From Hyderabad to Singapore
Meena Arjandas Daswani (maiden name: Vishni Daryanani) was born on 16th July 1935 in Hyderabad, Sindh, British India in a family of 17 siblings.
Despite having to leave Sindh post-Partition because it was no longer safe, Meena clearly remembers the support her family received from her Muslim neighbours in guiding them to safety.
Today, Meena lives in Singapore and this is her story.
Meena Arjandas Daswani was the seventh child in a family of 17 siblings - 11 sisters and six brothers - to parents Parpati and Kotumal Daryanani. Before settling down in Sindh, her father worked in a Sindhi firm in Japan and later in Hong Kong, eventually coming to work in Bhaiband Bank in Hyderabad, Sindh.
Meena studied two grades in Sindhi in the Nav Vidyala School in Hyderabad. Her eldest paternal uncle, whom they called Baba, was a school principal. So, he took the responsibility to enrol them in school. Meena recalls that she and her siblings used to walk to school. In fact, they used to walk everywhere – tangas (horse carts) were only used by the wealthy.
Even with 17 siblings, Meena’s family lived in a joint family unit consisting of her grandmother, her paternal aunt, three paternal uncles and their wives, and numerous cousins. They lived in a huge, double story house.
Life was good and comfortable and community relations between all religious groups were very strong. Neighbours were treated like family and there was no discrimination whatsoever. According to Meena, neighbours gave saath (support) to one another. Everyone lived peacefully. Until riots broke out in 1947.
There was unprecedented bloodshed and killings where once they had all lived in peace and harmony. The image of dead bodies lying on the bloodied roads remains with Meena to this day. She describes a horrible scene of nadis (rivers) of blood. Shouts and screams could be heard throughout the day.
When the violence began, her family dared not leave their home; they stayed indoors behind locked doors. Whenever they heard a knock on their door, they would scramble to hide under the khata (traditional bed) and cover themselves in bedsheets. It was their Muslim neighbours who helped to buy vegetables, fruits and groceries.
Shortly after the violence started, it was quickly decided that the family would leave Hyderabad. They packed up some clothes and jewelry. The rest of their material possessions were left behind. They were to take a train to Jodhpur.
Meena remembers that their Muslim neighbours accompanied them to the train station to ensure that the family boarded safely. The adults were made to board the train first. She says the younger children were lifted by their frocks and shirts and hurriedly pushed into the train compartments. Their neighbours advised Meena’s family to keep all the train windows and doors closed during their travel. Fortunately, the train arrived in Jodhpur safely.
On arriving in Jodhpur, a town in Rajasthan, India, the women and children waited anxiously in the waiting room of the train station while the menfolk went in search of a place to stay. The station was packed to capacity, with people sleeping on the platform floor. Thankfully, the men managed to find a house large enough to accommodate the 40 odd family members.
Overnight, Meena says, they became panagiras (refugees) in India. The priority became putting food on the table. Everywhere you looked, there were long lines of people in search of work. The family worked hard to make ends meet. Even Meena and her older sisters took up embroidery and sewing to support their family financially. It was only two years later that the government allotted them ration cards.
After settling into a routine in Jodhpur, Meena continued her education where she studied seven grades of Sindhi and five grades of Hindi as her second language.
In 1959, she got married in Jaipur and in 1963, she moved to Singapore to be with her husband and where she continues to reside till this day. She has been blessed with three children and is actively involved in the religious activities at the Singapore Sindhi Association.