For Sindhi people living in India, cooking provides a vital connection to their roots. To read more about Sindhi cuisine, see Kaumudi Marathe’s story from our May 2013 issue, [A Hunger for Home.
The largest concentration of Sindhis in India is not Mumbai, India’s most popululou city, but in Ulhasnagar, a settlement 37 miles northeast of the metropolis. Ulhasnagar took shape just after Partition in 1947, when Sindhis leaving Pakistan settled there in droves. It was originally a refugee camp but quickly evolved into a township whose narrow, crowded streets (like the one pictured here) give the place a bustling, village-like feel. Today, there’s nowhere else in India where you’ll find such an abundance of Sindhi faces or food. My mother-in-law Madhu Bajaj, photographer Ariana Lindquist, and I visited Ulhasnagar one drizzly afternoon in August to procure Sindhi ingredients.–Kaumudi Marathe Ariana Lindquist Our first stop was the grocery store Khubchand Passari (120-121 Siru Chowk, Ulhasnagar 421 002), where we found Sindhi specialties such as the lentil wafers known as papad, dehydrated lentil cakes called vadi, jasmine sherbet, almonds preserved in honey, dried morels, and lotus seeds. After giddily filling our bags, we sat down with the owner, Lachhman Bulani (pictured), who shared his breakfast of daal-pakwan, lightly cooked split chickpeas with crispy fried bread, served with sweet tamarind chutney.–Kaumudi Marathe Ariana Lindquist We visited Lai Sai Mandire Jhulelal (Mandir Road, Ulhasnagar #5, 421 002), one of the larger temples devoted to Jhulelal, the Sindhi water deity. The sanctuary shelters a sacred light, carried all the way from the original temple in Karachi, Sindh, in the late 1940s and never allowed to die out. We visited when the temple was at its busiest and most exciting, toward the end of a 40-day fast. Volunteers were preparing pots topped with mango leaves and coconuts, symbolizing the divine, all covered in sacred red cloths (pictured) that devotees would carry the next day in a parade; gigantic statues of Jhulelal would be pulled through the streets on wooden chariots to mark the end of the fast.–Kaumudi Marathe Ariana Lindquist While Kaumudi conducted interviews at the temple, I killed time walking around the temple, where I spotted this family worshiping. I didn’t take more than two or three frames; this is the shot I love most. I like how everything protectively encircles the baby, whose face is beautifully illuminated by the candles, and I like hat the man depicted not the bag is the only with his “portrait face” on.–Ariana Lindquist Ariana Lindquist Karachiwala Mutton Shop (Sector 2, Ulhasnagar 421 002), a popular eatery, is owned by Manoj and Kamlesh Ahujas (pictured), brothers whose grandfather Radhemal was from Larkhana, a province in northwestern Sindh. there, Radhemal had a restaurant so popular that it was immortalized in the first Sindhi feature film, Abana (1958). “Radhemal jo chap khai diso!” (Try Radhemal’s mutton chops!) urges the film’s theme song, largely a recitation of delicacies that Sindhi emigres longed for after Partition. the Ahujas graciously served us some of these dishes: piping hot alu tikkis (potato fritters) topped with kheema (ground mutton), thender fried bheja (goat’s brain), and Sindhi mutton. All of the meat was flavored traditionally, with balck pepper, cardamom, and red chile powder. or smothered in an aromatic blend–cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander seed–so spicy we needed colas to soothe our palates.–Kaumudi Marathe Ariana Lindquist