Gujarat’s gifts to India and Pakistan

Published: February 23, 2012
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The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore 
khaled.ahmed@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore [email protected]

My friend, Aakar Patel has written an interesting column in this newspaper (January 8, 2012) about trading castes — Bania and Khatri — who did not convert in Pakistani Punjab and thus left it mostly Jat-dominated and warlike. Bania and Khatri castes involved themselves in commerce and bequeathed to the Hindus of India the capacity to view life pragmatically and not through the lens of honour or ‘ghairat’.

Aakar, a Gujarati, thinks Pakistan needs pragmatic rather than honour-bound leaders for its survival. He quotes the warlike-Gakhar army chief of Pakistan, General Kayani, as saying: “Pakistan’s honour will not be traded for prosperity.”

Because of him, Pakistan may lose its prosperity and has lost much of its honour because of galloping poverty. In opposition to him, he points as it were, three Pakistanis from the trading class: Pervez Hoodbhoy (Lohana/Khoja), Abdus Sattar Edhi (Lohana/Memon) and Najam Sethi (Punjabi/Khatri). He says: “These three men represent the best of Pakistan.”

I have always held that Indian Gujarat rescued humanity by giving the two economic hearts of South Asia — Mumbai and Karachi — the gift of its trading classes. Gujarat had the only port, Surat, facing westward and bred traders among its Hindu population. Because of commerce, Gujarat became prosperous; it also produced people of pragmatic wisdom. The first real revenue expert of India, Todar Mal, was imported by the Mughal king Akbar from Gujarat. His system was borrowed by the British Raj too.

Gujarat gave South Asia both Gandhi and Jinnah. It gave us the only trading class that respects work ethic. You want to see the difference? In Punjab, there is less trust — as per Francis Fukuyama, the basic trait of the rising state in the West — and a less reliable system of payments than in Karachi where the Memon seth pays up to establish trust. Beware of the Punjabi trader who works on the basis of deferred payments!

Hoodbhoy and Edhi are Lohanas, as was Jinnah. But Najam Sethi may not know what kind of Khatri he is. He is an Oxford-trained economist and puts economy before honour. In Pakistan, the presiding symbolism cannot be missed. Pakistani textbooks lionise the Afghan warrior-king Mahmud Ghaznavi who attacked Gujarat for loot. Pakistan’s most dangerous missile system Hatf-3 targeting India is named ‘Ghaznavi’. Honour-based Pakistan is at odds with commerce-based India.

The word ‘seth’ comes from ‘shreshtha’. It literally means ‘most splendid’ in the Rigved. Over centuries, it became attached to the business community. Now the dictionary says many things. It means ‘wholesale businessman’; it also means ‘banker’. Suffice it to say, it leans more towards finance than commerce.

‘Seth’ has no clearly pejorative nuance in the whole of India, except in Oria, the language of Orissa, where the Sethis have become washermen. At least, this is what my Comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages says. Sethi could have evolved from a variant of respect, ‘seth-ji’, but in India it has one other form: ‘shetia’.

There is a very interesting story about the ‘shetia’ of Bombay by Kathryn Hansen in her book Sarai Reader: The Cities of Everyday Life. In the 19th century, Bombay was dominated by the shetia class comprising Parsis, Bohras and Hindus — all from Gujarat. The ‘Shetia’ supplied credit and transport to the British. In shipping, only one family, the Wadias of Surat in Gujarat, had a monopoly. (A Wadia was to become the son-in-law of Jinnah.)

When the British made military forays into the East, the Shetias of Bombay benefited, and some of them even traded in opium after the East Indian Company lost its monopoly over the China trade. Jinnah’s in-laws, the Petits, were among them. The great Dadabhai Nauroji, whom the Quaid admired, also came from this class.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (71)

  • fus
    Feb 24, 2012 - 12:01AM

    Interesting and fun to read. Good one.

    Recommend

  • fahim
    Feb 24, 2012 - 12:31AM

    great article… shows where we originally belong and how separated from roots all of us are heading steadily towards dark as our “all powerful” and mullahs force an alien culture upon us, only to satisfy their personal gains. Religion and Culture/Tradition/Origin/history are two very different things. But we have come a long way leaving such noble concepts behind.

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  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 12:36AM

    All communities in port cities are natural traders and it has nothing to do with caste as the author suggests.

    The Arab communities of western India, chettiyar communities of eastern India, were also natural traders since Roman times, and Roman ships sailed from eastern coast of India since 300BC.

    Trade involves credit, honesty, and certain degree of trust and all require centuries of amalgamation with local customs and traditions. Hence naturally, the trade practices of port cities and agrarian cities will be different as are their customs and outlook in life.

    What is missing in PAK is the natural outlook on life and It is uniform in all castes, if one is to go into that route and the concept of “eating grass” firmly established the PAK psyche at present, regarless of prosperity associated with trade. The text books did their part also.

    So, here we are. Karachi merchants want MFN status to India and Punjab brigade resisting it. However, the punjab brigade is open for trade with China and the Karachi merchants don’t care either way. What does it tell then?

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  • Balma
    Feb 24, 2012 - 12:59AM

    I don’t think all Wadias are related. Also, not all Wadias are Parsis as I believe the author is implying (?).

    Anyway, there are wali-Wadias in Karachi. One of them, Sulaiman Wali-wadia started “Little Folks School” in the 50’s or 60’s in Karachi.
    Wadia like Patel, Ibelieve, is common among Muslim, Hindus, and Parsis. And, noooo, Patel does not mean Motel:-)

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  • Amina
    Feb 24, 2012 - 1:00AM

    Very interesting and informative reading. If I’m not wrong most of the leaders of the subcontinent at Partition, M A Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi were Gujrati or if Gujrati descent as we’re the leading business families such as the Tatas, the Bajaj, Wadias and Godrej.

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  • Feb 24, 2012 - 2:10AM

    very interesting. you learn new things every day. thanks for doing the research for us and putting it together so beautifully.
    i agree with akar patel, those three people represent best of pakistan in three different fields.

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  • M
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:33AM

    @Amina:
    You are mostly correct. Among the founding fathers Nehru was from Kashmir & Sardar Patel was from Gujarat. Bajaj are from Punjab but Ambani & Azim Premji are from Gujarat as are most other industrial tycoons. Today Gujarat is the most developed state in India and is almost on par with first world. Gujarat & Gujarati’s are an economic marvel. However Gujarat is not perfect. It has a long history of communal riots with loss of life on both Hindu & Muslim sides.Both communities are to be blamed for inciting riots at one time or other

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  • Pappo Piplia
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:39AM

    what is india’s defense budget?

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  • G. Din
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:43AM

    @Amina:
    “…M A Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi were Gujrati or if Gujrati descent “
    Sardar Vallabhai Patel, a giant of Indian Freedom movementr was a Gujrati who was singularly responsible for consolidating hundreds of kingdoms, principalities etc. of British India into one whole, India. Nehru was a Kashmiri Pandit by descent as were Allama Iqbal and Saadat Hussain Manto.
    Here is another gem about Indian Gujratis. This is the community now firmly dominating world precious stones trade. Transactions worth millions are done just by word of mouth. No legal papers drawn ever! Such is the spirit of honour amongst them. Imagine that!!!!

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:44AM

    I believe that some of the best people we have in Pakistan are the Memons. But I do disagree with your views on Kayani. And Pakistani Punjab is Rajput dominated not Jat.

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  • Pappo Piplia
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:58AM

    and Nehru was a kashmiri.

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  • Santosh
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:59AM

    Shreshtha in this context does not mean most splendid. It is a combination of two Sanskrit words Shri + Ishta. Shri = Laxmi, Goddess of fortune, Ishta = Favored, Liked, Loved
    Shrestha or Shreshthi was used to indicate a person favoured by fortune and wealth.
    It then evolved to mean something that is the best of the lot.

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  • ayesha
    Feb 24, 2012 - 4:08AM

    @Amina:
    Nehru was a Kashmiri not a Gujrati. Sardar Patel was a Gujarati as was Dadabhai Naoroji.

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  • blithe
    Feb 24, 2012 - 4:25AM

    what a simplistic article!

    the author fails to mention the dangerous degree of communalism in Gujratis.

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:24AM

    Good and informative article. This much about Gujarat. How about other regions of pre-partitioned India? Most of present day Bollywood drew its talent from Lahore area and Bengal. Most actors came from Punjab. Kapoors and Great Dilip Sahab from Peshawar, Lahore has always been the cultural capital of India. Fashions came from Lahore. Salwar Kameez has invaded not only India but nearby countries as well. Every province of India has something very unique. Every caste has its identifiable characters. Banaras has been classical musical capital of India. Great Bismillaha Khan Khan and Pt Ravi Shankar both hail from this city. Wish author educates us more on such topics.

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  • TightChuddi
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:35AM

    Nehru had no Gujrati blood in him. He was a Kashmiri Pandit whose family had settled in Allahbad (in Uttar Pradesh state of India) for generations. Also Bajaj is Punjabi. Birlas are Marwari origanlly from Marwa region of Rajasthan.

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  • Sam Dhar
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:39AM

    Actually your mistaken Amina, Nehru was of Kashmiri Pandit ancestry not Gujarati!

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  • vasan
    Feb 24, 2012 - 6:21AM

    Jon B : Minor point. Chettiyar community is from Tamilnadu and not from eastern India. They are very good traders and trading with the southeast asian countries for a long time. Many of them live there also

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 24, 2012 - 7:41AM

    By the way what is in zaath any way…

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 24, 2012 - 7:54AM

    Gujrath Bunyas were very closed relation with British Raj and surath port was first ever build by English..

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  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 7:59AM

    @vasan:
    Thanks for the correction. I should have type southeastern India. Annamali university was first land grant university of Asia established by the wealthy merchants from this community. The university played an important part in educating Indian civil servants during the early years of Indian republic along with Madras University. Many universities of southern India were charted based on this first private land grant university.

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  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 8:39AM

    @Santosh:
    Sri + Ishta = god’s beloved ; Sri = god and Ishta = beloved. Srimati = goddess. As Laxmi is goddess (of wealth), I believe Shreshtha is meant as Gods beloved for masculine gender and Shreshthi for feminine gender instead of meaning persons favored by goddess of wealth as you suggest.

    Sri Rama , Sri Ranga, Sri Kanth , and so is Sri Ishta.

    I think the author is correct in interpreting “Seth” as most Splendid but not sure if it is derived from Shreshtha as the latter means only gods beloved. However, Seth only means most splendid: Seth Ram or also called as Sethu Rama is used in the description of Ram in Ramayana to describe his splendid handsome nature by the poet.

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  • rehmat
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:09AM

    @blithe : Azim Premji (Muslim), Dhirubhai Ambani (Hindu) and Ratan Tata (Parsee) are all Gujarati. One instance of Hindu Muslim riots that happened 10 years back in response to a terror act by Muslims cannot be echoed and re-echoed like a hall of mirrors endlessly to call Gujratis communal

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  • Zalim singh
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:50AM

    Good articel again.

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  • PK
    Feb 24, 2012 - 11:07AM

    @ John B: arnt there any newspapers in India that u come here to give comment on each and every artcile in our newspapers. “Apnay kaam se kaam rakho”

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  • amlendu
    Feb 24, 2012 - 11:15AM

    @John B:
    It is Shree and not sri. And Shree means Laxmi or wealth. Shresthi word was used for big merchants and bankers in ancient India (at least till Gupta empire)

    Overall a good article. I would just like to correct one fact. Todarmal was a genius on revenues and was a great policymaker and administrator but he was not the first revenue expert form India. That honor goes to Vishnugupt (Yes, Chanakya who is very much loathed by extremists like Zaid Hamid for being a hindu strategist) who wrote arthshastra, a book for policy making, revenue generation, administration and budget making for states. He has provided alot of details in this book on how to make policies for generating revenue for the state in a sustainable manner.Recommend

  • BlackJack
    Feb 24, 2012 - 12:39PM

    @John B:
    I recognize that we are bit off topic – but Santosh is right in that Sri is another name for Lakshmi, but on its own means diffusing light/ radiance/ beauty. So in names like Srikanth it means the beloved of Sri. Sethuram is connected with the Sethu (bridge) at Rameswaram (Ram who built the Sethu) and not to describe his physical qualities. Shresth (while I agree with the sandhi-vicched) on its own means excellent, the ‘most’ best etc (again agreeing with Santosh) – but I concur that the connection with Seth is a bit tenuous at best.

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  • Abid P. Khan
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:06PM

    @Ali Tanoli:

    Gujrath Bunyas were very closed relation with British Raj and surath port was first ever build by English..

    While in real life the story was a bit different. Surat, an ancient port was the main trading point under the Moghal rule. With the passage of time it got silted. Bigger ships could not berth at Surat harbour any longer. Trade volume declined.

    Calcutta where the English established themselves was too far in the east, merchants in England wanted an alternative facility. Developing a harbour at Bombay thus became the first big project undertaken by the colonialists.

    Thousands of Khatris (Gujrati speaking) have a strong presence in the business community of Karachi. Columns by this author remain “Lite”. It takes all kinds.

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  • Pooja Shah
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:11PM

    @Amina: Not the Bajaj family – they’re marwadi, from Rajasthan and not Punjab as someone else has stated.

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  • Nandita
    Feb 24, 2012 - 2:25PM

    blithe

    kindly visit Gujarat once and exprience Gujarati hospitality move across gujarat and then judge how communal gujaratis are….Gujarat as portrayed by Media is not at all communal cause Gujaratis are business men and they know for business you need peace…

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  • Feb 24, 2012 - 2:29PM

    good

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  • Mahesh Patil
    Feb 24, 2012 - 3:50PM

    Very interesting article and very interesting comments are being exchanged.When our ancestors were related why this hatred,suspicion and wars between India and Pakistan?

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  • Udaya Bose
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:01PM

    @John B:
    In my view, Shreshthi, as a leading trader was called, should be interpreted as “Principal” or the owner of the trading house. “Shreshtha” means outstanding or main.
    Secondly “chettiyar” is really a corruption of shreshthi.They are from Tamil Nadu. We have “shetty” in Karnataka which again is the trading community.
    I am not sure about the Bajajs of the Jamnalal Bajaj family being Punjabis .They are Maheshwaris from Rajasthan as far as I know. Bajaj probably signifies a trader in cloth.
    As in the popular song ‘ud ud baithi bajajiya dukaniya, kapde ka sab ras le liyo re pinjrewali muniya’

    One must also remember that the overland trade route from Iran along the Makran coast passed through Sindh and then branched off into Gujarat and Rajasthan on its way to the Gangetic Plain

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  • Sanjay Sharma
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:11PM

    @PK:
    The same query was raised in ‘The Friday Times’ two months back when I opened my heart to one of the articles appeared in it. One Pakistani friend asked me as to why I was interested in the affairs of Pakistan and not looking at the pathetic conditions of U.P., where I hail from. The reason is that many Pakistani, including the writer of this article, are upright, truthful and brave against all odds, and who, as I presume, really want best of relations between the two neighbours. That is why I visit Pakistani news-papers and make comments. So, don’t feel bad and always remain positive for better future. Please enjoy a very good article.

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  • Mom
    Feb 24, 2012 - 5:38PM

    Oh.. the many praises for the elite castes.. Even in this 21st century

    The curse of South Asia.. which Gandhi realised and tried to fight off..
    Everybody forgets.. how these elite castes reached their status today.. how they were able to preserve their privileges by power, false religious doctrines and money..
    While depriving the lower castes of any dignity..

    If a high caste student turns out to be brilliant, rich and healthy, they dont see how those factors were present in their family for hundreds of years..

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  • Zalim singh
    Feb 24, 2012 - 6:18PM

    @ blithe

    I am working in Gujarat. I dont understand what you are speaking about. Gujarat is a very tolerant place. Gujaratis are known for thier open-ness and friendship. In Baroda where I stay, there are people from every state in India and people of every religion- Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Bhuddists, Sikhs, Jews, pharsis, every body. I never saw any discrimination. It is pure propagands from our ruling congress party. They are jealous of Gujarat’s development. They are vilified by Sonia Gandhi.
    .

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  • John B
    Feb 24, 2012 - 7:10PM

    @PK:
    Thank you. There are more intellectually challenging events in PAK at this moment than anywhere. Besides, when my capital is invested in PAK it is in my best interest to keep tabs of how it is used.

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  • Shakir Lakhani
    Feb 24, 2012 - 7:43PM

    The writer uses the term “Gujrati” to mean anyone who speaks the Gujrati language. In my opinion, Parsis are not Gujratis (they are descended from Iranians and have always married within their community). Dadabhoy Naoroji and Dinshaw Petit were Parsis who spoke Gujrati. There are Parsis in Iran and South India who do not speak Gujrati. Similarly, although Mr. Jinnah’s mother tongue was Gujrati, he cannot be called Gujrati (his ancestors, like mine, were Sindhi Hindu Lohanas). Again, the term “Memon” is loosely used in Punjab to denote anyone who speaks Gujrati (or the Sindhi dialect; edmoni” or “Kutchi”). Just as there are Christians and Hindus who speak Punjabi, there are Gujrati/Memoni/Kutchi speakers who are Muslims, Christians and HIndus (again, Mr. Jinnah was not a Memon but a Gujrati-speaking Khoja).

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  • mani
    Feb 24, 2012 - 8:06PM

    In last century Gujrat gave Jinnah And Gandhi but now it produce Modi and Co. What happen to Gujrat pragmatism?

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  • BlackJack
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:10PM

    @mani:
    Given the fact that even the most strident critics cannot but deny that Modi has been good for the state (and scrupulously honest), Guj pragmatism seems to be alive and well. He has been invited to China, praised by the US, opposition leaders (including Shiela Dixit and Mehbooba Mufti) and even by the Pak Chambers of Commerce!

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  • Babloo
    Feb 24, 2012 - 9:36PM

    True, Gandhi and Jinnah, came from the same Gujrati community of Kathiawad. True , that the ancestors of Gandhi and Jinnah , were Hindus. However, the similarities end there. No two persons can be more different, in personality, ideology and style than Gandhi and Jinnah were. So, perhaps only one of them can be a gift and not both.

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  • mani
    Feb 24, 2012 - 10:15PM

    @BlackJack: If economic is criteria than Under Gadafi Libya’s GDP per person is more than 14000 dollar with all the health education is free. Do we called Him great leader. No leaders are great if they bring love and peace not just for votes make people emotional and sow seeds of hatred.

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  • 99
    Feb 24, 2012 - 10:58PM

    @mani:
    I do agree that economy cant be the only measure of success. But Modi has won successive elections. You can say the state is polarized based on propaganda but even in muslim dominated areas BJP MLAs have been elected. In india there is a democratic process (unlike libya) and he has been winning regularly. Gujrat is the most developed state in India which was not the case before he took over so obviously he has done something right. Yes he did not perform his role well in the riots but he was investigated by the courts and was not found guilty. The muslims in Gujrat havents run away. If things were so bad they would have left.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:25AM

    @Babloo
    So u saying Jinnah was a gift thank u man
    @Abid P khan,
    What about Khatris in Pindi khep area i mean RAWATH areas Hindus who became muslims and are good traders in pakistan.Recommend

  • G. Din
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:45AM

    @mani:
    “No leaders are great if they bring love and peace not just for votes make people emotional and sow seeds of hatred.”
    He did not sow any hatred; he reacted to the harvest of hatred. Just for that, he will always be celebrated as indeed Gujratis have been doing ever since.
    @Babloo:
    “No two persons can be more different, in personality, ideology and style than Gandhi and Jinnah were. “
    Jinnah was for most of his life much like Gandhi. It is only towards his end he turned to be how, unfortunately, we remember him as. His only flaw was that he gave in to opportunism and larger-than-life ego towards the end of his life.
    Regardless, any leader who has had as much impact on history as he had can still be termed as a gift though it may be of a perverse kind according to many.

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  • Feb 25, 2012 - 12:49AM

    it is distasteful to compare castes. also, Pakistan tries to relate with Gujarat state! I may ask, why India’s biggest shame uttar pradesh,bihar,chattisgarh not picked for comparision by the author?

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 25, 2012 - 12:50AM

    @Zalim singh
    i am agreed with u man Gujrathis and south inidans are famous for its Discrimination against others and they are Rude and selfished peoples only in india and they just care for there intrest only they are like jews and chinese of inida.Recommend

  • Acharya
    Feb 25, 2012 - 1:23AM

    @John B:
    //Thank you. There are more intellectually challenging events in PAK at this moment than anywhere. Besides, when my capital is invested in PAK it is in my best interest to keep tabs of how it is used. //
    Nice. I support you. Nobody can argue against that.

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  • Bhushan
    Feb 25, 2012 - 2:13AM

    Today its impossible to speak about gujrat without speaking about Modi a fine administrator, son of soil and the best chief minister among a lot of 30 plus CMs in India. He gives hope of better politics in future in India.

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  • M
    Feb 25, 2012 - 2:46AM

    @Mom:
    Nitwits like you have to inject the “elite class” BS even if it is entirely out of place. All successful Gujarati’s are either vaishyas or Jain/Muslim/Parsi. None of these are considered elite in the Hindu caste system. If anything there is a lesson to be learnt by the so called backward castes from the non elite Gujarati’s who rule the world today.

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  • Babloo
    Feb 25, 2012 - 3:00AM

    @Ali Tanoli,
    Those Hindus that converted to Islam, ( which may be 90% or more of Pakistani people ) , immediately underwent a automated DNA change, and became Arabs.

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  • gp65
    Feb 25, 2012 - 3:45AM

    @Shakir Lakhani: “In my opinion, Parsis are not Gujratis ”
    You are ofcourse entitled to your opinion. The opinion of Parsis that I know (I went to a school with many Parsi students and teachers) is that they consider themselves Gujarati. Just like Memons (the ones in India as well as the ones who migrated to Africa) consider temselvs Gujrati. Gujarati does not mean only Hindu Gujaratis. It means anyone whose mother tongue is Gujarati – no matter where in the world they live. And yes I am a Gujarati myself.

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  • gp65
    Feb 25, 2012 - 3:50AM

    @mani: “In last century Gujrat gave Jinnah And Gandhi but now it produce Modi and Co. What happen to Gujrat pragmatism?”

    I think BlackJack has already responded about Modi. Other ‘pragmatic’ Gujarati people are Ratan Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani Azim Premji. Our current chief justice is also a Gujarati – a Parsi Gujarati.

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  • M
    Feb 25, 2012 - 4:04AM

    @mani:
    Gujarati pragmatism is alive and on turbo boost since Modi took office. All Gujarati’s including Muslims have chosen to forgive & forget the dark chapter of Godhra. You see Gujarati’s know that their future & welfare lies in increasing prosperity which cannot be achieved by keeping old wounds alive.

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  • Acharya
    Feb 25, 2012 - 4:40AM

     I love the way you bring to the fore ancient sanskrit source words when you write about various topics and concepts. It makes your writing and your ideas very interesting and deep. Connecting with Sanskrit in this unique manner is your forte. In the process, I myself learn something new. For example, I have always found the word “shreshtth” very beautiful, and replete with vibrations of power and purity but I did not know it occurs In the Rigved. So thank you for teaching me something new. Mane tamari writing khub gamechhe. Tame saachi vaat karo chho. I personally think SuperGujarat is today india’s coolest state. Imagine, the indo-pak landmass would all have been one great unified and SHRESHTHH (most superior, most exalted, most illustrious) nation in the world today if the religion had stayed put in the place of its birth and left us south asians alone.

    I would agree with you though that the word probably connotes “most splendid” in the context of the Rigved rather than the meaning that commentator Santosh is ascribing which I feel might be a later meaning, though the word does probably stem from an expansion of “shri/sri/shree” which has many different basic meanings, namely – light, wealth, splenour, good fortune, and beauty. Even though Santosh is right in that Shri is another name for Mahalakshmi/Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Good Fortune and the consort of Hari/Lord Visnu, I feel that the earliest meanings of the word “shri” probably relate to notions of splendour and light, rather than wealth. Just a gut feeling. Of course, on a related note, one of the thousand names for Lord Vishnu enumerated in the Vishnusahasranama is “Jyeshthh-Shreshtth, which I interpret to mean “the most exalted and the beloved of Shri”. Thanks again for a great article.

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  • lobe
    Feb 25, 2012 - 4:41AM

    @Ali Tanoli:Get a life dude dont utter crap without giving it a proper thought. Gujs are business minded i agree but trading communities whether Gujs, Marwadi, Chetteirs are the risk takers they are the once who questioned boundaries they made money but also created employment for others also. As far as south Indians being discriminators, for ur info the Portuguese, the French, Arabs, Chinese all had good trade relationships with South Indians. We dominate IT industry now, we dominated in Mathametics but still we belive in humility and being down to earth. Ever heard how Narayan Murthy’s life stile.Recommend

  • Screaming Najam Sethi
    Feb 25, 2012 - 5:15AM

    Najam Sethi is Cambridge educated, not Oxford. Factual inaccuracies result in loss of credibility and value of the article

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  • Acharya
    Feb 25, 2012 - 6:58AM

    @author
     

     I love the way you bring to the fore ancient sanskrit source words when you write about various topics and concepts. It makes your writing and your ideas very interesting and deep. Connecting with Sanskrit in this unique manner is your forte. In the process, I myself learn something new. For example, I have always found the word “shreshtth” very beautiful, and replete with vibrations of power and purity but I did not know it occurs In the Rigved. So thank you for teaching me something new. Mane tamari writing khub gamechhe. Tame saachi vaat karo chho. I personally think SuperGujarat is today india’s coolest state. Imagine, the indo-pak landmass would all have been one great unified and SHRESHTHH (most superior, most exalted, most illustrious) nation in the world today if the religion had stayed put in the place of its birth and left us south asians alone.

    I would agree with you though that the word probably connotes “most splendid” in the context of the Rigved rather than the meaning that commentator Santosh is ascribing which I feel might be a later meaning, though the word does probably stem from an expansion of “shri/sri/shree” which has many different basic meanings, namely – light, wealth, splenour, good fortune, and beauty. Even though Santosh is right in that Shri is another name for Mahalakshmi/Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Good Fortune and the consort of Hari/Lord Visnu, I feel that the earliest meanings of the word “shri” probably relate to notions of splendour and light, rather than wealth. Just a gut feeling. Of course, on a related note, one of the thousand names for Lord Vishnu enumerated in the Vishnusahasranama is “Jyeshthh-Shreshtth, which I interpret to mean “the most exalted and the beloved of Shri”. Thanks again for a great article.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 25, 2012 - 8:38AM

    @lobe,
    it is a truth man i lived in mid east for many years and have seen those south indians racist
    they only prefered there own lang and are peoples and same way the guj are too most cast
    and brothery system racist peoples look at memons, patil, parsi, and marwaris, khoja agha
    khanis, bohris u name it man and by the way world is changed and we have in pakistan there
    are other than guj doing very well and studying and achieving there goals in every forum not
    only IT call centers but many other fields and one more thing Chaniotys punjabis and urdu speaker U.P migrated karachiets are way forward they own nice homes and busnises in karachi. now guj looks like peanuts front of them.

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  • Rakib
    Feb 25, 2012 - 9:01AM

    @Acharya:

    As an additional note: You may agree that Sanskrit abounds in words with multiple meanings. IMO, Shreshta (the best) is a meaning in addition to Shreshta being “beloved of god/goddess”. Both & other meanings are correct as per context.As example, Devanampriya (beloved of gods) Ashok being Shreshta (the best) among kings would be as correct a usage as Krishna being Shreshta (beloved of Lakshmi). Phrases like Kula-Shreshta not only denote the best of the family but at times also the “eldest” of the clan depending on context despite existence of a better word Jyeshta for “eldest”.

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  • Adil
    Feb 25, 2012 - 9:26AM

    Excellent and informative article. Apart from their historical trade practices,Gujarat seems to be a region/state which has got different communities and tribes living within it presenting a unique blend/mixture of of different colours.
    What I notice is that it’s indeed a land that gave birth to various other languages or dialects too. Certain tribes and communities that originated in Gujarat are stretched till within the province of Sindh in Pakistan, along with states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra in India e.g. Memons,Khojas,Kutchis and Bohris.
    It would be great if we get familiar with old connections that the city of Karachi had with Gujarat in the past.Most of the people in Pakistan gets idea about Gujarati cultue via Indian serials and movies. Karachi used to be a part of Bombay Presidency too, and I would love to get a glimpse of how the city used to be back in 18th,19th and early 20th century; and what its cultural composition and demographics used to look like.

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  • Pakistani Agnostic
    Feb 25, 2012 - 9:52AM

    @lobe:
    Dude. What mathematics and IT. Every nation has dominated in their prime in their respective fields. England were the pioneers in everything followed by French, Germans, Russians, Turks, Persians etc.
    Its not like you did anythingtoo` special.

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  • Acharya/Homa
    Feb 25, 2012 - 1:11PM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    You sound like Mirror, mirror on the wall…
    Gujjus and south indians are good people, they are not racist. They are emancipated, intelligent and inclusive. Moreover they do not go around dividing humanity into abhorrent man-made division of believers and non-believers like some real racist people.
    @Rakib:
    I understand what you are saying about Sanskrit words having multiple meanings depending on context, and you are right. I would say not only do sanskrit words have multiple meanings but they actually also have multiple LAYERS or strata of meaning.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 25, 2012 - 5:39PM

    @Roshan:
    “I may ask, why India’s biggest shame uttar pradesh,bihar,chattisgarh not picked for comparision by the author?”
    They are not our shame; they are very much a part and parcel of us without whom we will be incomplete Have some respect for words and use caution when you use them! Or, you could be dismissed for being inconsequential!

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  • frank
    Feb 25, 2012 - 6:46PM

    mustafa moiz

    And Pakistani Punjab is Rajput
    dominated not Jat.

    Very few areas of Pakistani Punjab are dominated by Rajputs. The situatioin is not that different in Indian Punjab. Jats are dominant in most areas of Punjab but other clans dominate in some outer districts. In my home district, Rawalpindi, the Gakkhar Kiani clan calls the shots.

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  • Rakib
    Feb 25, 2012 - 8:21PM

    @Adil:

    “I would love to get a glimpse of how the city used to be back in 18th,19th and early 20th century; and what its cultural composition and demographics used to look like”

    I hope ET Moderator will not reject this post.

    Following is just a peep which may give you some idea of demographics. I record with gratitude that the information is culled out from a piece “Webb Ground” that was written by the great Gujarati-speaking Pakistani Parsi columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee for Dawn of Sunday, July 15, 2007.

    He writes of the first Government School of Karachi (NJ High School) set up in 1855 due to munificence of a Bombay man Narayan Jagarnath (name suggests he may have been Gujarati). It is the demographics of the students in the year 1916, almost 100 years ago, that may interest you. Let Ardeshir Cowasjee tell you; and I quote..

    Quote: To open, an extract from the Gazetteer of the Province of Sind, B Volume I, 1919, Karachi District (p.37), chapter headed ‘Education’ : “The Karachi Narayan Jagarnath (NJ) High School was the first government school established in Sindh. It was opened in October 1855 with 68 boys.

    The building, which was situated at the junction of the Bandar and Mission Roads….. was superseded in 1876 by the present buildings, which have cost (inclusive of additions in 1896 and 1900) Rs63,294 and provide accommodation for 17 classes.

    The number on the rolls in March 1916 was 477, of whom 350 were Hindus, 32 Brahmins, 10 Jains, 12 Mussalmans, 66 Parsis and seven Indian Jews…. Mr Narayan Jagarnath, in whose honour the school was named, was one of those educated Bombay men with whose help the initial difficulties of introducing education in the province in which neither books nor teachers existed, was successfully overcome.”

    Now, who was it who said that a few cannot change the destiny of many? The 12 (2.5 per cent of the total of 477) were the forefathers of the now 170 millions who inhabit the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.:Unquote

    Those that assist students to acquire knowledge are the greatest philanthropists.Cowasjee Sahib himself is one such,and he knows what Narayan Jagannath did way back in the years even before the Sepoy Mutiny when Bahadurshah “Zafar” was still ruling Delhi..

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  • lobe
    Feb 26, 2012 - 2:53AM

    @Ali Tanoli: If that is so how come i don’t hear any Pakistanis being top of list. A south Indian from Karnataka owns an entire floor in Burj Khalifa. Most of motels in US are owned by Patel community. As far as South Indians preferring their own language even while living in Middle East is concerned its may be a safety issue and yes we have emotional feelings towards our languages, weather its Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam. But so do the French, Germans, Japanese whats wrong in that. Language is a gift given to you by the society, simple fact you cannot even think without using some language. As far as IT is concerned, Asia s largest IT exporter TCS is owned by a Farsi family, which has made money but also gives employment to over 2 lakh people. As far as people owning costly houses in Karachi are concerned, real estate in places like Mumbai (Nariman point, Palli Hill), New Delhi are more expensive that Abu Dhabi.
    For development of any economy you always need tow things entrepreneurial ability i.e risk takers and skilled work force. Today while baniyas are known for the former other communities in India including South Indians are known for the later. Sadly Pakistan dose not have either of the two.

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  • Ahmed
    Feb 26, 2012 - 9:40AM

    The subcontinental trading community shrestis (Sanskrit for wealth) is spread all over the subcontinent. The Seths of Pakistan and Gujarat become shetty in south west India (tulu), shetty in Karnataka, and chetty in Tamil nadu in the deep south. All very similar in customs and all rich merchants.

    Note also that though Jinnah has immediate Hindu ancestors, his even older ancestors were once Jain businessmen. Jinnah basically comes from jaina, a common Jain appellation.

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  • Feb 26, 2012 - 12:52PM

    @G. Din:
    You must be aware that gujaratis,malayalis etc are a minority in pakistan. but, the muslims who immigrated from the states of up,bihar,chattisgarh,mp like are vast majority in their cities like karachi. so, my innocent doubt why the author has not shown interest in these people? Recommend

  • G. Din
    Feb 26, 2012 - 6:53PM

    @Roshan:
    Thanks for your rejoinder. You had a right to express yourself. I guess it did not come out exactly as you had meant. What to speak of those (Muslim) communities in Karachi that you mentioned, Pakistan, as a state has shown its true face when it comes to 300,000 “Bihari Pakistanis” still rotting in refugee camps of Bangla Desh now for some 40+ years!

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  • Cynical
    Mar 5, 2012 - 5:13AM

    @Raqib

    Thanks for such an informative post.It’s really an eye opener.
    But alas, who cares for facts. We live in an age of hypes and sound bites.

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