Behind the Scenes

One of my best friends growing up was Enid Blyton.  She invited me to The Enchanted Wood, introduced me to The Famous Five and held my hand as I experienced boarding school life at Malory Towers.  Books gave me a door into a magical world where I could see, smell, hear, taste and feel different cultures and imagine what it was like to walk in the shoes of a person I had never met.

But none of the books I read were about an Indian girl growing up in Hong Kong.  None of the adventures involved anything I was familiar with.  So I never thought that my life or the lives of those around me would ever be worth writing about. 

I grew up knowing that I was Sindhi and that my original homeland Sindh, was no longer in India because of a partition line that had been drawn a very long time ago. I knew that my parents’ families had had to leave and my parents had come to Hong Kong to build their new home.  Yet since I had no immediate attachment to Sindh, I never considered what this really meant.

Here in Hong Kong, I enjoyed dim sum as well as chicken curry, we made the most of lantern festival as well as throwing colours during Holi and we even profited from the red lai see packets we received at Chinese New Year as well as the new clothes and gifts that we were given at Diwali! My identity was rooted in the best of both worlds and I never considered that my family had lost something precious and irreplaceable along the way.

Yet on a few special occasions, I had the pleasure to sit with older relatives whose message was always the same. “Ah, there was nothing more wonderful than our days in Sindh.  That was true community.”  The life they described – extended families living under one roof, genuine quality time as respect and traditional values were stitched into the fiber of every family member and where even strangers pulled together to support those in need – always fascinated me.

Fast forward a few decades to the day my daughter Nadia came home from school saying that she had to answer a question: why do people migrate?  We spoke for a while about how Hong Kong is such a transitory place – that families are always coming and going because of a change in job or to move closer to loved ones.  Then we spoke about the refugees in Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia and about how sometimes people migrate because they have no choice. 

That is when a little light went on in my head.  It hit me that our family members, only two and three generations older, were part of one of the biggest mass migrations in world history and that this was something my kids should know about because it was their story too. And not only my kids but all children should hear this story because it was about a life-altering historical event. That weekend, when we met with my parents, Gope and Meera – A Migration Story was born. 

Going back in time and experiencing the sights and smells of Sindh through the stories my parents had been told, wasn’t like any Enid Blyton book I’d read before.  These reflections meant so much more because they were part of our personal narrative, dating back through the generational bloodlines of our ancestors, who once upon a time lived happily in Sindh.

Their memories explained how Sindhis lost their entire homeland, through no fault of their own and why today, we are scattered like diamonds across the globe. My parents’ recollections also told of how extremely heart-breaking the Partition of India was, displacing millions and creating an overwhelming refugee crisis. Yet these stories are also a testament to just how well our community has done on a global scale, not only to have survived through assimilation but also thrived, whilst preserving our inherited values and culture.

Although I was never there and did not endure the pain and suffering or lose loved ones like so many members from my community did, I believe that to truly know what we can accomplish, we must first understand what we are capable of.  In a similar way, to know where we are going, we must first understand where we have come from. I know I will not soon forget where my ancestors were ‘made from’ and more importantly what they were made of. 

My heartstrings were tugged as I wrote this historical fiction story, and it is my hope that yours will be too. 

Enjoy the book!