- A Journey to My Roots
article of mine appeared in the 'Femina','Bharat Ratna','Amil
Samchar' and in the Hindvasi (Translated into Sindhi)
A TRIP TO SINDH-A JOURNEY TO MY ROOTS
Shakun Narain Kimatrai
Kimatrai Building still majestically stands in Hyderabad Sind
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.
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.
friends to whom I told about my trip to Pakistan, not only
showed interest but a variety of emotions.
sensed in them envy, apprehension and fear for my safety---as
a matter of fact a friend of mine asked: "Going to
Hyderabad Sind, Shakun, are you sure you will be back?
I was a little apprehensive myself I was not really afraid.
After all of whatever kind may have been the frenzy 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.
Bombay, we first landed at Lahore where the hotels are
comparable to any other good 5-star hotel elsewhere in the
one goes out of India, one is midst 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
the elite, the ladies do not practice purdah as 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.
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.
the common citizens of Pakistan whom I met, I felt that there
was competition with India as far as Economical progress
or a game of cricket was concerned-which according to me is
healthy and natural of any set of neighbors.
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
myself having lived in Bombay in cosmopolitan surroundings
almost all my life, did feel rather restricted being
surrounded by only Muslims in their country.
Lahore we flew to Karachi from where it was a mere 2 hours
drive to my birth-place Hyderabad in Sind.
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.
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
the chirping of birds and the hustle bustle of rikshaws, motor
cars and cycles did stand '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.
entered my 'sasural' 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.
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
'Mehman-navazi' for which Sind 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.
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 visaaran dukhyo aa!" ( It is
surely difficult to forget ones land). I wonder if we would
have still lived in Hyderabad Sind if partition would
not have taken place, and I feel yes! We would have made
Hyderabad our home centre just like today Bombay is.
what happened-happened. Who is to argue?
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, Muslims etc. here. one is that much
more enriched living in a colorful combination of cultures
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.
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.
Khiani Mansion at Tilakchaari that has been converted to a
Shakun Narain Kimatrai
Chi Minh City
son Sunder had gone to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.
called his father, my husband Narain who guided him as to
how to get to 'our place' after 35 yrs. The name is still
there...you will find it in the 2nd photograph...
many memories...nostalgic...My son Sunder was about 3 yrs
old then...but he says he remembers briefly...follow his
is the building as I took its picture this morning
(luckily got there before the rain started in the
afternoon). At night the area becomes a night market and is
quite different. You can see the adjoining buildings are
newer. It still is a very congested and traditional part of
the way Papa - the floating restaurants at the end of
Flower Street are no longer there. One of my local
companions said that most older residents know the old
name of the lane as Tha Thu Thau as it is a well known
market street - however younger residents and those from
upcountry do not.
company name below the 2nd floor balcony. This is the one
that is most visible.
building next door looks relatively newish to me. There is
a jewelry store on the ground floor. Is this where the
cafe used to be ?
closer look at the shops on the ground floor on the Phan
Boi Chau side - they have been subdivided and it seems
that each one as its own loft. One sells textiles, another
sports shoes (which goes deeper inside) and a snack bar as
you can see. You can see "J. KIMAT" and then the
company name is covered. Most of the buildings on the
street seem newer and have their original names (if they
still exist) covered up by signboards.
this is the Tha Thu Thau side - hard to find the entrance
to the building. To be honest I could not. Each one is an
can see the company name visible above the awning. It is
also visible on the upper floor...