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Monday, 25 January 2010

Yes! I am a Bhaibhand

When I was young I often heard my family boasting that we were Baibhands and they made strange remarks when talking about other sects such as Amils, Sahitis, Larkanas, Shikarpuris, and other such sects. For me, all that mattered was that we were all human and spoke a common language that compartmentalized us into Sindhi group. During my schooling years, my school friends often ridiculed Sindhis, criticizing their etiquettes and habits which were common in certain sect, and embarrassing to me, so much so that I often pretended that I was non-sindhi and was even shy to expose my ability of speaking perfect Sindhi.

To an outsider, it will be difficult to differentiate one Sindhi from another, but when we are in the inner circle, we do notice the difference in food, culture, dialect and sense of dressing. But one thing is common in all the Sindhi’s that they have emerged as winners. Most of the Sindhi families were displaced during the partition of India-Pakisthan war and were forced to give up their wealth and property and migrate as refugees. But hard work and will to survive with dignity has paid off and there are not many Sindhi beggars you might find today. That’s because Sindhis are very generous by nature and are willing to support their not-so-fortunate families.

Even before the partition, when all Sindhis lived in Sind, they had the same quality of camaraderie. Bhaibands never focused on education, and preferred to trade. In the days of the British, they sold some specially embroidered cloth pieces. Coming mainly from Hyderabad, Sindh, Sindhi workers specialized n the supply of local art and craft objects, referred to as ‘Sindhi work’ to the British and other Europeans in their homes. English men called those boys ‘Sindu workers’.

Generally, a boy of seventeen or so, among Bhaibands, went abroad for some time. That was called his first tour. When he finished his tour he came back to Hyderabad and was married. The husband left for foreign lands while the daughter-in-law was at the mercy of her mother-in-law! Daughters-in-law were sometimes not happy with this arrangement but this was compensated with huge stack of money checks that arrived regularly and enhanced their status in the society. (However, after Partition, the wife started leaving with her traveling in order to stay with him).

Bhaiband men went to different lands: Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Saigon, Jawa, Sumatra…even the remote corners of the world and did business. They suffered many difficulties. They had to learn the language of the place and eat food they didn’t like, but they learned the tricks of the trade! Most often, they established their own firm. They shared their knowledge with their own family members and encouraged them. The members of the firm were brothers or cousins only. Each member set up base in one country. The system of demand and supply used to send these members to different countries and lands in order to spread their network far and wide. Perfumes, cloth, almonds, pistachios, and such goods, bought cheap in one land were sold expensively in other lands and all the partners of the firm became rich!

In 1947, when the families were displaced, many of the Sindhi migrated to those places where they had done business initially before the partition. The concept of family life for many Sindhis living abroad underwent a change. Men, who had always worked for few years and then returned home, the idea of ‘returning home’, ceased to exist, more-over the business suffered and they had to start a life anew.

Bhaiband never like the idea of women working outside the home, but many women are normally involved and are encouraged to participate in family business, (if need be) to take care of their hubby’s biz in their absence.

Over the sixty years, life had changed. Bhaibands are more educated now and it is difficult to differentiate them from other sects. Youth of today don’t care much for diamonds and gaudy jewelry (which was the specialty of Bhaibands) and are easily adjusted to every country wherever they choose live in, adopting the culture and language of their adopted country. A Sindhi youth may not know his own Sindhi dialect, but is well versed in the foreign language, trading efficiently in whichever umbrella he chooses to be.

The adults too, foreseeing the erratic working hours and the hardship of the trade and business, encourage their children to take up the professional field, which is more secured and relaxing.

Although more and more Bhaibands are educated now, seeking the best educational degrees that money permits them, and pumps them up to enter the best professional stream.

Surprisingly young, educated Bhaiband still bounce back into the family business!

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