From Hyderabad to Malaysia
Tulsa Tolaram Nathwani (maiden name: Tulsi Veroomal Rughwani) was born on 31st August 1938 in Hyderabad, Sindh, British India.
The happy and luxurious life she led could not prepare her for the destruction and diseases that she would witness following Partition - no one could have been prepared for it.
Tulsa now lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and this is her story.
Born to Parpati and Veroomal Rughwani, Tulsa came from a family of six sisters and two brothers. Tulsa received her education in an English school, where she completed four grades of Sindhi and one grade of English.
Her father, Tulsa says, was a wealthy and renowned businessman, who supplied coal for trains. She describes her life as ‘luxurious’ and ‘living like royalty’. The family lived in a large mansion, and whatever Tulsa requested for, she got – right down to specially-commissioned sequined shoes that were made overnight!
However, it wasn’t just the material aspects that made life good. Tulsa recalls happy memories of how warm, loving and friendly the neighbours were. She remembers how the Sindhi festival of Lal Loi was celebrated in their house compound every year – families would get together at their house to burn a bonfire of sticks and logs. They would dance around the fire and her father would distribute mithais (sweets) and fruits to everyone who came.
All that changed when Partition happened. Tulsa recounts the violence and atrocities that started taking place. When the violence escalated further, and attacks intensified, her family made the decision to leave.
They took all their money, some clothes and valuables. Tulsa remembers that her mother carried her jewelry in a specially-tailored belt tied and worn around her body, which made her look like an expectant woman.
The family left by train to Marwar Junction, a town in Rajasthan, where they lived in a camp for a month there. The family’s destination was Ajmer, where Tulsa’s father had already bought a house.
After a month in the camp at Marwar Junction, they made their way to Ajmer. To their horror, they found their house occupied by another family! They government had apparently passed a law that allowed unoccupied, vacant houses to be allotted to others.
Out of compassion, a friend found them a house with a single room – they shared the room with 20 family members. For their daily food, each family member was provided one ration card by the government, which allowed them to buy food cheaply. In Ajmer, Tulsa attended a free government school where she studied three grades in Hindi.
“It was a difficult life.,” says Tulsa frankly. Finances were tough but her father did not want to borrow money from anyone. To keep the household running, her mother sold the jewelry that she had brought over, piece-by-piece.
Fortunately, due to his previous work supplying coal to railways in Sindh, here in Ajmer, Tulsa’s father also managed to find similar work supplying lumber, wood and coal. However, the family still had to work hard to make ends meet. Tulsa mentions that she worked for a while in Pannigram Chowk, in a factory which made khadi – an Indian handspun and handwoven cloth.
Tulsa’s story has a happy ending. She got married in Ajmer in 1953 and three years later, she moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where she has been living for the past 63 years. Although she is happy to be in Malaysia, she sometimes wishes she could go back to Hyderabad to see her family home.
Tulsa has a warm, caring and helpful nature. She is loved and respected by the Sindhis in Kuala Lumpur. At the monthly Chand function, she recites the palao, a prayer offered to Jhulelal beseeching Him to bless everyone.