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   I think the time is appropriate... (September 27, 1991)

I think the time is appropriate for a few personal observations on the Sindhi, a community that I have always held in high regard for its enterprise and its talents for survival… if nothing else.

No community lost more dung Partition than the Sindhis. No community lost anywhere near them. Not the Punjabis, who, though they may have lost half their state, still had the other half to go to. And not the Kashmiris, who were coddled and catered to and defended by a grateful Indian government. But the Singh is lost everything: their state, their homes, their businesses, their belongings, their way of life. They were the real refugees of Partition.

I remember them in their early days. A large number of them were herded (settled would not be the correct word) in a colony made up of old military barracks in a place called James's Siding, which is exactly what is was, a railway yard for shunting engines, probably named after some old Anglo-Indian GIP Railway driver.

Their position must have abysmal, brough overnight from their homes and dumped into camps scattered over the country. And yet, from the beging, they showed their enterprise and their confidence in self-help. Little boys used to buy packets of those chalky extra-strong sweets, open and empty them in a large tray, and sell them one and two apiece, making a marginal profit. The compartments of the suburban trains were turned into their sales areas and they hopped from train to train, selling their wares. Nobody begged, instead they sold sweets, plastic combs, ballpens, which were a brand new innovation then, papads.

And Ulhasnagar, the old James's Siding, become a busy manufacturing town, fabricating Britania Biscuits, Coca-Cola, brand toothpastes, label clothes. Made In Ulhasnagar became a bit of a joke and no doubt they were somewhat sharp in their business practices, but at least they did not come and sit at out doors and gherao our ministers and burn trains and buses demanding to be looked after because of their refugee statues.

Things have continued to improve for the Sindhis, thanks to themselves. Today they are among the successful and walthy communities in Bombay, Indian, in many trading outposts of the world, extending from Hong Kong to Gibraltar. The refugees of just 40 years back have opened hospitals, colleges, started foundations in a city that did not exactly welcome them when they first came here.

The crowning moment is still to come, in another five years, probably less, when a Sindhi becomes the prime minister of India.

 
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