complete with German electric fittings, Chinese bells, Persian carpets and Indian curtains.
My brother is married to a Chinese girl who follows the Buddhist faith, dresses like a Malayan, speaks English and relishes Indian dishes. Their children have pure Indian names (Sushma, Suvir and Vivek), can speak English, Malay and Chinese fluently; they enjoy Hindi movies; are fond of Sindhi papads and relish Indian Paan.
A Chinese maid cooks Indian d ishes, the Malay maid cleans and washes and an Italian girl is the typist. His day starts with listening to Gita-slokas in Sanskrit sung by Lata Mangeshkar, followed by Pt. Ravi Shankar's sitar recital. When he feels tired after the day's work, he listens to the tapes of Gazals sung by Begum Akhtar. At another moment he switches on his favourite Sindhi songs sung by Master Chander, reminiscent of the bygone days.
One will perhaps react to this profile of my brother as a jumble of faiths and fashions and a pot-pourri of cultures and languages. But these are the ways of a Sindhi - an international citizen.
Throughout the ages, Sindh was invaded by people from the northwest. All these diverse races and religions that penetrated Sindh, were somehow absorbed in the melting pot, and fused with the ancient heritage of Mohenjo-Daro. Strange phases of history have gone into the making of what is called 'Sindhi Culture'. The Sindhis have not only survived the attacks but have benefited from and assimilated all that was good in the mores of the lives of the invaders. The Sufism of the Sindhis is a harmonious blend of the finest value of both the Vedantic and Islamic cultures.
Non-Sindhis are amazed when they see a Sindhi Tikana (Mandir) which has the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh sacred book) installed in the middle with all the gods and deities surrounding it. All the religious sects among Sindhis are in harmony with each other. The Lords Krishna and Rama, Hanuman and Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma all the deities are worshipped with equal enthusiasm in a Sindhi temple. Devotees worship Hanuman on Tuesday, Shiva on Monday, Jhulelal on Friday and the Goddess Kali on the Ekana days, Shri Satya Narayan on full moon days, together with their paying homage to the sacred Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There are no restrictions and no hard and fast rules laid down on the basis of religion.
Many Sindhi wives do not touch a morsel of food unl ess they finish their puja of their idols giving them bath and offering them dry fruits for 'Bhog', reciting prayers either from Guru Nanak's teachings, or from Sadhu Vaswani's Noori Granth, Satya Sai Baba, Chinmaya Anand or Swami Shradhanand or a personal guru.
The Sindhi Brahman has also advanced with the times. In Sindh, he used a Sindhi name to Christian a new born boy like Pamo; Dhamo, Jhamat and Jhaman and a girl as Popati, Pevi, Menghi and Tikki on their horoscopes; today he uses names such as Naresh, Vikram, Prithvi, Diti and Kaushalaya or even fashionable names of movie stars with a suffix of Kumar or Kumari.
All this may sound flippant - but it emphasizes the root of the Sindhi character. A Sindhi follows the most secular philosophy of humanism. He never restricts himself to dogmas or rituals. The legacy of all embracing love for mankind has made the Sindhi cosmopolitan in his outlook and universal in his temperament. His social structure is not ridde n with prejudices of caste, colour and creed.
There are no Shudras among the Sindhi Hindus. There is neither the domination of the Brahmins nor the evil of untouchability. Sindhis are known for their realistic & practical outlook. The traditional ills of ancient India, like child marriage, cruelty to widows and casteism are not for them.
A Gujarati will remain a Gujarati, cooking his food in the pure Gujarati way, even after staying in Fiji Island for the whole of his life. A Sindhi adopts an international outlook after being in a foreign country for only a year. He will try all kinds of dishes and flavours and yet will remain a Sindhi in his own peculiar way, abusing in his favourite Sindhi words, enjoying typical Sindhi dishes of Khichhri & Sayee Bhaji, Curry Chawar, Dhodho Chatni and Kok Palo whatever and wherever he may be!
A Sindhi is a staunch Indian with a strong streak of patriotism. He helps Subhash C. Bose in forming his Azad Hind Fauj or in establishing Jaslok Hospital contributing crores of rupees for the laudable cause. He invites the Indian Cricket team at a dinner party in Montego Bay, welcomes VIP's in Hongkong, helps charitable institutions in India and patronises Indian movies in England. He entertains the Indian High Commissioner to a 'Despedida pasta lunch', takes keen interest in Indo-Pakistan relations, yet he tries to do something for the welfare of the people of the land where he settles down, contributes lavishly to the branches of Rama Krishna Mission and extends his helping hand in all the social and charitable institutions and organisations in India.
A Sindhi businessman thinks in English and carries on his business with his customers in the local language whether he is in Tamil Nadu or in Spain. He keeps his accounts in a Sindhi dialect with its peculiar script, talks to this mother in his mother tongue and makes it a point to see Hindustani films.
A Sindhi wife in Spain kn ows how to prepare the Spanish Paella, how to bake a Chocolate cake if she happens to be in England and learns to toast a garlic butter bread if her husband is transferred to Italy. A Sindhi daughter in Hongkong can stand behind the bar- counter of her home and fix a cocktail glass for her father's guest and can decorate the dinner table in a Chinese style if her would-be husband is fond of the fashion. She is at ease when she is attired in a Japanese Kimono and carries herself gracefully when she is wearing a Chinese Samfoo. She doesn't mind putting on Minis when she is moving near the London Tower and she feels very glad when her photo appears showing her clad in a Kashmiri dress. She can blend all the fashions together getting ready with a Chinese hairdo or a French bun, Indian Bindi (Tika), Italian shoes and a Spanish dress. I have seen Sindhi children in the Canary Islands learning Spanish at school, speaking Sindhi at home, singing Bhajans in Hindi in the temples and h aving competitions in reciting Urdu couplets at parties. I have found people with peculiar names like Ms. Grace Vaswani and Mr. Peter Bidichandani in Hongkong, a Ms. Maria Thadani, Mr. Alberto Bhudwani in Spain and Ms. Siyate Daswani in Vientiane. A Sindhi either marries by Vedic rites or the Sikh 'Anand Karaj'. He celebrates his child's naming ceremony the 'Chatti' in a traditional manner and yet throws cocktails and dinners to mark the occasion! He organises shows at the club and rummy tea sessions after the ceremonial Satya Narain Katha at his residence.
A Sindhi travels to far off lands where he gets only donkey's meat and radish for his meal, he buys land in Canada, builds hotels at Miami beach, deals in Japanese textiles, befriends Chinese people, enjoys Korean girls, but is faithful to his Sindhi wife. All through his life, he is culturally and linguistically a Sufi in his outlook, adventurous in his travels, tactful in his trade, social in mixing with people o f different faiths and customs, liberal in his views towards social norms, generous in giving and tolerant towards all faiths and beliefs.
A Sindhi is a peacock minded person. Such is his life and his story. Historians record his voyages in Babylon and Egypt, Basra and Baghdad and his acumen in business. He is a fusion of cultures, faiths and languages exchanging with the people their way of living and thinking wherever he may be.