This August 14, I learnt patriotism from Hindu Marwari children

Published: August 17, 2013

Patriotism is just a rare emotion coming from the people who have no power or stake in the politics of the country. PHOTO: AFP

This year, covering a sports event on August 14 changed my perspective on what the word ‘hope’ really means. I never thought that amateur football players belonging to the poor Hindu Marwari community could teach me such an important lesson, but they did. They were playing an exhibition match with the Muslim Marwaris’ on Independence Day and how they played for Pakistan!

The event that I covered is a mere news story; it can only serve the purpose of informing readers and cannot reflect the true emotions of these people unless you go out there and witness it for yourself. Their story is bigger and more meaningful than a bunch of listed statistics. Their passion for sports is not derived from selfish, greedy desires. These children were not playing so they could practice for some important upcoming game; they were playing because it was fun and because they had a mission.

That day, they weren’t just playing for themselves; that day, on that small dilapidated field they played for Pakistan and its people. They played because they understood, better than any one of us ever could, that the unity brought on by sports is only otherwise surpassed by war. They came together with the other children regardless of colour, class or origin to just enjoy themselves and celebrate Independence Day as best as they could in the means they could afford. Their story is that simple.

Some of them proudly and shamelessly told me that they were pretending to be Indians during the match with their Muslim counterparts; they didn’t seem to care about the label of being ‘Indian’ because it was entertaining and attracted spectators. That was their purpose and they served it just right.

Through these children I questioned myself, other citizens and our leaders – why aren’t we as patriotic? What has happened to us? What happened to our green spirit? Or was there ever any spirit to begin with?

I admit, I may have never considered myself an overtly patriotic Pakistani and I don’t know if I can voice the exact feelings I have for this country, but after interviewing these children, belonging to a Hindu community, I recognised a spirit I believe I must have once possessed.

Their view was that no matter how they cursed this country about the lack of opportunities it had in store for them as Hindus or as citizens, it was still their home and they had a responsibility towards it and its people. The lack of clean water, electricity and education are some of the primary facilities that are not available to them and yet, they stand patriotically tall. It is a part of who they are and they knew that their population contributes towards the diversity and richness of the culture of this nation rgardless of how they are shunned.

They emphasised that the coastal belt, where they have their settlements now, is the same place where their ancestors lived and generated business in Karachi even before 1947.Therefore, Karachi runs thick in their blood; it is still their sanctuary despite all the violence and social inequality.

I realised that they call this country theirs just like I call it mine; it’s not a choice, it’s a given and we are all one.

What struck me as especially remarkable was how they celebrated the inception of Pakistan despite the fact that this contry has given them nothing. I mean, that was the real miracle. These people were so grateful for whatever they had and held high hopes for a greener, brighter future.

They were convinced that prosperity or a general sense of happiness only came to those who were open to new ideas and not just labels. Collaborative efforts through sports can bridge the social divide, which can be a first step towards becoming a community, a nation, and finally a Pakistani. Sports erase labels like Hindu, Muslim, Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, Pathan or even Marwari and when those cease to exist- unity is the only way forward.

Many sports events took place that day, with athletes coming out for the likes of boxing, throw ball, basketball, arm-wrestling, cycling, and other smaller sports; these athletes were not given any incentive, they only had a cause and that was to show unity. A Gilgit-Baltistani volleyball player told me that August 14 was celebrated in Karachi just like it was in his village. He said for the athletes, sports are just a way of becoming a team, where ethnicity doesn’t matter. Sports are like a larger than life team building activity – devoid of any worldly influence of division.

Before stumbling on the football story, I kept wondering why these people were out in the rain, playing at venues with inadequate facilities where they can get injured and risk their lives over a match.

But then I thought,

 “Well, it’s probably their love for the sport, right?”

But its more than that. They were out celebrating in the hopes of at least inspiring others. The athletes here showed up to the events despite rain and transport issues and despite their own limitations. They got out of their comfort zones and just played for themselves, for a part that they call ‘Pakistan’.

While the privileged class kept busy with their status updates or eased out on an extra holiday, these athletes managed to show that being Pakistani is more than just singing or playing patriotic songs and it’s definitely more than wearing a green badge on your shirt. They realised that this day was their opportunity to come out and motivate other people to participate in their silent cause of unity.

These athletes were patriotic because they belonged to that part of the population that doesn’t have money or sufficient resources but has the resilience and will to survive – something money can’t buy. They don’t have any high ‘connections’, or expectations but if anyone wants to learn how to fend for themselves in the real world or how to really celebrate Independence Day with passion, these are the people to learn from.

A change can come and someone will see their efforts someday.

Patriotism is a rare and powerful emotion.; it can even rile those people up who have no power or stake in the politics of the country. Yet, even they feel a strong sense of belonging and that is truly inspiring.




Natasha Raheel

A Karachi-based sports reporter for The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ks

    I have met many Hindus in Pakistan. Your article cannot appeal to me.Recommend

  • sid

    Marwaris and poor………..if u say this in India they will say u r mad…………….Recommend

  • Gulam Rasool “Kuldeep sharma”

    Poor Marwari? Oh the Irony, In India If you are Marwari than at-least you are millionaire Recommend

  • abhi

    poor marwari playing football! this must be wonder of wonders.Recommend

  • AbsoluteIndia

    “Poor Marwari Hindu”…What a joke??That is their destiny in Pakistan,then what would have been mine???Recommend

  • Ram

    People dont ask ur riligon from which u come but ask from which country u come so nation is only identity not religionRecommend

  • suzo

    hope you aren’t exagerating facts? * btw what does marwari mean? Is it some ethnic group like sindhis or urdu -speaking?*Recommend

  • Gp65

    Marwar is a region in present day India in the state of Rajasthan. It has it’s own language which is called Marwari. These people are considered highly industrious, frugal and entrepreneurial and So typically tend o be affluent. Hemce we Indians are surprised to hearths term poor Marwari.

    Hope that explains.Recommend

  • Anand

    Poor innocent children, have no idea what fate has ordained for them in future! Conversion, forcible, or out of sheer survival instinct, or being kidnapped if a girl. God, please bless them with one opportunity to migrate. Recommend

  • Rakib

    All Marwaris are from Rajasthan, all Rajasthanis are not Marwaris. Just as not all Keralites are Malabaris! Confusion is because the Author uses “Marwari” as sub-region specific word which is absolutely correct while Indians from other provinces tend to associate the word with all Rajasthanis, which is misleading. For Indians the word is at once a term of endearment & of disparagement. Marwar region is roughly Jodhpur district & borders Sindh to its south-west. It’s a low-rainfall, low productivity region off Thar desert.. Apart from Marwar other traditional regions are: Mewar, Mewat, Ajmer, Dhundhar, Shekhawat, Hadoti, Godwad, Vagad, Bikana Etc.. For instance: the great Pakistani ghazal-singer Mehdi Hasan was a Shekhawati. Renowned folk singer of Pakistan Reshma is of Gypsy stock from Bikana region. The famous billionaires Birlas, though called Marwaris are actually from Pilani which is in Shekhawat region. Chittor of famous Rana Pratap is in Mewar. And so on….

    The Marwaris are forced by an ungenerous environment to become thrifty to a fault & to seek employment or set up businesses outside the area. The Jains among them are forbidden by their religion to take up farming or certain manufacturing hence prefer trading where they excel.. Marwaris have tried to compensate the poverty of Nature by their colourful dresses, celebration of Holi, tasty cuisine & incredible folk music. Outside Marwar they have done very well. Both in folklore & urban legend Marwari is a synonym for miserly money-bag. Reality is different. Many of them are poor since the land is dry, desert is relentless & old social practices & some feudal vestiges remain. I confess to being partial towards these wonderful folk..Recommend

  • Np

    No one including the author made the claim that all Rajasthanis are Marwaris. So it is unclear who you are correcting.

    On the other hand your suggestion that all Marwaris are Rajasthanis is not accurate, Marwaris I.e. people speaking that language have been settled in Calcutta for many generations and they do call themselves Marwaris but not Rajasthanis.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    I was travelling once and my co-passengers were two Marwari who were strangers to each other. After getting introduced, the first question one Marwari asked the other was “Aap Dhanda Kya Karte ho?”. Then they proceeded to forget about me and started discussing business ventures between each other.

    Marwaris are one sharp businessmen and know how to do business in a very traditional way. Glocal is one way to describe their business model. They go to a new place learn the local language, traditions and integrate into the local society while holding on their Marwari culture. I sincerely admire the way they work even though they tend to be thrifty at times.Recommend

  • Rakib

    @Np: Your point is valid. No, nobody made that claim here. (Some made a very humble claim that in India all Marwaris are at the very least millionaires). If you notice I did not have my erudite & mature compatriots in mind at all. I was being expansive for the benefit of @suzo (Q: btw what does marwari mean? Is it some ethnic group like sindhis or urdu -speaking?) to whom I was explaining that the term “Marwari” had become synonymous with entire trading community of Rajasthan & that’s why I gave example of Birla who is a Marwari that is not a Marwari & that Marwar is a sub-region within Rajasthan & not a suburb of Calcutta where Birlas began making money but never forgot that they were from Pilani. My essay was not meant for you. Kindly unread my post. Recommend

  • Dr Dang

    Sorry state of one the most enterprising people on earth.
    As an old saying goes, “Jahan naa pahunche rail gaadi, wahan pahunche bail gaadi, aur jahan naa pahunche bail gaadi, wahan pahunche Marwari… (Implying that nothing comes in the way of the Marwaris and their business, not in the least, the inaccessibility of a place…). The saying stands true to the fact that nothing can shake the grit and determination of a Marwari.
    Some of India’s brightest have been marwaris,including
    Families like the Birlas (now Kumar Mangalam Birla of the Aditya Birla Group and Yash Birla of the Yash Birla Group), the Goenkas (RPG Group), Dalmias, Poddars (Siyaram Silk Mills) and the Singhanias (Raymond Group) .Lakshmi Mittal of ArcelorMittal, Indian telecom mogul, Sunil Mittal of Bharti Enterprises, Subhash Chandra (Zee Network), the Lodhas, Piramals, Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways, the Jindals, Hindujas, Bajajs, Kajarias, Dokanias of Durian, Firodias of Kinetic, Biyanis of the Future Group, Motilal Oswal of Motilal Oswal Securities, RK Somany of Hindustan Sanitaryware and Industries Limited (HSIL) and Hindware, Atul Ruia of High Street Phoenix and the Kasliwals of S Kumars.

    Only a country like Pakistan could stop a Marwari to be successful.These poor Pakistani Marwaris kids are having to pretend to be Indian to please the Pakistani crowd.
    What a pity.Recommend