By Ranjit Butani and Anupa Nagrani
I have been to the US of A in the past for business reasons, but this trip was something special. For this was my first ever trip across the globe to take part in our community revival process – the event, the 8th Annual Sindhi Sammelan at Los Angeles, and it was truly a memorable event.
Till sometimes back I often wondered whether the Sindhis overseas were really worried about sustaining our culture. The positive acknowledgements from all over the world for our effort to connect the Sindhis globally by creating the virtual state of Sindhishaan have dissipated all doubts. The Sindhi Sammelan at Los Angeles further strengthened my belief that “there is still hope” for our community to sustain its glory.
Right from the eve of the function, the venue, Radisson Hotel was flooded with guests from all over the world. The efforts of the Sindhi Alliance and the Sindhi Association were truly commendable. The function was hosted on a grand scale, creating a platform to get Sindhi of all ages to come together under one roof, for a weekend full of Sindhi Culture, Sindhi Food, Entertainment, Forums and Activities. The Sammelan was a time of reunion with friends, families and community colleagues from across the globe.
The focus was “youth” which I personally feel is the most appropriate target audience for such a cultural event for they are the torch bearers of our community. The organizers had created sub-committees who planned and conducted appropriate activities.
Friday the 13th turned out to be a very auspicious and lucky day for me. The warmth and affection showered by the organizers, especially Shri Kishore Lala, Shri Dilip Butani (a close relative who I met for the first time) and Shri Mohan Dadlani on the very first day had me completed floored. The first day was taken up with registration of delegates, Social hour – an opportunity to mingle with one another, the opening remarks by guest of honour – Shri Jhamatmal Wadhwani, followed by an entertainment session of dance and music. The dance item presented by the youth was really a treat to watch.
Meticulous planning and total dedication from the organizers was obvious and evident in the way the Sammelan activities were conducted. The exquisite food served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the videotaped message from Dada Jashan Vaswani, the thought provoking messages from guest speakers, the panel discussion on Immigration hosted by Shri Dilip Butani with Shri Ramesh Gurnani as the speaker, the kirtans, the music sessions, the speech in Sindhi by Sammelan co-ordinator (youth) Arit Butani, in fact all the activities highlighted the total devotion of the organizers as well as participants. The enthusiasm was infectious.
Sunday the 15th – Its Over! Mixed feelings of joy and sadness overcome me. Sadness because its time to part company with so many loving and genuine friendships struck during the last three days which I’m certain will endure forever. Joy and Pride in the accelerating effort of REVIVAL.
Anupa Nagrani from USA writes :
The Young Adults – had a fun and power-packed weekend starting Friday night after dinner with their respective families, and opening speeches and exhilarating performances by the Youth. The Young Adult Committee, headed by Chanchal Khemlani (the unsung Hero) who made this weekend a success.
The first night began with an ice-breaker (hosted by Priya Nagrani) in the Penthouse, where boys and girls were seated alternatively, and held an introductory conversation with each other for five minutes, after which the guys had to move on to the right. By the end of the hour, there was a comfort level achieved by all the participants, which created a friendly atmosphere for the remainder of the weekend. Friday evening ended in a party with the youth.
Saturday was when most of the activities and forums were held. The morning started with a forum on ‘Sindhis-Past, Present and Future’ (presented by Payal Khemani, Prashant Shewa, Satish Punjabi, & Anupa Nagrani). Their objective as to share everything they learnt about the history of Sindhis, their accomplishment, and the need to revive a culture that has been diluted due to the displacement of Hindu Sindhis from their homeland.
The Young Adults then attended a “Marriage Fourm” – where they heard the views of couples that were Sindhi-Sindhi Arranged, Sindhi-Sindhi Love, Sindhi-Non Sindhi, and Sindhi-Non Indian. The pros and cons of each situation were discussed, and every one of the couples was happy with the decision, and what they had to do to make their marriage work, and in many cases, how they were able to convince their disapproving families of their choices.
This then went into a ‘Career Options’ Forum, (arranged and mediated by Anand Khemlani and Satish Punjabi) with a well-rounded panel consisting of : Manisha Khiani (Prof. Sales Rep., Janssen Pharmaceutical, division of Johnson & Johnson), Jagdish Punjabi (Partner, Deloitte Consulting), Shireen Sachdev (Assitant DA, Orange County’s DA’s office), Sameer Bhatia (Founder & Executive Chief Financial Officer, WiseConnect), Tony Kanal (Bassist, No Doubt), Sunil Budhrani (MD), Anupa Nagrani (Designer, Sari Boutique). This too turned out to be a successful rapport between the audience and the panelists, where the audience was curious to know how each panelist reached their accomplishments, what they gained and what they gave up, and bow they got their first ‘break’.
The last of the games for the day – ‘Who Wants to be a True Sindhi’ – hosted by Prashant Shewa and Neil Butani – put the icing on the cake! This was a light-hearted trivia on Sindh and Sindhis, where they had 3 contestants, and 10 questions per contestant, worth 10 points each. Saturday night ended in a formal-attired mixer at the circular bar on the top floor of the Radisson, which had a 360-degree view of LAX. There was great energy in the air, and definitely more warmth and enthusiasm as all the youngsters got to mingle and everybody was in their ‘element’.
The Farewell Lunch – Hawaiian Pool Party – was held on Sunday afternoon . . . . (Hosted by Chanchal Khemlani, Neeta Kirpalani, Mohnish Ahuja, Neil Kanal and Arit Butani). This was the bittersweet ending to a great weekend, where everyone said their ‘goodbyes’ and exchanged e-mail addresses with promises to keep in touch with their newly acquired friends.
“Things were fairly timely in manner, interesting and informative. The memories that were made and the friendships that were started, will be etched in me forever” a quote from one of the attendees from Boston. On the whole, the weekend was a great success in bringing fellow Sindhis together, finding what was common in all of us . . . . a beautiful and rich heritage.
Sindhyat, of course, is a nebulous term, subject to individual interpretation. The purpose of organising Sindhi Sammelans is to help us collectively deliberate and decide on actions we must take to ensure that sindhyat will survive after our demise. We ma y learn some lessons from other communities such as the Jews or Parsis who maintained their identity even when they had no country of their own. Let us work hard in a coordinate manner to ensure that our future generations will be proud of the legacy we leave behind. Let us heed to Swami Vivekananda’s clarion call : “awake, arise and stop not till the goal is reached.” Jay Jhulelall.
We, the older generation who were born in Sindh enjoy the rich culture of our language and music. However, we are a dying breed. If our youth does not carry the baton, this great culture of ours will become a thing of the past. We should install in our youth the pride of being Sindhi. Unless we take some urgent measures, our children will be left with a very limited knowledge of their roots – we cannot let that happen!
I have only one message. You are a blessed Sindhi, you are a proud Sindhi, you have an obligation to SINDHYAT. LET US WORK TO ACHIEVE THE GLOBAL UNITY OF SINDHIS, to keep aloft the immortal flame of Sindhyat.
We Sindhis have pride of our cultural heritage. Even after the partition, we have achieved a high level of economic well being. However, with the passage of time it appears that we are unable to inculcate the values, which our children can cherish. There is apparent lack of communication among numerous Sindhi organisations. There is a lack of common goals. We need a uniting force, which can attract all the Sindhis. The new technology has given us the gift of forming our “Sindh” in cyberspace, which can keep alive all the traditions. We must ensure that our spirit of sindhyat will remain eternal and help our future generations in leading happy and peaceful lives wherever we may live. Let us sacrifice our individual interest for the community’s well being.