Monday, October 2, 2023
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Deepa Laji Bhagnari recalls her mothers

Last year I wrote an article on Mother’s Day….but this year I just didn’t even think about it.  Sometimes circumstances make you go into a shell..and you sort of lose contact with the are just in your space trying to sort out all your thoughts..emotions and feelings.

As they say sometimes there are phases in our lives that are good and bad…one just has to learn to cope up with it and move on saying this too shall pass.  Because life can show you many shades and one just has to accept it. As it is said “Que Sera Sera..the future is not ours to see..Que Sera Sera” So hopefully all will be well.

What can I write about Mother’s Day…last year I wrote about it feeling thankful that at least my mom was there for me..though my other two mothers Sita Bhagnari and Isho Chhodha had left for their heavenly abode. They had already left a void in my I was too close to both of them.  But still I took consolation in the fact that though my mother was bed ridden she was still there to welcome me with a beautiful smile..eyes full of tears and a warm hug. This year she was even more frail..because of Covid I had come to Mumbai after a year and I had missed her terribly..but though she was happy to see me..she was very vague about the fact that I was meeting her after a year. I had a foreboding then that somehow this would be possibly the last trip where she would welcome me with a hug..and I was right, as soon in my presence..there she went up to be with my father and her dear ones. May her soul rest in peace and I am sure she is happy to be up there and has no more to suffer all the problems that old age had ravaged her with.  

As I had said last year, I feel every day is Mother’s mothers are wanted by each and every one of us, at each step that we take..from our childhood to our old age we all want our mother’s presence in our she is the one who is always there for us guiding us..pushing us to do our best in life..soothing our fears..helping us in every way she can. A mother is someone who never takes a single holiday from parenthood..she is, you can say on duty 24/7. 

It is said that Motherhood is the greatest thing and the hardest true..a mother has to put up with so much where her children are concerned..but she still does it all unselfishly and her love for her children makes her endure through it all. Not all children are good..there are so many who are many who do not value their mother’s love and sacrifices..but still she will never grumble..never tell the child, all that she has done for him or her..because all that comes so naturally to her. God has just created Mothers because He can’t be with us physically down on earth, so he created a Mother who showers us with and devotion. Hope everyone realises the value of a mother.

It is said that mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.  A mother is a walking miracle..and personally I think a mother is God’s greatest creation. Can you imagine your life without your mother?  I don’t think I can..I am happy that I had my mother with me for so many years..there are so many who lose their mothers at a young age..if you were to ask them how they felt..then one would understand how lucky we all are to have our mothers with us.

So all who have mothers – just value them..pamper and hug them…and just be a companion and a friend to them because as they grow older it is only love and companionship they look for. Old age can be very try and spend some time with them as that is the only thing they look forward to. I am so happy that whenever I was in Mumbai, every evening by 4.30 pm I would go to my mom’s house..just sit on the bed even though she would be sleeping..for as soon as she woke up and saw me, her eyes would light up and there would be a radiant smile on her face..and that smile used to warm my is said that a mother’s hug stays with you long true I can still feel her warm hug.  

I am glad I have spent quality time with all my three mothers..and the memories I have collected of all three of them and our time spent together is sufficient to last me a lifetime. Thanks to all three of them for guiding me at each step when I faltered..loving me unconditionally..comforting me when I was tensed and worried..being always there for me even when I didn’t ask..because all mothers have a built in antenna where their children are don’t have to ask..they just know.  As I said God created a mother so she can take His place here on earth.

So happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers..hope you all are valued and loved by your children and you also value your mother.

The Grim Effects Of Covid 19


The Covid 19 Pandemic has been a real nightmare for each and everyone in the Universe…nobody is untouched by it. Never have we witnessed so much upheaval in our lives as in these trying times. Millions have lost their lives…millions have lost their jobs…and innumerable people face the fear of losing their jobs. The crisis is universal. Farmers face a problem in selling their produce as there is lack of transportation…daily wage workers are in a dilemma how to earn their daily bread…there is malnutrition and starvation…indeed a sorry plight.

When I drive thru the streets of Dubai, I see so many familiar shops…all shut…eating joints which were once bustling with activity are now shut down. There is a street in Karama which has all furniture stores…they sell durable and handmade reasonably priced furniture. Yesterday I got a shock when I saw one entire building which must be having at least 10 to 12 shops, all shut down…the street was dark and looked eerie and forlorn I felt so bad not to see the lights of those shops and the smiling faces of the salesmen luring everyone to buy their furniture. I can imagine how many must have lost their jobs…and must be facing trying times now…really very depressing. I personally know so many people who are going through a rough time as they have lost their job and wondering if they will even get another even if it means less pay. We can only pray for this to end as soon as possible.

Besides loss of income people are also going through mental health problems…as this grim environment has instilled so many fears in so many people. People are taking psychiatric help and counselling…taking anti-depressants. Depression is not easy to face and many are more vulnerable to it. We can only just pray for all of them.

I have often heard many adults grumbling…complaining, whining and generally feeling a sense of dissatisfaction with their lives now. Well, I can say for myself also that sometimes I feel low and depressed because of lack of contact with near and dear ones, friends, etc. We humans are all social animals…we love to interact with people…be surrounded by our loved ones and peers…which unfortunately we are bereft of it all now. We do see our loved ones through Zoom videocalls, etc., but the human touch is missing…and that brings sadness.

But we know we have to take all this in our stride. But who is the most affected by this. They are two different categories of people. The first are the old disabled adults who are left in Ashrams or Old Age Homes for some reason or the other. I remember recently when I was in Chennai, I visited one such Ashram and spoke to some ladies living there. Some were happy and had accepted their situation with a smile…even making excuses for why their children were forced to leave them there…but there was one lady who had tears in her eyes…she told me that her children sent money dutifully for her upkeep there but rarely visited her. She missed that…really one felt so sorry for her…when during good times the children rarely visited them…now with this pandemic they all are just left on their own…and so they think of each other as family. But I am sure none of them must be complaining…as they have just accepted their situation.

Then come children…they are like flowers…just like flowers blossom with care…the same goes with children…they need a healthy environment to thrive and be happy. Unfortunately, this pandemic has really made them face the grim realities of life at a tender…impressionable age. The schools are shut…classrooms are empty. The playgrounds and swings all look lost and forlorn…waiting for the screams…the laughter…the giggling…the non-stop chatter of the children. Teachers go to empty classrooms and teach online…I am sure they must be most affected not seeing the smiling faces of the inquisitive…curious and smiling faces of the children. Children don’t attend school…intermingle with their friends…talk non-stop in their school bus or share their breakfast and lunch-boxes…go for play dates…sleep overs. They are deprived of all of this, which we have always taken for granted. Now they have play dates and sleep overs on Zoom, but they are still happy…contented. We adults need to learn a lesson from them. Hope they can blot out these unpleasant memories forever and only remember the good times.

I remember the saying “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Well, this saying always appealed to me, but today I feel that the present is a harsh reality…the future uncertain…but our past memories of our good old times are the most pleasant things to remember now…somehow one always remembers the good times and we blot out the trying times that we all must have faced in the past. And hopefully in future our this present also will be a closed chapter in our memory box.

Now the vaccine is being given to us…everyone should take it as soon as possible…we in Dubai have already taken our two doses and feel a sense of security…hope Mumbai also starts giving them to the general public soon, so that all our loved ones are safe and we can soon meet them. We meanwhile have to learn acceptance of the situation we are faced with and only hope that we have learnt our lesson. We now know that in future we have to take care of our environment and not tamper with nature…we should also not take our freedom for granted…we have now realised what it is to be confined within the four walls of our homes…sometimes I wonder how our freedom fighters sacrificed their all for the people and were confined to jails…my salute to them…Mahatma Gandhi…Bhagat Singh…Nelson Mandela…and so many others. Really when we think of them our home should not seem like a jail…but our safe haven. 😊

So stay safe and just be happy…the worst has passed…we are soon going to enter into a new normal…hopefully very soon.

Thanks to you all – We complete 1 year today

Just over a year ago an idea was conceived by Shakuntala Jodhun, who expressed a strong desire to have a Bhagnari Newsletter. The thought gave birth to Our hustling and bustling baby is one year today. The success of this website is mainly due to the viewership it attracts from Bhagnari Community. A big thank you to all the community members – a year ago when the site was launched on 26th January, we could not have imagined the following statistics:

– 50 Articles

– 25 Video uploads

– 40 community members contributed the above articles and videos

– 16000 views on the website

These articles and videos are linked to Bhagnari Community group on Facebook, where they have already garnered:

– 1500+ Comments

– 2500+ Likes

All the above would not have been possible without the team who quietly work in the background to give you this robust website and are always on the look-out for informative and exciting content:

Aditi Achpalia, Amrita Dudeja, Amrita Mehta, Anupama Lulla, Bhumika Nasta, Jayesh Kataria, Karishma Talreja Budhdev, Lokesh Budhrani, Ramesh Poplay, Saahil Mehta, Siddharth Kataria, Trisha Mehta.

The website team were supported with contributions from the following, who are being awarded a Certificate of Appreciation form the President of the community Shri Lachmandas Gehi:

Amrit Mehta & Family, Anita Mehta, Anita Mehta & Family, Bharti Bhagnari, Charanjeet Chanderpal Gehi, Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari, Dhairya Gehani, Geeta Kanar, Hiren Wadhare, Lachmandas Gehi, Mansha Mehta, Mohini Gehani & Family, Neha Alreja, Nikhil Nasta, Niranjan Gehani & Family, Prakash Gehani, Rishika Nasta, Rohit Digra, Sanjay Dhingra, Shivani Kataria, Sneh Gehi, Subash Kataria, Vidhi Kamra, Vinod Gehi.

Mitri – this new initiative was added recently, once again at the request of Shakuntala. It aims to bring Bhagnari couples together into a blissful matrimony. The initiative is fronted by Shakuntala Jodhun, Manju Dudeja and Mansha Mehta. This team’s efforts are also being recognised with a Certificate of Appreciation.

Bhagnari Community’s YouTube channel has become a popular repository for videos made by the members of the community. We thank Amrita Mehta for initiating this idea and giving it shape.

Friends, all the above would not have been possible without financial support from Jayesh Kataria, who pays the annual charges to run the website. A huge applause for him!!

Just in case you are not aware, it is important to let you know that besides the regular new posts, the website has several other interesting pages:

– History of community before the partition

– History of the community after the partition

– From Bhagnari Kitchen

– Bhagnari Dictionary

– List of blood donors

– Panchayat registration form

– Mitri Registration form

Friends, let us not rest on our past laurels. We must strive to double the statistics next year!!

Remembering Late Shri Sobhraj Tirathdas Gehi – 1904 – 1996


Shri Sobhraj was son of Tirathdas Gehi and had seven brothers and one sister. They all lived in a large house in Bhagnari Pada in Karachi.


Collective leadership – the jargon is a creation of the corporate world to create space for a group of people to work together towards a shared goal.

Yet, it’s a man amongst men who can alone weave the success.

The major achievements are made single-handedly, for that we had the real leader who shared the success with his men Friday.

These bedrocks are hidden down under. We see the glittering edifice because of them. Yes, the bedrock in the case of our community, sharing the success of Late Shri Takandas H Kataria was Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. He shared a telepathic bond with Mukhi Saheb; there was no other who could understand the next in the mind of his leader but him.

Such people’s actions during the peaceful times are never noticed and for the longest time they are not realized by us.  

Shri Sobhraj T. Gehi was with Mukhi Saheb as his dream realizer since the earliest days of Bhagnari Panchayat, 1930 onwards. He was the Honorary Joint Secretary, and worked closely with Late Shri Takandas H Kataria, the President of the Bhagnari Panchayat.

The tenacity, hard work and the results can only be achieved by a super focused, no nonsense man in the circumstances which our community faced during the days of post partition in the year 1948.

It would be interesting to mention that Bhagnaris were optimistic of remaining in Karachi for life; it was only when the situation worsened during the end of 1947 that a call had to be taken to move out of the newly formed Pakistan.

The community moved from Karachi to Bombay in 1948 and not in 1947 as many of us perceive. 

In   the midst of destructive and frenzied sentiments, few saviors stood firm to get the community members safely to Bombay by sea.

It was their sheer grit and determination that made this possible. What a struggle it must have been!

One has to pause here to imagine that how all the formalities with two warring Governments must have been done. How the peoples count and transfer was managed and after landing in Bombay how all of them would have come together once again.

Yes, all paper-work and liaisoning with the  government authorities was done  by Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. He was at the helm of affairs, alongwith the President, Late Shri Takandas H Kataria. He played a pivotal role at that time. He was also instrumental in disposing off Panchayat properties in Karachi, alongside the President, who worked tirelessly to complete the matters before migration.

Our family would like to thank Shri Ramesh Poplay for reproducing the documents on the community website (Letters from Karachi) and Shri Prakash Gehani for carefully preserving the file that was handed over to him by our grandfather, Shri Sobhraj T Gehi. We remember him showing us the file with copies of the documents and the telegram that was sent to the then Home Minister and the Prime Minister for rescuing Bhagnaris from the then prevailing destructive atmosphere in Karachi.
(Publication of Letters from Karachi)


After partition, millions of families were landless and homeless. A salute to the spirit of the older generation, who endured those difficult times with tremendous fortitude, settled in a new land and rebuild their lives with their resilience, hardwork and integrity.

After coming to Bombay, Baba (as he was addressed by us) lived with his family (his wife, Krishna and three children) in a railway owned chawl at Khar (East), adjoining the tracks near the railway station.

His daughter, Nirmala recalls that it was a small one room kitchen tenement. The distinct memory she has is of water being delivered to each house in the baithi chawl, by a porter who carried a long stick on his shoulder, and to each side of the stick were water cans. It must have been a very basic settlement with basic facilities. At that time, his elder son, Jethanand was 15 years old, his younger son, Sunder was 10 years old and his daughterNirmala was 5 years of age.

 In Bombay, Baba worked as a typist in a few places; that was his humble beginning in a strange land. He multi tasked, doubling up as an administrative and communications person. His skills were valued since he had good organizational ability, a good command over English and a flair for writing. Relocating to a new place, must have been very challenging. We do not know much about the process, but believe that a strong community network, must have been a catalyst, in enabling each other to set up, and move on.

 He was recognized for his expertise; his advice and help were sought after by members of the community. He was generous with sharing ideas, drafting official letters and lending such support to anyone who approached him.

As he worked, he also dedicated a lot of time to Panchayat work. These were formative years, when the idea of a place for Bhagnaris in Bombay was being envisaged by Mukhi Saheb.  Perhaps, at that time Panchayat members met on a fixed day, at a fixed place, since everyone was scattered in the city. That is how the community may have held itself together and kept the activities going, till Kataria Colony was built. After numerous discussions and debates in Panchayat meetings, Shri Sobhraj T Gehi, once he resolved, executed each project with utmost efficiency.

Post migration, after 3 or 4 years of staying at Khar (East), the family moved to Gehi Mansion at Mahim, and later to Kataria Colony, when ‘A’ Building was constructed.

Starting out from Khar (East) and moving to Kataria colony, was like a dream come true.

Kataria Colony was the dream, that the leaders had worked towards relentlessly, since migration in 1948 and after 10 years, the dream was translated to reality. Kataria Colony was not just a physical space, it held deep sentiments of the members’ longing to restore the feeling of solidarity and a continuity of the sense of identity and belonging, that all had experienced before partition. The community leaders had held together in the face of all odds, worked passionately, to realize the cherished dream of a Bhagnari Pada in Mumbai; reminiscent of their lost homeland.

Baba revered Mukhi Saheb, like all others did. They shared a very good rapport. Between them, it was a relation of mutual trust and respect.

 When ‘A’ building was in the process of being constructed, the members were contemplating a name for the society. He strongly advocated then that the colony should be named after the founder, Shri Takandas H Kataria. The members unanimously agreed; hence we have ‘Kataria Colony’.

After moving to Kataria Colony, he rented a small shop at Chakla street, the hosiery market in Mumbai. At that time, he was engaged in doing correspondence work for many reputed firms, situated in the hosiery market. His sons, started trading in hosiery goods in the shop, and later, they were successful in getting agencies from reputed hosiery manufacturers in Salem, Tamil Nadu.

After few years, Baba purchased a shop from Shri Gobindram H Chhada. While his sons, undertook the responsibility of the hosiery shop, Baba focused on the communications aspect, correspondence with the manufacturers in South India, which had grown beyond Salem and moved to Tirupur. With his guidance and blessings, his sons took charge, and after a few years of being active in the shop, Baba withdrew from the shop, but continued working at home, overseeing the agencies work, the communications, banking and investments work.

Later, he continued his commitment as the Honorary Joint Secretary with Late Shri Harkishindas D Gehani, who became President of Bhagnari Panchayat after Shri Takandas H Kataria.

He spent a lot of time reading philosophical books, particularly pertaining to Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu Scriptures. He was very active in organising the week-long Gita Jayanti celebrations that took place at Kataria Colony for many years.

He was a man of integrity, a disciplinarian, and a true karma yogi. He would wake up before dawn, and in his deep voice do the Omkar and mantra chanting. He  practiced Yogasana and also did Shirshasana (Headstand Yoga Pose).

His simple and disciplined lifestyle is the reason why he was so fit, until the last. He was alert and active until a few weeks before he passed away. He continued to have a sharp memory.

Anyone who knew him would tell, that he was so precise, so meticulous, that he left no scope for any non-clarity whatsoever. And he was forthright; he always voiced his opinion in Panchayat and Society meetings loud and clear.

Baba breathed his last on 31st March 1996, when he was 92 years, leaving behind fond memories, much love and a family bond.

We are filled with gratitude to have him as a member of the Bhagnari Community and have a lot to learn from his life.

(The family and close associates of Late Shri Sobhraj T Gehi have contributed towards this write-up)

The latest mode of communication by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari


What is communication basically? It is said that there are three ways to communicate..first is verbal communication, in which you listen to a person to understand their meaning…then there is written communication, in which you read their meaning and last is non-verbal communication in which you observe a person and try to understand the meaning.

Verbal communication is when two people or more meet…interact and talk to each other…sometimes laugh…or get angry and infuriated and voice it…or sometimes there are literal verbal fights…but you have the freedom to express yourself…but that is only possible when people meet…now with this pandemic on, there are lesser meetings…so no laughter…no arguments…no animated conversations…you can say the famous Sholay film dialogue here .”Itna Sanaata kyun hai Bhai”?  Really a sad time for everyone.  But what can one do?  We all have to be patient to meet and again have our moments of pleasure…this pandemic has taught us how important meeting your loved ones and friends is…because we humans need social contact. We love to interact.

Now let’s talk about our past…the beautiful days gone by…when at school we were taught to write our first alphabets and from there we progressed to writing essays and answers to questions. I remember what it is to put pen to paper…in fact I was always appreciated by all my teachers for my handwriting…and I am sure during my exams I scored some extra points just for my neat and legible writing.😊…but today it is just the reverse…I just can’t write…my handwriting has gone from bad to worse…well not that I wanted it to be that way but as they say practice makes perfection…where do people write nowadays…everyone is just tapping the keyboards on their computers…laptops…iPads and mobiles. Sad but true…

When I got engaged to Moti…he was settled in Dubai…so after our engagement he would write lovely romantic letters to me every week…which I would eagerly wait for…well we were young and romance is always an integral part of our lives at that age…then after I got married I too went to Dubai where I eagerly waited for my mom’s and my mother in law’s letters updating me all about our beloved families and giving us all the colony news…during those days very few had their own post boxes so we would collect so many people’s letters from our P. O. Box every week and then since my house was centrally located I was never short of people coming on the pretext of collecting their letters…killing time having chai and some snacks and sometimes staying over for dinner too.😃. Well those times were different when there was so much apna-pan that you welcomed everyone with a smile and a warm hug…now we rarely visit people uninvited…people are same but lifestyles have changed with growing families and responsibilities…I guess that is the case everywhere…but really miss the warmth of those days. So, in a way we all communicated through letters as we trunk-called our near and dear ones on special occasions only…but I think those handwritten letters were our lifeline. In fact I still have preserved so many letters of those years gone by and when I read them I always have a smile on my lips and tears in my eyes. I realise now that penned words show more depth of feelings and emotions than a type-written message. Strange but true!!

Besides letters I would read a lot…novels…magazines….journals…as I loved reading…it would take me to another land where I used to be so embroiled in the make believe world of books that I actually felt I was a part of them…and at that time they were all painstakingly handwritten by all the famous authors…isn’t that fascinating…it was their hard labour of love for writing which brought characters to life for us wonder the books of yore were so earnest and appealing to the readers.  Then of course they were sent for printing and publishing. So written words made such an impact in our lives.

Today the scenario is completely changed…writing is a thing of the past…well students do write but even now all that will be gradually replaced by just tapping away on the laptops. Now you send a message via WhatsApp…Facebook…Instagram, etc. and usually you get answers via emojis…either hearts…thumbs-up signs…Namaste signs…GIFs or sometimes you know the message has been read by two blue tick marks…which now you know one can avoid even that. Where is the warmth and emotion in these emojis? They have no soul…it’s absolutely baseless…but we still all like a herd mentality do it…you feel – well the opposite party shows no response so well I too will just pass on a heart emoji showing my appreciation…and sometimes even without reading the message. So communication is becoming lesser and lesser .But I think this tough time where the entire humanity is facing this catastrophe and has come to a standstill has taught us a grave lesson…that how much we love our near and dear ones and our friends and colleagues…how we are all longing to be in touch with each other…to see each other and verbally communicate. I hope that this should also make us realise that instead of wishing someone on their birthdays by sending messages, is not sufficient…one can just pick up the phone and call that person and see the happiness you give that person…as they say nothing can replace just a few words of love and appreciation…not a zillion emojis. So next time just let us all do it…Life is too short…let us leave behind beautiful memories and on the pathway of our life collect beautiful memories.

But alas I always used to love the saying “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword”.  I wonder if that holds true now…as the pen is replaced by the keyboard. Not that progress is not welcomed but nostalgia of the old always makes you sad…but then one has to move forwards and as they say the old giveth way to the new…so be it. 

Diwali the Festival of Lights by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari


Since childhood I have heard of innumerable stories of the different festivals celebrated in our country ..our beautiful India.  I always used to wonder how one can have so many festivals…but then as I grew up I realised that festivals are just a means of unifying people and creating an atmosphere of goodwill and cheer amongst people. So in a way they stand for unification…which is really essential to the well being of our country.

We celebrate innumerable festivals…but none I think can compare to the Diwali Festival. It has been said that Diwali is celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil… victory of light over darkness and  knowledge over ignorance.  Moreover according to legends it is said that this day marked the return of Ram..Sita..Laxman and Hanumanji back to Ayodhya after defeating Ravan the demon king.  So the people of Ayodhya were so overjoyed to welcome their beloved Rama that they decorated the full city with lights…each and every house was lit up to show their joy at his return. ..and from that day this special day was called Diwali….and it became a norm to light up every home on this particular day every year. 

It is also said that it was on this Diwali day that Goddess Laxmi got married to Lord Vishnu..and Goddess Laxmi symbolises wealth and prosperity…so on Diwali day people pray to Laxmi to bring in wealth and prosperity into their homes…and all Hindus open new account books on this auspicious day. So we can see why Diwali has so much significance in our lives.

Diwali has been named as the Festival Of Lights…people of all religions…all or poor all participate in this festival with gusto..and according to their means…the poor may just light some Mitti  ka diyas in their houses and eat a good meal ..make some new clothes and as a bonus eat some Mithai..but nonetheless they are happy to be a part of the festival . Others decorate their houses with shimmering coloured lights…beautiful Rangolis ..diyas…lanterns.. .Fanoos in their balconies..and it all looks like a fairyland. 

It also becomes a time for shopping.. people buy new clothes..and ornaments… the bazaars are packed with customers all buying diyas ..clothes..silverware and gold and diamond ornaments.. Dhanteras is the day when people religiously go to the market to buy either gold..silver or even a small steel utensil as it is considered to be auspicious. But the atmosphere in these three four days of Diwali is electrifying and incomparable.. there is cheer and bonhomie everywhere.

It is also a time for bonding ..people go to each other’s houses exchange gifts… and socialize.  There are huge parties hosted by the rich and..people all are dressed in their shimmering best. Ladies outdo each other by wearing their latest acquired gold and diamond jewellery ..indeed a beautiful sight to behold. 

This festival is not restricted to India..all the Hindus living all across the Globe celebrate it with the same verve and enthusiasm…Here in Dubai all the streets and houses are decorated with twinkling lights…the bazaars are packed with eager ..enthusiastic shoppers…it is a beautiful sight to behold. Specially in these tough times we need this light to remove the darkness from our hearts and minds. I know India is still reeling from the virus impact but still the enthusiasm has not diminished and though low key Diwali is still being celebrated. 

Our very own Bhagnari Community which is the most united community I would proudly say is hosting Diwali celebrations on Zoom under the guidance of the very capable Ramesh Poplay and his team..I am sure it will be a huge success and we will all enjoy it…so please all participate wherever you are as this is Bhagnaris bonding.

So wishing all a very happy Diwali…May the darkness end and we get the vaccine as soon as possible so that we can travel and meet our loved ones.  May our patience  be victorious over Corona  just like  good over evil.

(The picture is from famous Kandil Gali of Mahim – is there light at the end of the tunnel?)

A Bhagnari Diwali

This is an Oral/Aural Hxstory Project centering three stories to document our unique Bhagnari song(s) sung during this auspicious time of year. Contributors featured in this archive include: Aarti Kaanchan Mehta (Madhu Makar), Pushpa Kishore Mehta and Ramesh Poplay. Ultimately, these stories show that one single ritual can contain multiplicities. Not all Bhagnaris celebrate Diwali and not all Bhagnaris who celebrate Diwali celebrate in this particular way. But of the ones who do, some Bhagnaris sing the first line of the song as “Dim Dim Diwali aayee” while some sing “Din Din Diwali aayee” while some sing “Ding Ding Diwali aayee” while some sing “Dum Dum Diwali aayee.” There also seemed to be unanimous agreement that the second line is “Balen bachon wali aayee” until Ramesh Poplay reached out to our long-lost ancestral relative, Omprakash, who resides in Bhag, Baluchistan. Omprakash recently informed Ramesh Poplay that Bhagnaris in Bhag do indeed sing this song today, and have over time, however their iteration of the song goes “Dim Dim Diwali hai / Balen bachon wali hai.” “Aayee” translates to “is coming” while “hai” translates to “is” which shows slight differences in temporality and certainty. The diverse performance of this ritualistic practice indicates that our traditions continue to be intertwined with threads of commonalities while also maintaining unique difference.

Our Ancestors Laugh and Smoke Hookah, Still (Part II)


If you haven’t read Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming yet, you should. Michelle weaves the themes of feminism with racial liberation, with optimism and with emotional growth. She braids these paramount ideas together, but the title itself captures the central idea: Persisting Growth.

This earth would be a more harmonious place if world leaders (and world followers – and everyone in between) read and internalized the messages inside Becoming.

Becoming, a gerundive verb, signifies a continuous and unending process—like time itself. Michelle’s autobiography is divided into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. Irrespective of the regrettable fact that Barack Obama failed to marry a Bhagnari, I wonder how this threefold sectioning of Becoming could apply to our Bhagnari family. Namely, I wonder: Who are Bhagnaris as individuals, who are we as a collective and how do we futuristically flourish into “more” as we engage in this process of Becoming?

More importantly, what happens after we become more – is this process linear or cyclical? Is Michelle’s sectioning truly distinct, or is there a porosity that allows for liminal space between these seemingly separate categories that is worth exploring? Literature inevitably leads us down the path of responding to these Michelle-inspired thoughts.

Sandra Cisneros’ short story “Eleven” is an excellent text that allows us to explore these introspective curiosities. I readily used this text in the classroom while I was a school teacher. “Eleven” is a rich narrative that depicts growing up as an unending process rather than a one-directional path with a finite, definitive destination. “Eleven” touches on our curiosities by tracing the birthday of the protagonist of the story who happens to be a young girl turning eleven years old. Cisneros writes:

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are – underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is. 

This story has always touched me because it facilitates our right to lean into our unimpressive feelings – our immaturities even. Currently I am 29, but I am not 29. I’m 29 and every other age I have ever been. I’m Saahil now and every other version of Saahil I’ve ever been in the past. I’m every success, every failure, every regret, every surprise, every doubt – everything I have ever been. All this – in just one container.

The message of “Eleven” allows me to pluralize myself. This story complicates the notion of Becoming yet maintains eyebrow-raising simplicity. I see two shortcomings with Cisneros’ paradigm. She counts only in increments of years and she starts with the number one. In doing this, she forgets to consider all the other little wooden dolls that the naked eye doesn’t immediately have access to. For me, seeing the world through this critique makes the past, present and future much, much more interesting and imaginative. Reflecting on this helps me feel peace as my 30th birthday approaches later this month.

This January, I found myself in Bombay going towards Elephanta Island with my friend who was visiting from Nairobi. I wanted to show Malcolm the local history and also show him the cute monkeys that live on, and practically govern, Elephanta. We walked from Shivaji Park to the Matunga Train Station, took the second-class train going south to Churchgate Station, walked through Kala Ghoda and arrived to the Gateway of India.

After the boat passage, we saw several vendors selling tourist souvenirs while walking up the famous stairs. One object in particular caught my eye: the “little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other” as mentioned in Cisneros’ Eleven, although these ones resembled South Asian – not Russian – ladies draped in sarees. I thought back to Cisneros’ story and I knew I had to purchase one. I located the vendor who would sell it to me the cheapest based on my “theek dhaam bolo” said in a really crappy Hindi accent. I purchased one for 200 rupees and we left to go explore the caves, going the wrong way but eventually finding the ticket counter.

The person at the ticket counter attempted to sell me a 600 rupee ticket instead of the local price of 50 rupees. This is when 29-year-old Saahil acted younger than 29 and threw a tantrum. “I’m an OCI” I said, and she immediately responded, “Where’s your ID?” I didn’t have it on me but stoically requested her to charge me the local price. She refused – which was of course completely within her right and power – but I did what was within my right and power: I threw a fit.

In a disillusioned tone I expressed to Malcolm, “I’m going to wait at the bottom of the hill and have a beer, but you should go through the caves and come meet me when you’re done.” We went our separate ways. Malcolm went to the caves and I walked down to the restaurant, took out a notebook, and enjoyed a cool beer while working on my writing. (At the time, I was working on my “Badi Mummy” story – my first contribution to

I’m not proud of my behavior at Elephanta. I obviously acted stingy and immaturely. Nonetheless, I love my saree-draped desi nesting doll for what she represents. She represents my ancestry. She represents time. She represents memory. She represents Hindu forms of thought that reject naive “tabula rasa” arguments of newborns by wisely acknowledging the samskaras we are born with. I cannot be a tabula rasa – because I am Bhagnari – I am layered.

My saree-draped desi nesting doll reminds me that our Bhagnari ancestors are still laughing and dancing and smoking hookah. They are achieving blissful joy through observing us and we are achieving blissful joy through them. Even when the times get tough, we celebrate ourselves by coming together and expanding our community through inclusion and love. This inclusiveness will take us towards a future filled with more laughter and dancing and hookah. A better future is near. I can almost taste the paan flavor of the shisha.

Roti Kapda Aur Makkan by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari


Corona Virus has invaded our lives and turned it topsy turvy.  The life we are leading now is a nightmare which we would never have imagined even in our wildest dreams…even if prophesied.  World over, people are living in fear and counting each day as a blessing…thinking, thank God for today. 

But this unprecedented pandemic has brought to the fore many deep and interesting observations. Firstly, we have realised the value of our lives. We are being careful with our food, exercise. etc., fearing and hoping nothing goes wrong in these trying times.  Then we have realised the value of relationships…be it any relation. Everyone is now home…no social contact…even working from home. One now realises the importance of the people who you are with daily or even sometimes. Maybe, you have now started caring and loving your parents a little more than before…missing your colleagues at work even though you had arguments and tiffs with them..your weekend get-togethers with friends and relatives…your cousins…everyone for that matter. You realise the importance of family. These are all bonds which are difficult to break. You even realise the importance of domestic helpers who unfortunately maybe confined to their homes…people you took for granted. So, in a way these are lessons, well learnt from these unfortunate times.

But most important lesson that God is teaching us in these trying times is that basically what we need from life at any time…good times and bad times. We all love living the good life…no harm in that, but if you sit and introspect you will realise that now when we are confined to just our homes we are happy we are safe…we have food…simple day to day casual clothes and a roof over our head. These are our basic necessities in life…roti…kapda aur makaan. We should count our blessing that we are all blessed to have good homes…food and clothing, but not all are so lucky. There is so much poverty the world over…when we are sleeping comfortably in our air-conditioned rooms, there are people staying in slums, pavements, etc, even without a fan…they have no clothing…hardly anything to eat.  It is really sad that the world is divided into these segments where some have lakhs to waste on parties in hotels and others are craving for even a meal a day. But this will not change…that’s life…but it is heartening to read that there are good Samaritans in this world who go out of the way to help the poor. I just received a WhatsApp message about one man who has started giving food for just Rupee1 for a meal and you can eat as much as you want and even pack and take for anyone else. He said he charges Rupee 1 so that people feel they are not eating for free but paying for it. Imagine the greatness of this man. Hats off to him. He says people can donate only Rupee 1 towards this cause if they want.  Really kudos to him. 

This teaches us one very big lesson…life is uncertain. One never knows how long we will live…so be open and large hearted…try and help people in these trying times…ultimately, we are all going to go empty handed from this world. So better to help people now with our own hands and see the happiness on their faces even with the little that we can spare. I know this is easier said than done as I have seen people who are so careful about their money and worldly possessions that they would never like to part with anything…but there are others who are large hearted…as they say, God has created both good and bad…goodness and evilness…intelligent and unintelligent…wealthy and poor…and He has done this definitely with a purpose. Otherwise how else would we know the difference between people.

So ultimately to sum it up…we have to remember that in this very unfortunate phase of our life we have all learnt a lot of lessons. Perhaps this is God’s way of teaching his children I know it is a tough lesson but then when we give an exam, we get easy questions and tough ones…we can’t ignore the tough ones as then we will fail…and no one wants to fail in an exam, right?  So in life also we have this tough lesson to learn and I hope we pass through this phase successfully scoring full marks and in that process we will be proud of ourselves when we look back at this period of time and relate these memories to our grandchildren hopefully.

So just remember life is just about three basic needs that is ROTI, KAPDA AUR MAKAAN…and everyone doesn’t have to have a sprawling house…wardrobes full of clothes and abundant food on the dining table…we can manage even with less.

Daughters Day by Deepa (Laji) Bhagnari


Just got a WhatsApp message now of daughters day. Well since there are Mother’s Day..Fathers day then why not Daughters day. After all daughters are the most precious jewels that anyone can possess. My daughter my first born…who made me from a woman to a mother wonder when I held her in my arms for the first time she tugged at my heart-strings – never felt this feeling before, suddenly when her tiny fingers were clenched in my fist I felt as if I had to protect this little God given gift from all the hurdles and obstacles of life…she was so tiny and so precious…from then on she became my heartbeat. My daughter Rinku (Lamia Saldanha) ..a lovely little girl the first grandchild of the house she was pampered and loved by all, specially by her Bari Mummy ..her Nani…and her precious Chachu (uncle) Jhaveri. Jhaveri would even fight with us for her as she turned to be quite a brat due to all the pampering. Nonetheless she was an adorable child. And since I didn’t get my son Amrit till 13 years later she got total undivided invitation. Today my little angel is a confident ..talented woman and a mother of a little girl herself. Daughters they say are angels sent to your life to bless your home…and they truly do so. They are always by your side through thick and thin…helping you ..guiding you and above all protecting you and loving you unconditionally. Strange how when parents grow older the roles get reversed. Today we look at Rinku at every decision making step we take as she has the experience having worked in multi national companies and moreover now she is a brilliant Tarot and Angel Card Reader.. even when we are unwell we just have to call her and she will see our cards…soothe our fears…send us healing and we immediately feel relief. So she is in the true sense an Angel sent to us by God. I can just tell you Rinku that with each passing day you have turned out to be a wonderful…talented…and more loving individual…and I want you to know both Papa and myself are so proud of you…and feel blessed to be chosen to be your parents. Thank you for being in our lives and enhancing it with your presence. Besides Rinku being my daughter by birth I think I have other daughters too ..whom I am extremely proud of …as they are all lovely women…all confident and talented in their fields. My two adorable nieces Jharna and Rashmi… both talented and lovely young women…both mother of two lovely kids.. both bringing joy to our families and giving us love and affection. Rashmi who is now settled in Singapore is a success in her career…determined and focused and besides a loving mother to her two adorable kids. Jharna ..was a teacher ..she loved kids so was happy teaching them…now she is mother of two lovely kids she is busy with them. May God shower all his blessings on them…Love you both my dears. Then I have my teen Bahuranis. They are also my daughters. The eldest being my dear Richa.,.the most courageous…confident and talented girl I have still to see…being the first bahu (daughter in law) of the house she got a lot of love from all specially from Bari Mummy as they both bonded very well…but then that is Richa for you…she can charm she has a clean heart. Richa is also a successful entrepreneur winning many awards and making us proud of her. Love you my dear for being just you. Then came Anupam…super talented ..a designer who was extremely successful in her career and now has proved her mettle by becoming one of the first to design beautiful decorative umbrellas and make it a lucrative business.. well besides being a lovely and loving person she is also a successful entrepreneur. Then finally comes the youngest bahurani of our house my very own Mescha ..a lovely talented girl…she has bought sunshine to our mother in law, that is Bari Mummy, would love to converse in Sindhi with her as Mescha is a Sindhi. Mescha is a true homemaker par excellence…that is her forte. A cook who can rustle up the most delicious dishes ..Indian…Chinese…Thai…etc. etc. She loves to cook…bake and keep the house up to the mark…I think she has a magic wand ..with which voila she does it all effortlessly. A very lovely girl always smiling and catering to all our needs…though young but she still can make kaaras (herbal syrups) for us if we have even the slightest cough. 😁 Well ..that’s it…just wanted to tell my daughters how much we love you all and how proud we are of all of you. Just be the way you are always.. hope you are all blessed with a long and healthy life. So today all mothers who have daughters just feel blessed that God has given these angels to us…just love them more each day because each one of them deserve our love…With Lamia Saldanha.. Rashmi AdnaniJharna Rakyan.. PoojaRicha GehiBhagnariAnu Poplay…. Mescha A Bhagnari