Dr. Nikhil Nasta, a reputed ophthalmologist, runs multi-specialty eyecare hospitals by the name ‘Isight Eyecare & Surgery’ in Mumbai, one located in Dadar and the other in Khar.
As with many Bhagnari’s, Nikhil comes from a business family and so does his entrepreneurial spirit. His father, Vishnu Nasta worked really hard and travelled a lot when he was a kid. Nikhil in fact worked at his father’s company for a year but soon realized his true calling lied elsewhere. So, he then enrolled in a medical degree and that’s when things started to take off for Nikhil. He finished his MBBS with top honors and the rest was sort of destined to be. He bagged a seat in ophthalmology, and cleared that with a good metal too. He then completed his DNB and his FRCS Glasgow. After completing a short term fellowship at Madurai, he started off as a professor. His Nana, Hargobind Gehani, was a well-known professor, and so that’s the Gehani gene that emerged there.
After gaining good surgical expertise working in a medical college and charitable hospital, Nikhil realized the need for quality eyecare at an affordable cost. He felt that the time was finally right to start out on his own and thus Isight eyecare and surgery was born in 2010. ‘Eyecare is a basic need and many couldn’t afford it due to the high cost involved in a good surgery. I decided to provide a multi-specialty eyecare service at a competitive price point to help fill this void’. His business model is based on high volume at low cost rather than low volume at high cost. It’s a standardized system that’s also a scalable model.
Within a span of four years, a second center was launched in Dadar and two years later, a new laser center was established at Ville Parle too. Isight eyecare has made a huge difference by offering the best eyecare services at affordable cost. It has bagged the Times of India Healthcare survey award twice in a row, standing fourth and then second place in Mumbai western suburbs.
Nikhil has inspiring words to say to our Bhagnari youth – ‘Bhagnari youth have a lot of potential to make it big. We have the brains of businessmen, we are dedicated and hard working. We understand the importance of earning money and have a clear conscience that keeps us on the right track. We are very ambitious, very driven and want to lead the good life. This makes us work doubly hard as we are indeed high maintenance kids. Having received the right guidance from our seniors and elders and a lot of support from our Bhagnari peers, we have an added confidence that others lack. There are lots of young Bhagnari’s who have made a mark for themselves and that makes me feel really proud’.
iSight eyecare and surgery 402 sapphire SV Road khar west Mumbai 400052
iSight eyecare and surgery 102 earth galaxy Ambedkar road Dadar East Mumbai 400014
I was instructed to call her “Badi Mummy”—I was told this directly translated to “Big Mom”—a concept I understood solely in English as “Grandmother.”
I met Badi Mummy, my paternal grandmother, for the first memorable time when I was five. I had heard that she was really nice but I remember her being mostly mean, at least from my first impression of her. Of course, I could not understand a single word she spoke, so whether there was kindness in the meaning of words was negligible to me because somehow I managed to hear only frustration in her tone.
Neither could Badi Mummy understand me. Being raised in an English-only household for most (if not all) of my life has created a disconnect between me and what this entire blog initiative represents. This disconnect needs to be mitigated. My parents—both (proudly) Bhagnari—used Hindi and Bhagnari while I was growing up for one of two purposes: when they didn’t want me to know what they were saying, or, on long distance phone calls home to their birthplace.
Meeting Badi Mummy felt abrupt mostly because it was. A new person, a new language, a new culture, a new city, a new country, a new face, a new place. Everything new, everything unfamiliar. At the age of five, suddenly being told the unfamiliar person in front of you is your grandmother—and then not being able to communicate with her—is a fact of my past that has always felt unsettling and guilt-inducing.
Everyone is supposed to like their grandmother. How could I like my grandmother if I couldn’t even understand her? They say love is a universal language but what does that actually mean to a confused, wide-eyed five year old?
Most of my stories of my Bhagnari identity, in actuality, are stories of my not being Bhagnari (enough) and are therefore stories of my attempts to approximate myself to an unknown. An unknown that I am somehow supposed to naturally relate to because it runs through my veins.
Today what runs through my veins is endangered and thus, my contributions to this blog are equally in the hopes of preserving our community’s collective memories as much as in the hopes of preserving bits and pieces of myself.
The first time I came to India was when I was conceived, of which I have no recollection.
The second time I came to India, I also have no recollection of. I was one or two and I had come because my maternal grandmother had passed away and my family needed to pay a visit. I never acquired a term to regard my maternal grandmother because I unfortunately never needed language for that purpose. She died before I could speak, before I could meet her, before I could speak to her, before I possessed a concrete identity—more facts of my past that have always felt unsettling but less guilt-inducing.
The third time I came to India was when I was five and I remember a few things. But not everything. This prose comprises a (funny) story of Badi Mummy and I getting lost in translation:
I had walked with my dad from Kataria Colony in the morning to a place called Govind Nivas which was apparently where my dad had grown up. He dropped me off at Govind Nivas and I found myself in a room within an unknown place—apparently referred to as a flat—suddenly under Badi Mummy’s sole care. I remember some of the interactions that transpired but only vaguely. She didn’t seem to smile much and everything she said confused me, in a frightening way because she clearly wanted me to understand what she was saying. But I just couldn’t. I couldn’t fulfill my grandmother’s desire. Her language confused me. Not knowing what she was saying made me fearful. I felt trapped. I felt alone.
Nobody was there to translate so I kept listening to her to no avail. Suddenly, I heard a familiar word that every child would naturally get excited about. My eyes lit up. “Tum cookie chaiye?” I had no idea what “tum”and “chaiye” meant but my recognition of the word “cookie“ (spoken through an accent) inspired a smile to spread across my face. I don’t remember if I also produced the word “yes” or maybe even “haan” but Badi Mummy vanished into the kitchen. I happily awaited the arrival of Oreos or Chips Ahoys.
After a few minutes, Badi Mummy emerged with something that looked nothing like any cookie I had ever known. It was flat, really big, warm, and tasted salty. Yuck. I had wondered why she had brought me a tortilla and I moved the steel plate to the side and said a universally-understood “no.” Badi Mummy made a sincere frown and pressed her hand against the air in my direction—a universally-understood gesture to wait. She turned on the TV and disappeared into the kitchen again.
I sat there watching Tom and Jerry and this time, she emerged after ten minutes with a proud smile on her face and presented me with the exact same tortilla, except this time, it was not warm but hot. I started to cry and around this time my dad came back. He seemed concerned and asked me why I was crying.
“Badi Mummy promised me cookies and she keeps bringing me these instead.” My dad, the translator, started to laugh and said something quickly to Badi Mummy who also started to laugh. Them laughing, me crying, and these strange, flat cookies occupied the room—this flat called Govind Nivas.
“Sahil, these are called ‘khoki,’” my dad explained, “I used to eat these for breakfast.” He looked at my face and continued, “But we can get you cookies. in India we call them ‘biscuits.’”
Badi Mummy got up and brought from the kitchen a slew of biscuits.
In this trip, I learned what khoki was (something which I wouldn’t like until becoming older). I learned about Parle-G, Marie, Hide and Seek, Bourbon and Nice biscuits…cookies that I would rarely encounter when back in the US. In this trip, I learned the translanguaging of love, from my grandmother to her grandchild. It’s an experience I’ve been processing and reprocessing even after Badi Mummy’s death.
I was nearly a teenager and my family was in our home in San José, California. We were watching a Bollywood movie in our living room that rainy night. (I was reading the subtitles throughout.) My sister and I were seated on the carpet and each parent on one couch. It was late at night, yet the phone rang. My dad paused the movie and left to answer it. His tone was sober and the call seemed short. He returned and said something in Hindi (or Bhagnari?) to my mom. She acknowledged what he said and he promptly pressed play and then my sister leaned towards me and out of nowhere whispered, “I think Badi Mummy died.” I’ve never understood what force of intuition existed for my sister to perceive this. Maybe she had understood their interaction.
I glanced at my dad’s face as I thought about how Dada, his dad, had passed just the year prior. It all felt so recent, but also so distant. I analyzed my dad’s face and he looked like someone who was sitting in a very warm room. His skin looked moist and red and his eyes looked somewhat in-between dry and moist.
“Dad?” He paused the film. My tactless pre-teen self blurted out, “Did Badi Mummy die?” I asked, echoing my sister’s words, now to my dad, in the form of a question. As if it were my question to own. As if it were his question to field. I remember him nodding stoically and returning to press play.
I can’t remember what film we were watching. I don’t know if he can either. But every time I eat khoki today, since it is something I enjoy more than I should (considering I don’t yet know how to make it) I remember to honor Badi Mummy who whipped up a fresh batch just for me. She’s not someone I knew well and quite honestly, not someone I ever grew to like (a guilt that will die with me) but I come from her and she loved me the way she could best.
The story of our migration has been traced down from panchayat reports dated between 1948 and 1955. Our forefathers were natives of Bhag and Nari of Kalat province, Baluchistan. For economic and religious reasons, they migrated during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was their first migration, they dispersed – north to Punjab, east to Jacobabad and Sukkur, south to Karachi and Hyderabad Sind. Our ancestors were firm believers of Dharam and Freedom these became the cause of early migrations. Early migrants had to face numerous hardships due to lack of modern transportation. They then came to be known as ‘Kutchiwals’, a lingo that has continued for the residents of those places to date.
Those that stayed at Jacobabad kept up their entity and those that stayed at Shikarpur, Sukkur and Punjab merged into local population. Those that came to Hyderabad Sind and Karachi called themselves “Bhagis” as they were mostly from ‘Bhag’. Some that came from ‘Nari’ called themselves ‘Nariwais’. Ultimately, both joined and called themselves ‘Bhagnaris’.
All those who stayed in Hyderabad gradually moved to
Karachi leaving none behind. In Karachi the clan was spread over Pamoo Dalai
Street, Soldier Bazar, Camp Karachi and Dhobi Ghat. Gradually they all shifted
to Pamoo Dalai Street, Napier Quarter which later came to be known as Bhagnari
Street. The population gradually spread to Chainamal Street and Mohmed Shah
Our ancestors worked very hard to establish themselves. Starting from petty businesses they rose to become big businessmen and contractors. There were 4 Justices of Peace and more than eight gun and revolver license holders in the community. The language which we speak at our homes is called ‘Bhagnari’. This language is also spoken with very slight change in several parts of upper Sind and is known as ” Siraykee “. It is also spoken in Bhawalpur, Multan, Dhera Gazi Khan, Dhera Esmail Khan, parts of Baluchistan and Kandhar. It is known in some places as ‘Multani’ or ‘Dherayee’ language.
In 1947, when our community was well established and
most of our people were happy and contented, we were hit by the unfortunate
partition of Mother India. This time the migration was swift and en masse. In
January 1948, dazed, utterly shaken and uprooted, we marched on to our new
destination leaving behind us, our ancestral property, our homes, businesses,
Mandirs, schools, everything.
As all Hindus wanted to migrate at the same time,
passage became difficult. People were getting butchered in the trains and air
passage was limited. The only route left was sea. Obtaining tickets for this
route was an expensive affair. The Panchayat organized help and distributed
tickets to batches, helped some with money and ultimately succeeded in complete
migration leaving only 3 to 4 souls out of a population of 2,000. It was a
critical time when each one thought of
himself. There had been 2 deaths of our members having been murdered in cold
blood (Seth Seth Newandram Issardas and Janglimal Gulumal). On 8th January
looting had begun in our area, Pamoo Dalai Street, but by good luck and tactful
handling by some of the Panchayat Office-bearers it was curbed in time.
At Karachi, we had built up Panchayat properties such
as Hall, Bathing Ghat, Shiva Temple, Gum Nanak Darbar, Laxmi Narayan Temple and
‘Kanyashala’. We were able to dispose off through untiring efforts of our
President all but only one Panchayat building used for our ‘Kanyashala’. It
will not be out of place to mention that Shri S. T. Gehl helped the then
President to his best of ability to execute this task. With a last sad look
towards Sindhu Desh and particularly Karachi—we began our journey halting at
places like Baroda, Rajkot, Naysari, Anand, Surat, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Delhi,
Allahbad, Poona and Jodhpur but most of us turned towards Bombay. It appeared as
those we were making Bombay our permanent home, Bhagnaris from all other
settlements had started flocking to Bombay.
As far as the Panchayat was able to ascertain, about
2,000 bhagnaris reached Bombay, 2 members of the community had gone missing in
transit. No trace of them was found. Some Bhagnaris had put up outside Bombay.
About 6 families had rooted themselves in Rajkot. While some settled in Kurla,
some in Chembur, Matunga and Kalyan Camps. Post the early days of the partition
death rates were heavy. This was attributed to various reasons such as: mal-nutrition
due to poverty, unemployment, fear and worry and camp life and altered
unsuitable conditions leading to nervous breakdowns.
While settling down at Bombay-in the early days-we
thought our day of Deliverance had come. But our hopes and aspiration and
dreams were shattered to bits. Instead of sympathy, tolerance and warmth, we
were met with cold stares, heavy prejudice and even hatred. Surrounded by
difference of language, customs, tradition, local culture, manners, behaviour
and socio-moral and economic environments, we had to pay heavy and unbearable
price for rehabilitation in the form of Pugree, goodwill-rent-allotments,
ejections and etc. Let us not unfold this sorry chapter. The community is
forever greatful to Late Shri T. H. Kataria (may his soul rest in peace) and
others who saved many of us from ejectments. Relief was organized in money and
material to those in need.
As the bulk of Bhagnaris settled up at Mahim, Bombay,
the tradition of our Panchayat life began to revive. In the beginning of 1948,
Panchayat system was inaugurated and after holding several unofficial meetings,
the first large representative gathering was held on 24th April, 1948. Education
for the youth started to come back on track, they settled into matrimony and
the population steadily grew. There was an increasing number of male students
completing their secondary education and a growing eagerness for higher
education amongst the females. The ‘Panchs’ of the Community played a crucial
role in organising events and funds to keep people together.
In the years that came, God was kind and from a mere 2,000 that came from Karachi, we are as the world sees us today, a multifacted family spreading it roots globally. We stand tall, proud of our traditions (and of course KHATTI DAL), always ready to lend a shoulder to one another! Asaan Bhangari!
Bhagnari Welfare Society is a NGO/Charitable Organisation that was established in 1974 in the Mahim vicinity of the Mumbai City located in the state of Maharashtra, India with the prime objectives of helping needy persons in the areas of education, medicine and several other social upliftment causes.
This Website also caters & thrives to connect all Bhagnaris around the world, with Archives and all topics of interest within the Community.