My encounter with the Sheedi community

(Picture: not mine. I looked up a lot of very interesting pictures of Sheedis but I kept coming back to this one. There is something very beautiful about this little girl's eyes)

A month or two ago, I attended a wedding of one of Ranjit's close friends. It was a typical Telangana wedding, very colorful, lots of folk music and the very peppy teen maar drum beats. I am a big fan of folk music of various places and have a special love for Telangana folk, so I stayed on until the very end when the real music and dance starts. By the middle of the night all men were sufficiently drunk to dance the whole night around the drummers and I pulled my chair closer to the group to watch the fun. The drummers started with all the regular stuff and when the thing reached a crescendo, they switched to a very typical African drum beat. That surprised me, and I was a little puzzled when I looked at the faces of the musicans (these are not the posh artists who play in clubs. They are utterly poor and play music at weddings and funerals for a living). These people had distinct African features.

Later when I spoke to Ranjit, he told me that they are African-Indians called Sheedis, Siddhi's or Choush (depending on the region they settled in India/Pakistan) whose ancestors were soldiers and harem guards of Nizam, and came to India through slave trade. He said a few families who are the descendants of these people live in King Koti, Pahadi Shariff and Chandrayanagutta areas and have retained some of their African rituals and especially music. I have been in Hyderabad all my life and this was the first time I was hearing about these people.

I was very intrigued and spent the next few days pouring over articles on Internet to learn more about them and realized a possible reason why I never heard of them before. Most of these people are backward economically, suffered racial discrimination for generations together because of their color and looks and are so ignored that very little is written about them. There are however some who made a name in sports and others who have successful businesses, mostly selling meat.

The only way I could now know more this these titbits was to get in touch with the drummers I saw at the wedding. At this point, a fantastic coincidence happened, actually, two fantastic coincidences. I finished the book I was reading and randomly picked up the next one. This happened to be a book called 'Empires of Indus' that a friend of mine gave me. To my surprise and absolute delight, most of the book is about Sheedis!!!!! Is this a miracle or what! Fairly comprehensive and very well written book that covered the history and current status of many Sheedis in Sindh province of Pakistan.

I also spoke about this to my maid who happens to be a muslim (most of the Sheedis are muslims) and she told me she knows someone who know a Sheedi family and can take me to one of their weddings later in the month if I was interested in seeing the rituals they follow!!! I gave my maid a big hug!! If Raunak's dictation and weekly test schedule permits, I am off to Bidar to witness a Sheedi wedding in a few days!

Here is a good post that basically summarizes in 2-3 paras everything that most of the online articles say (which is not much). This site has a pretty good description of the book 'Empires of the Indus'. I am not writing a review for this one. Great book but you need some introduction to history of ancient India and current Pakistan to enjoy it fully.