by Chandroo D.
Daryanani Family originates from Hyderabad Sind, British India. ‘Darya' means sea and I wonder if our ancestors were fishermen. On 15 August 1947, India attained independence from the British Raj. The British Indian Empire was finally divided along religious lines into India and Pakistan.
Millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims refugees moved across the border line. Muslims moved over to Pakistan side and the Sikhs and Hindus moved over to the Indian Side. Unfortunately this partition was accompanied by violent riots and mass casualties.
The Daryanani house happened to be situated in the newly established Pakistan section and being Hindus, we had to migrate to the newly established Indian section. I was just 4 years old and remembered being on a crowded train along with the family travelling towards the border. I distinctly remembered that at some time during the long journey, I was forcibly hidden with the females in the toilet as there were riots, looting and massacre all around by the Muslims whenever the train stopped for some reason. Father, Gopaldas, was already in Rangoon, Burma during the partition so it was only grandma (maternal side), mother and nine children along with other Hindu families on the move.
The next thing I remember was that we were on a gigantic ship (called Steamers those days) on the way to Rangoon, Burma from Calcutta. I clearly remembered that we had to sleep on the open deck among hundreds of other immigrants. Food and water rationing was in force and we had to live by on one meal a day.
After many tiring days, we finally arrived at the Port of Rangoon. The greatest joy poured out in tears from the family, as we finally found our father among the crowd of greeters.
Daryanani family thus started a new life in Rangoon, Burma. I and my siblings all attended the Methodist English High School and completed our education there successfully.
We were in total 11 children. 6 sisters and 5 brothers. 2 sisters were born in Rangoon, Burma and the rest in Hyderabad Sind. 11 is just perfect to make up a football team, but then again let’s not blame the parents for having so many children. What options did they have when there were limited electric lights and definitely no TV to entertain themselves during the 30s & 40s?
There was a time around 15 years ago, when I had the opportunity to visit Pakistan with a business friend. It had always been my wish to visit Hyderabad Sind, my birth place. It took approximately 3 hours to journey by car on the old road from Karachi to Hyderabad Sind. What a memorable journey it was! At one stop, a young barefooted boy, carrying a baby lamb on his shoulders approached me. He spoke to me in fluent Sindhi, asking if I wanted to buy it. I was awestruck with a great feeling. Here I was finally in my own birth place speaking Sindhi. I was in Sindh - the territory we had to unfortunately migrate from. Sindhi is the official language of the Pakistani province of Sindh. I noticed even the evening main TV news was in Sindhi.
With all the information I gathered from my mother on how to locate our family home in Hyderabad, I ventured forward to locate the area first. The memory I had of the house was that it was a huge two storey complex with a large court yard, as one enters. Unfortunately, with so many lanes and houses circling me in the area, I was not able to find our home. One lady of a home in the area, noticing my dilemma, approached me and invited me into her home. She spoke fluent Sindhi and offered me paapar (papadum) and pani (water) and tried to revive my memory of the house. No luck! She did inform me that most of the houses abandoned by the Sindhi Hindus were immediately occupied by the Sindhi Muslims. Eventually, I gave up and instead walked down the streets and the famous market, Tilak Charrhi to jog my memory. Interestingly, many houses still had Sindhi family names embedded on the entrances with year of establishment. The city itself was extremely dusty and polluted.
On the way out of Hyderabad, I stopped by the railroad tracks where a vendor was selling barbecued Pallo (a boney fish). I and my friend sat on a low stool and devoured it. Watching a passing train, a thought suddenly flashed through my head. What if a partition of the British Empire did not take place and I had not been on the train to the border? Perhaps I too would be selling Pallo on the tracks today like the vendor. Amazing how life just surprises us mysteriously and changes our destiny.
Following is the short info of Daryanani offsprings of father, Gopaldas and mother Jasoti. However, before I start, all Daryananis must admit that we are gifted with a distinctive facial feature. A perfect Greek nose. Many envy it and probably would be happy to go through cosmetic surgery to clone it. Unfortunately, aside from being the best sniffers of food, wine and cheese, we are the first ones to be susceptible to colds and sinuses.
Sister #1, Kunj, was married in Hyderabad Sind and moved to Bangalore (now Bengaluru) India. I was hardly in contact with her and only remember her frequent visits to Rangoon with her young children. Once she and her husband also visited Hong Kong, during mid 70s. She was a very strict God fearing woman and would shun any thing to do with immoral vices. Once jokingly, I offered to take her quite husband out to paint the town red and show him the Hong Kong night life. Boy did she turn red herself instead! She refused to talk to me or eat dinner, until I consoled her and told her that I was just joking. She lived a good long life and passed away peacefully while meditating in a temple. She is survived by 3 sons and 1 daughter.
Sister # 2 Mohini (Laj) was married in Rangoon, Burma. Hers was the first Sindhi wedding in City Hall, Rangoon. It was an event to remember! I still have memories of the luxurious wedding occasions some of which took place at our very own home in Rangoon. She was a very strict woman too and with a ruler in hand, she would ensure that we, young ones, completed our homework before going out gallivanting. She passed away peacefully too and is survived by 4 sons and 1 daughter.
Sister # 3 Kalan (Nirmla) was married in Madras (now Chennai) India. She moved to Penang, Malaysia and is now settled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She was and still is a very sensitive woman. Tears will flow immediately, if things went wrong or someone scolded or teased her. She is very immaculate and makes sure every family member of hers is dressed well and looks presentable - otherwise out came her favourite sentence, ‘what will people say?” She has 3 daughters. Her only son passed away not long ago.
Sister # 4 Chandra (Bina) was married in Surabaya, Indonesia and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, were she passed away peacefully. She was noted as the ‘smiling lady’. No critics or harsh words would make her angry at any time. She was always joking around. I have noticed Chinku, her grand daughter has inherited her ever glowing smile. She is survived by 2 sons and 3 daughters.
Sister # 5 Hirawati (Baby) did not even make it to her teens and passed away during 1969. She was born in Rangoon.
Sister # 6 Indu (Hinu) was married in Mumbai, India and now shuttles between Taipei, Taiwan and Pune, India. She too was born in Rangoon. I remember her birth, as it was a midwife who delivered her at our very own home. Being the youngest of us all, she was pampered the most by parents. All brothers would guard and protect her as she blossomed into a teenager. She has 3 daughters.
Brother #1 Nanik was married in Pune, India. He passed away in Mumbai and has left behind 3 daughters and 1 son.
Brother #2 Doulat was married in Jakarta, Indonesia. He and Chandra (Bina) were twins, born on 1st April. He passed away in his prime in Jakarta. He is survived by 2 sons and 1 daughter.
Brother #3 Lachu passed away during 1973 at the age of around 32 years.
Brother #4 Myself, live in Hong Kong and have 1 daughter and 1 son.
Brother #5 Narain too lives in Hong Kong and has 1 son.
In the early days, men were normally sent overseas from Hyderabad Sind to work and remit back their earnings to support their family. Such was the case of father, Gopaldas. While the partition was taking place he was working as a manager for a reputable company K. Hundamal. After a number of years of service, he established his own company, P. Gopaldas. The company not only imported various merchandises, but also was strong in indenting orders for local buyers. P. Gopaldas represented many top international brands, such as Dan Ryan Textiles, DMC Threads & Needlework, Pompeii Perfumes, Akai Tape Recorders, Nichimen (Japan), Mitsubishi Electric (Japan) and many East European brands.
Sons, Nanik and Doulat were already at an age to join father after passing high school. Nanik was great in organising, managing the company and also establishing new business contacts overseas and locally, while Doulat was a skilful and convincing salesman. He was capable of selling ice to an eskimo. Both had natural charisma and were eagerly sought by many pretty girls. They both made a good team in promoting the company successfully.
Brother, Nanik was tall and very charming. He was very sociable and would mix with most of the local ministers and foreign embassy high level staffs. He was very open hearted and fair and would tell anyone off straight on his face if he was not happy about a situation. No two-bits about him! Highly educated, he would encourage me to study consistently. Once when I recited my poetry well, he took me to the local bazaar and rewarded me with my first ball point pen. He was also a ladies’ man and since we had many young maidens living on our street, he would visit their families and socialize with them often. Everyone in our street knew him by his first name and everyone in our family were known as Nanik’s brother or Nanik’s sister or Nanik’s parents. He was close to one Sindhi girl, but mother rejected her because she was slightly dark. In order to get him to detach from her, father, cleverly, sent him off to green pastures, Japan to work for a trading company. Probably a year or two later, he returned fresh and matured and joined up father in business. With many matrimonial offers coming from India, he joined parents and visited Pune, India and finally got married. I was present with him, checking out his future wife. During their first meeting, he discreetly asked me in Burmese dialect, if she was acceptable? Looking at her pretty face, I immediately replied with a thumbs up. On his wedding day, due to heavy rain, Pune city was totally flooded and all lights went off! What an excitement that day! Generators were brought out and all went well at the end of the day.
Brother, Doulat was a frequent visitor to the elite Orient Club, where he became a champion in billiards. With a beer mug, a cigarette and billiard cue in his hand, he was on cloud nine while playing billiards. He was also the daring one. I remember one New Years’s eve night when he was out with his friends showing off on his new Java motor bike. Unfortunately, while returning home, he crashed into the centre divider of the main road and dislocated his shoulder. The doctor came to our home immediately and reset his shoulder without any anaesthetic. I can still recollect his painful scream that day. Next day, parents confronted him and made him promise in presence of all the holy sculptures in our home temple to never ride a motor bike again. Thanks to him, Nanik and I too were barred the same time and we had to sell off the bike. By then we upgraded ourselves and drove recently acquired Willy Jeep and a sleek Vauxhall.
After my graduation in 1961, father gave me an opportunity to follow my dreams instead of working for him. I had two options either to be a doctor and that would mean studies for around 4 years or a train as a radio technician within a year. I opted for the second option. By early 1962, I established a Radio shop with father’s financing. Not only did I repair radios, but also sold them. Bush, Echo, Philips and Grundig were famous brand those days. The radios were huge and equipped with vacuum tube valves. I presented my father my first earning after repairing a client’s radio. He proudly gave it back to me and said “save it up, son, it is your earning from your skills, not mine”
If I have to describe father, I would first refer to his attire. He was famous for wearing a plain long sleeves white shirt with gold buttons and white slacks, which looked more like a pyjama flair bottom. He also wore a short black jacket. Once in a while, he would also wear his favourite Nehru cap. He spoke, fluent Sindhi, Hindi, Gujarati, Memoni and Burmese. He loved eating paan and smoking a bidi. He was quite lucky in winning small amounts from his lottery tickets. Every sunday morning, it was my duty to drive him to the Khalsa Gurdwara for prayers. Occasionally, I would join him if my friends were around, otherwise I would visit my school mate’s home nearby. Around 2 hours later, I would pick him up and take him home. He was an early riser in the morning, and I would see him pacing up and down the balcony all alone, with a bidi and a white handkerchief on his shoulder, usually pondering over a problem he was facing.
We lived not too far from the Rangoon river, so whenever possible after work around 6 pm, he would take me for a walk along the jetty. Before heading home, he would face the sea and pray quietly. It was a routine, I will never forget and today I too follow his pattern and walk along the sea promenade or the beach wherever I am in the world.
Whenever I had a chance to visit father in his office, he would make me sit across his large desk and offer me half a cup of his tea. He would drink from the saucer and I, from the cup. If he could spare some time, he would take out his prepaid blue aerograms (thin lightweight piece of foldable and gummed paper for writing a letter) and write letters in Sindhi to his four married daughters. He was a good writer and ensured that every Diwali a gold coin was sent to each of his married daughters. In comparison to his cool, calm nature, mother was normally strict and instilled discipline into us. If we ever wanted to have late nights, we would bypass mother and get his approval immediately.
Father was known for his drinking habit during his younger days while living in Hyderabad but one day after seeing his close friend dying in front of him, he turned into a teetotaller. While in Rangoon, alcohol was totally banned in our house. Mother, however, used to hide a bottle of Brandy always in her cupboard in between her sarees. She would use it medicinally by adding honey and ginger and give to us whenever we had a cough. As time passed by, Nanik would bring in gifts of wine bottles from the Embassies. Father was not happy, but eventually give up when told that wine was made from grapes and suitable to be enjoyed moderately with our dinner. With his health deteriorating, doctors had always persuaded him to have one drink a day for relaxation. He refused to listen to him.
Mother was a pillar in the family. Considering taking care of 11 children, she had a lot of patience and kept the family together. She was also totally pampered by father who ensured she had enough domestic helpers including a cook in the house to take care of all her needs. Coming home from any outing, he would himself wrap her saree neatly. He used to call her 'qwarn' literarily meaning 'bride'. As customary and respectful, mother would never ever mention or call him by his name. She would call him 'heyda' literarily meaning 'here'. Once when someone asked her of her husband's name, she asked me to mention the name instead. Her mother, Rukamani, too stayed with us. Grandma, Rukamani was a great story teller and we would gather around her some evenings. With brown snuff in her nose and a bidi in her hand, she would take us on a imaginary magical carpet narrating stories of kings and queens of the past. One thing she demanded from all of us was a deep massage on her legs and feet, which we all obliged.
Doulat was married in Surabaya, Indonesia. After solemnizing his marriage, father and mother decided to fly down to visit daughter, Kalan in Penang, Malaysia on the way before returning to Rangoon. Fate played the cards differently. Father passed away on 19 September 1963 in Penang. It was a very sad day to see Doulat arriving at Rangoon airport with his new bride and carrying an urn containing father’s ashes. It is customary for well wishers and a priest to reopen our office after a death of the head of the family. Nanik was ushered to father’s main chair. It was too emotional for me to see him sitting on father’s chair and so I cried away in silence that day. I missed him.
The Burmese coup d'état on 2 March 1962 marked the beginning of socialist rule and the political dominance of the army in Burma. All the business sector including my radio shop and our main company, P. Gopaldas were nationalized and taken over by the Army. We had to report and work under the Army. Incidentally, a day earlier, a huge tree which sheltered our office from the heat had fallen due to strong monsoon winds. Wonder if it was a warning sign from above?
Consequently, with a sudden unpredictable political and economic crises looming, Nanik decided to send Doulat and his wife to Hong Kong in order to explore and establish a new company. I followed up during 1964 to join him. Narain the youngest brother, and Indu the youngest sister also migrated to Hong Kong later and continued their studies. Nanik and the rest of the family stayed back to close up the remaining business.
As time went by, situation in Burma was turning worse day by day and Nanik was facing tough challenges daily. Being the head of the family, he sacrificed and suffered the most during his remaining days in Burma. My hat off to him for having all the courage to face the crises. He and the remaining of the family eventually migrated to Mumbai, India. Prior to their arrival, Doulat flew down to Mumbai and helped them settle down in our newly purchased apartment overlooking the Arabian sea. The building was called ‘Paradise Apartment’ - a perfect comforting name for the new immigrants.
Soon Nanik established a company in Mumbai and started exporting merchandise to Indonesia. Doulat, not doing so well in Hong Kong migrated to Jakarta, Indonesia and liaised with Nanik in all type of business transactions. Narain (Naina) the youngest joined up with a reputable company in Hong Kong along with nephew Manu (Kunj’s son). Narain’s traits resembled that of Doulat. He too is gifted with a power of persuasion and salesmanship. He now has his own export office.
After Doulat’s departure from Hong Kong, I worked as a manager with an import and wholesale company in Hong Kong, dealing in novelties and costume jewellery, for two years to save enough money to finance my marriage. In order to follow my dream of establishing my own export office, I put in my resignation. Boss was definitely not happy but finally released me reluctantly after I found him a replacement. During 1973, I established P. Gopaldas with a very small capital, which was mainly derived from selling my own Insurance policy. Both Nanik and Doulat were totally against my using father’s name for my company. They wanted me to use a foreign name to be easily recognizable overseas. I reasoned with them and went ahead with my choice. My one and only son, runs it now.
Doulat sadly passed away in Jakarta. Nanik, I and Narain arranged for his family to move to Mumbai. A separate apartment was purchased for them eventually and children grew up comfortably in it.
Nanik passed away in Mumbai a few years later. Mother cried the most seeing her children pass away before her. She held on to me sadly and hoped that I would be around to cremate her when her time came. When her time did come and as per my promise, I flew down to Mumbai immediately and took part in holy rituals to cremate her. With tears in my eyes, I kissed her cold forehead good bye and rolled her body slowly into the electric cremator.
It has been said that Sindhis have no city or country of their own. True! The only city we had was our original birth place Hyderabad Sind and that too has been politically lost to the Pakistan side. Looking at the bright side, the family came through thick and thin. The new generation is looking good and I am confident they will continue preserving the good surname, Daryanani as time goes by.