It was a hard life, as Tulsi Mohinani describes in his article, ‘My Ordinary Life: Seventy Years and Five Continents’
- Posted by alvifaiq
- On March 31, 2022
A unique lifestyle, sustained over generations
Young men from the Bhaiband families of this community would go to work by the time they were 15 or 16 years old; sometimes even sooner. They would invariably live above the store in an apartment shared by other employees of the company, who were also Hindu Sindhis from Hyderabad. They worked all day with little or no social life and were quite often mercilessly exploited by their capitalist bosses who preferred them to stay uneducated and unaware of their rights, and encouraged them to take recourse in alcohol, as T.K.M. Mirchandani notes.
The employees worked in the foreign countries for two to three years at a time, during which their expenses were taken care of and their salaries were paid directly to their families in Hyderabad. At the end of the contract, a period known as musafri, they went back home on a break of a few months. Most young men returning after their first musafri would now enter into a ily. At the end of the two or three month holiday, he would go back to work either with the same company or another, possibly in another country. By the time he came back on his next home visit, his first child would be a few years old and often enough it would be the first meeting between father and child. This routine continued until the man retired at around the age of 40, and returned to settle in Hyderabad. By that time, many would have branched out from the firms they had worked in and started businesses of their own, which they would now leave to their sons. They would also employ other young men from Hyderabad.
There were cases of Bhaiband men who married local wives and settled in the faraway lands; some maintained families in both places. But by and large the international communities comprised of groups of men who adapted to new languages and new cultures but were careful to retain the culture and family values of their homeland. Their families back in Sindh comprised mostly women, children and the family elders, who with the money remitted from overseas lived a comfortable life. It is estimated that, by the 1940s (when the price of ten grams of gold was still well below Rs 100) the annual stream of wealth coming in to Sindh from the Bhaibands was between five and ten crores of rupees (Dialdas 1951). All these events had their influence on family life in the diaspora.
Shaped by historical forces
During the years of the Second World War, the sea routes closed and families were separated for as long as seven years. Both Monica Bhojwani and Tusli Mohinani speak of this experience. After the war, it became clear that the struggle for Indian independence was coming to fruition. Sindh was, in fact, a hotbed of the Indian freedom movement. The 1942 ‘Quit India’ call by Gandhi filled the jails, as it did all over the country. But the situation in Sindh was complex and for various reasons, the government declared Martial Law in the province.
Some Bhaibands, inspired by Gandhi’s call for Swadeshi and to boycott foreign products, threw their imported fabrics into bonfires and set up khadi stores, which naturally did not give them the kind of margins they were used to and these businesses declined, consigning them to unsung martyrdom. Many Bhaibands contributed to the funds of the Indian National Omaha NE escort service Congress. Bhai Pratap was one of them and he also played a committed personal role in the campaign to spread awareness and create a nationalistic spirit, as can be seen in the article ‘Bhai Pratap: A Tribute to a Forgotten Hero’.