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Gujarati community spirit and the Manipuri loners

Tarun Nongthombam *

Gujarati community spirit and the Manipuri loners



It is really fascinating to see the enterprising nature of Gujaratis. From being land of Ambanis to one of the most industrialized state, owning nearly half of the motels in United States and every man in the street having the ambition to excel in business. Be my college friend in Gujarat, who even before completing his studies decided himself that he would set up a cycle shop or my Gujarati workmate who said after seeing an old smalltime banana seller, "This banana seller if Gujarati would not have stayed in this pitiful condition for so long but would have progressed into bigger business." What makes Gujarat and a Gujarati click, there must be something going right for this state and the community.

Gujarat success can be traced in its early history. Gujarat is blessed with long coastline, ports and did trade with overseas long before many parts in India even learn what is foreign trade. It forms a part of Indus valley civilization, which included sites like Lothal, which is considered as one of the few early ports. Hence, Gujarat's geography and its exposure to early trade laid a good foundation of the state.

Next come the migrants. Muslim conquest of Persia and persecution of Zoroastrians led to many fleeing, including Parsis who landed on the cost of Gujarat. Parsis approached the Hindu king of that time and requested for asylum. King was reluctant initially, little apprehensive of the well built Parsis and their different culture. Finally, asylum was granted with the following conditions-Parsi should adopt local language, woman should wear local dress and they should stop carrying weapons. This led to enriching of Gujarati culture without disturbing he existing one. Gujarat reaped the success of Parsis during British days and thereafter.

Sindhi migrants entered Gujarat in large numbers after India's partition in 1947.They brought trade and commerce expertise, as they were already a successful community in Sindh province. This resulted in competition with locals, leading in an overall positive effect for the state but one can still see love hate relationship among Sindhis and Gujaratis; Sindhis even calling Ambanis as Sindhis!

Gujaratis have never shied away from exploring foreign shores for a better life. This state has had many early risk takers who paved the way for the rest of the community to follow. The result is having significant number of Gujaratis in nearly 30 countries around the world. Large portion of expatriate population of East African Asian community is Gujarati, now settled in United Kingdom. They have large presence in Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Mozambique and South-East Asia besides many in developed countries like United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. They have always maintained relation with their home state even after migration unlike many other Indian migrants. Just imagine the amount of remittances these expatriates must have sent their home state, contributing to the state economy in a big way.

Gujarati migration in Fiji from the first couple grew to a community that dominated Fiji trade. It's all about unity for Gujaratis, once somebody is settled in a foreign land, he takes his family along, followed by his family clan and finally his community. Willingness to help each other is what makes them thrive and make it big wherever they are. They have phenomenal success as a community all around the world.

Community spirit of Gujaratis is splendidly displayed in Gujarati Samaj they run. It is a community organization doing work in cities around the world in social, cultural, education and tourism fields. Be it cities in United States, Europe or Africa you will find Gujarati Samaj helping young Gujaratis in education, in their early Career providing subsidized food, lodging and guidance. If you visit small religious town like Haridwar or Brindavan don't be surprised if you find a Gujarati Samaj in one of the narrow alleys.

Enough said of Gujaratis, where are we Manipuris? Why are we accused by our own people of being a loner, happy to be alone in the distant land and not helping our own people? As I was writing this article I couldn't resist asking my Gujarati workmate why would a person bring another person in the field he is working or doing business, doesn't he want to be the only Mr.Success from his community in that distant land? He gave an amusing but interesting reply, "We Gujaratis are not known for our bravery and number of Gujaratis in armed forces tells the story. We are a very social oriented community and we need each other help in any distant land to survive, we are too timid to be alone. Here, our timidity worked wonderfully in our favour."

Are we Manipuris really loners or we too na´ve to think ourselves as one-man army trying to conquer the world alone? Mass Manipuri migration that started with students is hardly two decades old. Students are happy with their hostels and too busy with books to think about others. When these students settle down as a family, this is when craving for a group who speaks similar language, eats similar food and who can be there at their family emergencies starts. This is when community groups start budding. It is foolish to compare with a big community like Gujarati but just to know where we stand, Gujarati Samaj in Delhi was established in 1897,this is few years after British hanged Tikendrajit! This shows the amount of work we have to do to reach the level of these Samaj. It will take many years from now to build strong community groups and we are not so good at any form of teamwork. The only hope is, these budding Manipuri groups we see now in different cities mature in the direction of Gujarati Samaj and not like the innumerable 'LUPS', which we see presently in Manipur.


* Tarun Nongthombam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at nong_tarun(at)rediffmail(dot)com
This article was posted on November 29, 2012.



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