This book follows a style on the spectrum between British and American usage, a middle-ground widely accepted in the globalization of the language. It chose the idiomatic flow of contemporary English, only slightly apprehensive about the cohorts of coiffed and elegantly bejewelled elderly Amil ladies armed with century-old textbooks of the British Raj, who might wince when confronted with a mix of usage such as ‘programme’, ‘organization’, ‘ton’ and others, in the same book.
To give the reader the experience of a historically authentic setting, place names have been retained as they were in the period presented. However, as a result, Bombay and Mumbai could well appear on the same page when two eras are referred to. Similarly, in some places, measurement uses the metric system but, with pounds and feet the standard in pre-Partition India, miles and kilometres nestle side by side.
Many institutions have evolved with time; today’s Congress Party does not feature in this book whereas the pre-Independence Indian National Congress (INC), the entity in which it has its earliest origins, certainly does. There is also an attempt, in this book, to inculcate shifts of perception: The displaced Hindus of Sindh did not come ‘to India’! They had always been in India. When they left it was because a new border had been created and they were forced to flee their homeland and cross it. The displaced Hindus of Sindh did not come ‘from Pakistan’! They fled their homeland because Pakistan had been created and, very unexpectedly, they were made to realise with threats of violence that there was no place in it for them.
On a similar note – to be a member of the Hyderabad or Karachi Municipal Corporation was a matter of high prestige; a recognition of mature authority and administrative competence, not at all the kind of sleazy opportunistic identity associated with a similar position in today’s India.
Photo captions in this book do not specify ‘left to right’ on the understanding that readers of English would instinctively know that.
Hyderabad, Sindh was generally known by the migrant generation as ‘Hyderabad, Sindh’. In this book, the historic capital of the Amils is referred to simply as ‘Hyderabad’ and readers will be alerted when other Hyderabads appear. Sindh was called Scinde, Sinde, and Sindy by the British. In this book, the contemporary spelling ‘Sindh’ is used; to call it ‘Sind’ could be considered on the lines of choosing Cawnpore over Kanpur.
Using italics in a book written primarily for Indian readers can be treacherous to consistency with many commonly-used Indian words ending up inadvertently unitalicised. Words like sari, roti, chaddi and many more have long been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary. Most of my previous work has been determinedly in straight face, supplemented with a glossary that describes Indian words, dated expressions and acronyms. In this book, however, I have applied a suggestion from the children’s writer Varsha Seshan and occasionally used a font that simulates Sindhi for Sindhi words and words to be pronounced with a Sindhi accent, and another which simulates Devnagari for words from other Indian languages. This device is applied with the purpose of gently nudging Sindhi readers towards their heritage. There is also a glossary, and all suggestions for additional entries to it will be gratefully accepted.
Some Indian words with standard English spellings have been modified to fit the Sindhi context: Brahman instead of Brahmin; mandar instead of mandir and in fact Shah jo Rasalo rather than Shah jo Risalo.
Writing Sindhi names in English is not easy and some families stepped away from previously established norms, going from Gidwani to Gidvani or Gidwaney, while others who fell victim to the pen of the admissions clerk became Malani even though their father spelt his name Malaney. Some families developed their own standards: Jotsingh would have an h at the end of his name if he was a Lalvani but if an Advani he would be simply Jotsing, the pronunciation remaining the same. Non-standard spellings in this book respect the spelling chosen by the bearer of the name. With ‘Sai’, ‘Sainjin’, ‘Saeenjin’ it is the devotees who chose spellings they were accustomed to; similarly it was their descendants who specified ‘Rao’ or ‘Rai’ Bahadur.
In some cases, however, it was necessary to make a choice. Jairamdas’s father appeared to be unanimously designated Daulatram even though the stamp and first day cover issued in his honour by the Indian Postal Department presented him as Doulatram. This book retains the former spelling. Narain Nebhraj Advanie wrote his uncle’s name as Bherumal Maharchand Advani; in the Kimatrai and Shamdasani Foundation translations he is Bherumal Mahirchand Advani. Sahitya Akademi sources cite him as Bherumal Meharchand Advani. Bherumal, introduced on page 669, is quoted widely throughout this book; the last spelling is used.
In terms of the people in the book, most are highly respected for their achievements. However – and no matter how esteemed and glorious – honorifics have not been used. Mr, Shrimati, Dr, Principal, Rai Bahadur have all been explained once where necessary and dropped thereafter; especially when referring to their early lives, where people are presented simply with the names their family elders would have known them by. It may be noted in this context that Mohandas is better judged for his words and actions without the ‘Mahatma’ label.
I have written this book for lay readers, with the purpose of creating a many-layered understanding of the Amils of Sindh. Attempting to present as much information as possible in an interesting and enjoyable format, I wrote it as a series of interlinked stories. For the many who will refer to it for specific data about their own families, indices have been prepared. These indices are far from comprehensive and all suggestions will be considered for future reprints.
A group of illustrious Amils, c1880s. Image courtesy Leila Advani, whose great-grandfather Mehtabsing and great-grandfather-in-law Harising are both in the photograph. Some of these are the Khandarani Khalsas, the clan named after their ancestor Kandharimal Ditomal. In the late 1800s or early 1900s, they reverted to the surname Advani. This information is courtesy Harish Jagtiani, who adds, “Amils no doubt had great faith in Guru Nanak. However, there was an added economic incentive to being a burly, bearded Sikh: the British were more inclined to give jobs as at one glance they were seen to be not just ferocious but trustworthy too.” The list of names that connects the people is a precious record of people once of significance, but long forgotten