Punwani Jyoti, Bhavnani Nadnita: Jai Hind College:I WILL & I CAN

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was just one college a Sindhi was supposed to go to – Jai Hind.

Parents who’d crossed over from Sind after Partition just naturally expected their kids would join the institution set up by their fellow refugees.

Children who refused had to live with the disappointment of their parents.

I will and I can Nandita Bhavnani’s The Story of Jai Hind College, which released last week, explains why this disappointment ran far deeper than the normal regret ambitious parents feel when their children let them down.

Refugees from Kalyan sold stationary outside the college on credit because they knew the families of the students

Jai Hind wasn’t just a college. It was a continuation of the D J Sind College of Karachi, rated the best in Sind. Started by a band of professors from D J Sind, who had had to leave their beloved institution in 1948, Jai Hind very quickly earned a reputation for excellence.The founder-professors were respected names in the community, torch-bearers of a culture that had overnight become endangered. To what better hands could Sindhi parents hand over their children?

So, when a teenager, growing up in cosmopolitan Mumbai, chose to reject Jai Hind because it was nick-named ‘Jai Sind’, the sadness his/her parents felt was palpable. Turns out ‘Jai Sind’ was a myth, probably created by the refugee community’s pride in “asaanjo (our) college”. Of course, there was a preponderance of ‘anis’ in the college, especially among the staff. But within five years of its founding, half the students were non-Sindhi. Today, Jai Hind’s principal is not Sindhi.

At the book release, there was not a single Sindhi element in the programme, except of course, the managing board’s members on stage. Perhaps fittingly, the programme ended with an Urdu ghazal written by a Pakistani poet born in Lucknow, and sung by a Pakistani singer.Founder-principal T M Advani (he became the vice-chancellor of Bombay University in 1957) would have been proud. From the start, he made it clear he didn’t want Jai Hind to become ‘Sindhistan’. However, this was primarily a college started by refugees for their community.

Morarji Desai sanctioned a plot for the college building near Churchgate railway station. He laid the foundation stone on September 14, 1950 (R) In 1957, Principal T M Advani became the vice-chancellor of Bombay University

Many Sindhis had their education cut short by Partition. For most of them, struggling to find shelter and jobs in a new city, Jai Hind was a refuge. Within four months of Advani reaching Mumbai, he got permission to start early morning classes in Elphinstone College’s premises. That proved ideal for ‘earners and learners’ who would come from camps in Ulhasnagar, Chembur and Sion.Chemistry professor G S Kotwani made sure the knowledge he imparted would help his refugee students – the chemical composition of papad, the process of soap-making. “You’ll never starve,” he assured them. Refugees from Kalyan sold stationary outside the college on credit because they knew the families of the students. The canteen served tikki, samosa, chana-dabroti (bread). Well-known singer, Ram Panjwani, would break into song while teaching Sindhi literature.

The first generation of students recall professors who went out of their way to encourage them to overcome their refugee status, living the college motto: ‘I will and I can’. By the end of the first year, Jai Hind was winning in inter-collegiate cultural and cricket competitions, and it had a Marathi Vaghmay Mandal. Interestingly, the Marathi-speaking peon from DJ Sind also joined Jai Hind!

LEFT: It was feared that the college would be predominantly Sindhi, but within five years of its founding, half the students were non-Sindhi Above: By the end of the first year, Jai Hind was winning in inter-collegiate cultural and cricket competitions

Nandita Bhavnani isn’t a Jai Hind alumna, and she chose to marry a non-Sindhi. But researching this book has left her proud not only of the college but also of her community. “It’s true Sindhis do have a never-say-die spirit. Uprooted, they resettled in a big city like Mumbai without begging for quotas. They have given in great measure to the city and to the country they came to.”

It wasn’t easy. Of the five professors who decided to start a new college in Mumbai, three were over 50. They came here penniless. T M Advani had been offered double his salary by Sind’s education minister to stay on as principal of D J Sind College. And the government here, “their government”, didn’t want them. Morarji Desai, then Bombay’s Home Minister, told them they should have stayed back and faced the Partition violence. He wasn’t the only one to convey that Sindhis were what Advani bitterly described as the unwelcome “flotsam and jetsam of Partition”.

The dream of setting up another D J Sind college consumed Principal Advani. But faced with such hostility, he walked out rather than grovel. “The Sindhi youth has lost its moorings. The time may come when you may find a bomb under your seat,” he warned Morarji. The next day, Morarji called him back and remained a friend of Jai Hind till he died.

Researching Sindhi society, Nandita found Jai Hind cropping up all the time. “The history of the college is a history of the community in Mumbai,” she says. The founders are no more, but such was their impact on students, that Nandita had no problem putting together the heady experiences of the early years.

I always wondered why stalwarts of the community kept wanting to donate to Jai Hind, even after it became a well-established college. Now one understands. As professor Ram Panjwani said: “Jai Hind College was not made from stone, cement, iron and wood. This house of learning is a miracle of self-confidence, faith in God and hard work.”

Nandita Bhavnani’s The Story of Jai Hind College explains the journey of the college through its community
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