Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Afghanistani Sikh families seek a new life in India

By Ravindra Sheoran, New Delhi, Aug.20 : The turmoil in Afghanistan may have compelled a large number of Sikh families to flee their motherland, and now a majority of those living in India are seeking a new life here, and hope that the Indian Government will come forward to resurrect their lives in some way.

Harinder Singh was once a prosperous cloth merchant in Kabul, but had to flee Afghanistan because of the turbulence there. He came to India with high hopes.

Harinder took to selling green almonds, as this was fruit was very popular among Afghans, and he thought it would attract the same kind of clientele in India. He, however, finds it tough to earn a successful living with his two sons and wife. “We crave for government’s assistance to grant us a permanent accommodation or land. We do not want to lead a life on lease. Every year, we have to shift our home which is very painful,” Singh said

There are 20,000 Afghan Sikh migrants, and after years of hardship, they and their families are now settling down. Many of them have taken up petty businesses. Despite their struggle to settle in a new country, they have not forgotten their traditions and customs.

Settled in New Delhi, hundreds of these families may well be identified by their clothes and eating habits.

There are many Afghaniss who value their freedom, cherish their traditions and customs, despite being in a new country.

Gurpreet Kaur, an Afghani Sikh woman, said: “This is Afghanistan’s tradition which we are following. We cover our head with a cloth. We still wear full sleeves as we were wearing in Afghanistan.”

Naura Singh, another Afghani Sikh, said: “The trend of people living in India is different from the people in Kabul. Here, we live with more freedom as we used to live in Afghanistan under a tyrannical ruler.”

Despite still trying to cope up with the modern life of Delhi, these Afganistanis have not forgotten a temptation for their favourite dish “Naan”. They prefer buying baked bread from their specially-owned `Dhabas’ or road-side eateries.

Large in size, Naans or the flat bread costs four cents each.

Although the youngsters have adapted themselves to Indian delicacies, elders continue to enjoy the same lifestyle here.

Prem Kaur, an Afghan customer, said: “We don’t cook `rotis’, the Indian bread, as we only eat Afghani breads. We had big houses in Kabul with our personal ovens. Here, the houses are small and we can’t keep an oven. Having no option we buy bread from `dhabas’ or the road-side eateries.”

Although the Gurudwaras in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Talibanis, the Sikhs had spirited away replicas of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to India for safekeeping and installed then in the Gurdwaras.

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