He carried his college with him

When Khushiram Motiram Kundnani left Sindh forever, he took what was most precious to him: the foundation with which he could rebuild the institution he was forced to leave behind. There were big risks in what he did, offset by the risk that the things he carried away would be destroyed or decay, unused, if left behind[1].

When Partition came, the sudden lawless and dangerous situation led to all schools and colleges in Hyderabad (Sindh) staying closed. On the day DG National College opened in November 1947, of six-hundred and fifty students, just one, a girl, attended. Of twenty-six staff members, only ten turned up.[2] As the Hindu exodus out of Sindh accelerated, the college was left deserted for months. Principal Kundnani somehow rescued what he could of the basic laboratory equipment and library books, filled them into trunks and escaped by train across the new border with the precious material.

Images of some of the laboratory equipment and library books, still in use at National College.

Staying in a cramped apartment in Agripada, Mumbai, with many others rendered homeless by Partition like himself, he would leave every morning[3]. Nobody knew exactly where he went, but everybody knew he was desperately trying to find a way to start National College again. It would not have the Phuleli flowing past it, but it would have the same ethos and many of the same staff members, exiled from Sindh like himself.

Every Sunday, Principal Kundnani sat in the crowded living room and wrote a stack of postcards to his colleagues and friends from Hyderabad, once professors of repute, now refugees struggling to make a living for themselves and their families in different parts of India. When he located the plot in Bandra where the college now stands – among the choicest real estate in all India today – people laughed at him saying that this remote, swampy location was never going to draw students. His wife Jotu gave him the jewellery she had received from the family and they sold some and mortgaged the rest: the seed money to buy the plot. Later, Barrister Hotchand Advani and others joined in with donations. Thanks to their efforts, the foundation stone of National College was laid in 1949, the first institution of the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board (HSNCB) which today educates nearly 50,000 students in seventeen graduate and post-graduate schools and institutions.

Excerpted from The Amils of Sindh: A Narrative History of a Remarkable Community by Saaz Aggarwal

Photo credit: Dr Subhadra Anand (researcher on the Sindhi diaspora, former principal of National College, and founder of Jhulelal Tirathdham, Narayan Sarovar.

[1] https://www.dawn.com/news/1287006/footprints-a-monument-to-hindu-philanthropy-turning-100

[2] The Making of Exile by Nandita Bhavnani Tranquebar Press (India) 2014 p55

[3] Interview with Kishu Mansukhani, who was a young boy in the same house at the time, on 8 Nov 2016

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