Far from the ancient city built by the Mirs on the east bank of the Indus is the reclusive Sindhi Colony in Cox Town. This quiet residential area with modest houses is located right opposite the Indian Gymkhana at the intersection of Wheeler Road and Assaye Road.
The temple, Sindhi Association and the Sindhi Social Hall, a community hub for celebrations, marriages and festivals such as Holi and Guru Nanak Jayanti, are also set within its precinct, making it the insular community housing colony it was intended to be.
But not many in Bangalore know that just two generations ago, its inhabitants had set out on an arduous journey from the historic Pakistani city of Hyderabad in Sindh and crossed over into India during the Partition. They were Hyderabadis, distinct from the other Sindhi communities such as the Bhaibands, Aamils and Shikapuris.
“Most of us arrived here around 1947–48, with virtually nothing in our pockets,” recalls Ashok Daryanan. “My father had only Rs. 8,000 with which to re-establish a livelihood and rebuild our lives. From Bombay, we went to Goa where we first heard about Bangalore.” Many others took the same route and arrived at a town they had been told was cheap to live in, offered business potential and above all, had an excellent weather.
According to residents, the State government marked out the area with subsidised rates for the new migrants. The Sindhi Cooperative Housing Society was established so they could buy land, allot sites to community members and take loans to build single storey houses. The only change since then is that the houses have now grown vertically.
A few of the initial settlers moved from the Eurasian influenced Wheeler Road area in Cox Town, to more affordable localities such as Malleswaram and Seshadripuram. “We swam in lakes and played gilli danda on empty streets with no traffic. We also went to the best schools in the area like St. Germains and St. Josephs,” says Harish Mirpuri. In the process, Bangalore was also introduced to sai bhaji-chawal, koki, kadhi and dal pakwan.
The resilient community immersed itself in its new environment and soon became leading traders and merchants in the city. Well-known entrepreneur and philanthropist, Manohar Chatlani says his family business, The Favourite Shop, has been in existence on Commercial Street for more than 60 years. Many Bangaloreans have also grown up with Bhagatram Sweets on Commercial Street and Kids Kemp on M.G. Road.
But the community also gave back to the city that sheltered it. Hidden within the Sindhi Colony are generous donors who quietly take care of the less fortunate.