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A baniya in my backyard

Published May 15, 2012 06:15pm


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-Photo Illustration by Eefa Khalid.

I have for a long time carried an image, that over time became a sort of a daydream, in which I see myself standing in a row on a roadside waving two small flags while a jubilant procession of people passes by. The procession is from India but it doesn’t have Manmohans or Zardaris neither does it have Khans or Kapurs. They are instead common faces – very colorful and cheery though, the dancing and singing types waving in return to the crowd that for some reason values a glimpse of this troupe with no claim to fame. A psychologist might diagnose me with some condition with a difficult to pronounce (but impressive) name. But since I am an India-Pakistan dove, that is probably how I visualise, in contrast to verbalising, an event that would one day herald peace between India and Pakistan.

It flashes whenever I engage with this subject and every time there is a little improvisation. Once I saw that the more enthusiastic and youthful participants have jostled me backwards but there was really nothing to scuffle over and an exchange of smiles settled the score. At another occasion, I found my young daughter riding on my shoulders and relaying a running commentary from two feet above my eye level and seeing it through her innocence makes the event more delightful. I once had my 75 year old mother with me as she insisted to not miss the occasion and it was taxing to say the least, as it took quite an effort to ensure that nobody bumps into her.

I have always believed it would happen one day. And believe me it has not been easy. I have struggled. It is not easy to imagine something that refuses to follow text book narratives being forced upon us since past half century, something that belittles heroics of missile and nuclear programs and does not help politicking with your local constituents. Odds have been stocked with billions in money and millions of tones in arms and ammo. That shaky image, however, persisted. I have drawn confidence from my study of history. There was Berlin Wall and then there was no Berlin Wall.

The dream again visited me recently and this time with some stranger improvisations. That air of jubilation, that queer sparkle – went missing and instead I found a weirdly solemn expression writ large on the face of the crowd. And my God, the procession was not the same either. Buses were replaced by trucks and those cheery dancing, singing faces by grim looking baniyas.

Baniyas do not evoke any thing positive in me. They represent the unforgiving meanness of self-interest. Their way of seeing things is so very different from mine. They speak a language that I cannot comprehend. They count people in amounts and see societies as markets and are always intent on cashing in on every opportunity. They have learnt by heart all the mantras that convert a labour of love into sellable commodities and their Midas touch can change human relations into value-added services. They are the antidote to romanticism that I find so vital to breathe through while being buried nose deep into the absurdities of life.

I did not borrow this image of a baniya from texts. It is not bookish at all. The image, in fact, was painted over centuries with each stroke of it representing my own painful experiences. It only got worse when the Raj decided to side with him and made agricultural land an exchangeable, or foreclosable, commodity. The ruthless market economy had already jolted my average villager whose economy was rooted deep into the subsistence slumber. As he frantically struggled to cope, the baniya pulled the land from under him. The simmering hate boiled over into rage and fury.

My later day text books some how managed to transform this deep-etched image of a baniya into a relief of a Hindu which then went on to be hung as a picture title ‘an Indian’. Have you ever watched the Independence Day play in your neighborhood school? Please do, the next time you get an opportunity. A boy dressed in a dhotee, with no top or maybe a vest and a shiny bald head but with a small head of hair dangling funnily on one side of the skull represents India. He has a shrewd smile on his face and his character personifies callousness and insensitivity. He is a traitor who ditches poor Muslims to side with an oppressive white man. It is a theatrical rendering of the narrative: all Indians are Hindus and all Hindus are baniyas. No need to add that baniyas are abhorring creatures.

Persons like me had to make efforts to de-educate themselves and unlearn the most important of their political lessons. I wrote in my homework copy a million times – all Indians are not Hindus and all Hindus are not baniyas. I waited for years standing on the road side to welcome Indians or Hindus and what I now see is a procession of baniyas riding triumphantly a train of trucks crackling under the load of sacks of don’t know what as Haji sahebs and Mian jees frantically push their way through the crowd of daily wagers to have the maiden glimpse of – the merchandise, they have received from across the border.

I won’t oppose the new procession. But when I go home this evening I will tell my mom that she really should not risk going out to welcome the procession. I will also ask my young daughter to forget the carnival that we talked about and instead take out her colored pastels and pencils set and help me draw a new colorful daydream.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Author Image

Tahir Mehdi works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

He tweets @TahirMehdiZ

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (114) Closed

Shah May 15, 2012 08:34pm
I will have to disagree. Indian Hindus are not more tolerant because of their "secular" upbringing. The Hindus I have met, and I have met many in my life, have been highly religious, highly nationalistic and highly anti-Pakistani. I had the opposite experience when dealing with Sikhs - maybe because of the same Punjabi heritage.
Deb May 15, 2012 01:07pm
@Shubs Exactly my thoughts, but better articulated.
American Desi May 15, 2012 01:09pm
All Baniyas are not bad either! The main character who rescued the subcontinent from British exploitation, Gandhi, was a Baniya too.
Vasan May 15, 2012 02:01pm
Genuine question. Answer if you know. Can someone tell me who plays the role of a middleman in Pakistan between the small farmer and the big market? And by the way - only in Pakistan do you have these stereotypes of Indians. Indians stopped this about 30 years ago. A Brahmin is not merely a priest anymore, he is also a business leader. A Baniya is not condemned merely to lend money to peasants, he went to IIT and is a successful entrepreneur in the USA. This blogger needs to think more.
Red May 15, 2012 06:23pm
Well the author still manages to show his "prejudices" against a whole communtiy- that of Banias, this seems to suggest that all Bania's are cunning, even if all Hindu's are not, it's as offensive as saying all Jews are Shylocks and miserly, it is hateful, spiteful and not representative of a person who has overcome biases. He might be using "Bania" as a metaphor for people who are business minded and not people friendly, but that still shows his biases.
Anthony May 15, 2012 12:17pm
Hard Facts - All Indians are not Hindus. India has three States where Christians are in a majority and one more State where Christians are near 45%. Also, India has one State where Sikhs are in a majority and one State where Muslims are in a majority. India has the second largest population of Shia Muslims in the world after Iran. The population of Muslims in India today is about 180 Million, which is about the same as population of Pakistan. The percentage of Banias among Hindus is about 27%. The Banias are Vaish or Capitalists, which is nothing wrong. Infact it is positive attribute.
Faruk May 15, 2012 02:59pm
What do you mean? the feudal lords control the land and the big market. Regards, Faruk
Azad May 15, 2012 03:02pm
Gandhi was Gujarati baniya. Jinnah's grandfather was Poonjahbhai who was Gujarati Baniya trader from a Vaishnavi Lohana subcaste
A. Ronaq May 15, 2012 12:48pm
I, happily Pakistani, or Pakistani any ways; must say that we must seek friendship among other good countries as well rather India when we do have a political background issue with them we don't need now to tilt so much to them that starts sounding abrupt. And as nation I m now witnessing that it is happening among the literate masses in Pakistan. Everything is good in a natural course of action and off-course every normal human being would hold a just 'normal' behavior toward other human being. At the level of nation should we rush into them and hug them? What friendship is meant for? If we get a broader scope there are certainly many other countries that deserve to be made good friends with, offering us aid in different fields of development on practical grounds. We are really ignoring them!
nipungoyal May 15, 2012 03:45pm
The author needs to de-educate himself a bit more and get to know some Baniya people- but Oh, muslims drove them all out in 1947! So he doesn't have the luxury of living in a multi-ethnic society like we Indians have. I have friends from the Baniya community and they're as "capitalist" as any other Indian. As for the colonial image of baniyas- the author should remember that the baniyas only served all zamindars- both Hindus and Muslims, especially loads of Muslim zamindars in Uttar Pradesh thrived on the skills of these very baniyas!
Mahendra May 15, 2012 03:46pm
No offense intended, so if an Indian thinks all Pakistanis are genetically 'terrorists', Shias, Sunnis alike? How does the ground reality change? I appreciate the writer for making understand that generalization does no do good to any one. There will be bad apples any where and this does not mean everyone else is bad. However I see sarcasm in the blog where it seems that with trade discussion progressing with India, it is making him feel that un-educating himself was probably wrong and the Indians are hated 'baniyas' after all. May be I interpreted it wrong.
bangads May 15, 2012 03:46pm
Author has a narrow vision of communities in India and he is prejudiced against Banias.
Logical May 15, 2012 03:47pm
we all are genetically same Arian Race almost all of Pakistan and most of North India, matter of fact all the Last name of Pakistani and Indian Jatts are you want to call all Pakistani Muslim Jatt as "Banya" ?????
ravi May 15, 2012 03:51pm
Well put. so you stereo type a section of people, then you generalize that a complete nation is of that steroetype. if it took a lot of effort for you to get to a realization that generalizing is not correct. next step is realizing a stereotypical baniya is not that bad compared to probably 90% of your neighborhood.
DeeMan May 15, 2012 09:02am
well written. intelligent linguistic discourse as well.
Jawwad May 15, 2012 02:44pm
That's an insult to my secular upbringing. You just can't speak for all the Pakistanis in this manner as you just don't know that. Good and bad exist all around us. Calling self good and other bad is a testimony to lack of understanding.
adish May 15, 2012 12:13pm
wow a whole article on me .. ha ha ha .. i am baniya
BHB May 15, 2012 02:51pm
Many of you have explained the importance of bhaniyas in any society. They are the capitalists, traders, market makers, call them what you may. However, in Pakistan, bhaniya is a derogatory term used against Indian Hindus. Unless you live in a communist society (North Korea, for instance), the bhaniyas exist around you. Open societies should be proud of its bhaniyas. They are essential to the functioning of trade and markets. So hug a bhaniya today and get over that prejudice. Then you will have one less issue to deal with.
B. Sridhar May 15, 2012 01:48pm
As one who was born a Brahmin, I take umbrage to your condoning the baniya stereotype. Baniyas perform a very important function in the society and that is called commerce. It is an necessary function and not some kind of a disease that one inherits. Motive of baniyas is no less noble than a priest collecting an offering, a plumber charging for fixing your faucet or a doctor or a lawyer collecting his fee. The stereotype persists because some baniyas pursue profiteering instead of a fair profit. But, then who shall cast the first stone considering that we have politicians, plumbers, doctors and lawyers - who are all accused of overcharging. By the way not all baniyas are Hindus - there are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and of course Hindu baniyas.
mirza May 15, 2012 02:58pm
Baniyas, as I understand is a trader class . So whats wrong in being a trader ?. And whats wrong in being a capitalist. A trader is businessman not a philonthropist. He has to run the business on business guidelines to make profit.I find the article by Mr Mehdi in poor taste and reeks of bigotry and a myopic vision.
Gina May 15, 2012 02:59pm
I don't understand this angst against the 'Baniyas'. As a non-baniya Indian, I have no problem acknowledging that a lot of commercial growth in the Indian economy is thanks to the "Baniyas' expertise. To be successful, a society needs all kinds of people. Don't go demonizing the very people who drive the economy and provide employment.
Gunjan May 15, 2012 03:05pm
Thats a good take.
Jayesh May 15, 2012 02:24pm
Dr. Yousaf, We are living in a world where a weak bro is in need of strong a prosperous bro. Pakistan being isolated from many power houses seeking to have warm bro hood from India. China is there but China is going to cost much more than what India can. So in this world all Angels are dead the alive ones are powerless. So India is in process to fight out for its place in world similarly Pakistan should also start the same struggle to have new face for her. mind well new face is not illusive as it defined heavenly word Jannat by Mullahs which has only thing to offer poverty and ignorance and darkness. The new face should also not be as banias which influence much in India. Both are horrible faces. we are in search of new lovable and humanly face.
TheseusIam May 16, 2012 03:32pm
India did not reciprocate the Mumbai attacks or the attack on the Indian parliament. Shouldn't you be thankful for that?
OmarKhan May 15, 2012 12:08pm
All Indians are genetically 'Banya's ', Hindus, Muslims alike.
Sauron May 15, 2012 01:57pm
Being a baniya is no bad thing, all successful societies have commerce as a base and people who engage in commerce. And as far as traders go, 'baniyas' are among the best in the world.
T Khan May 15, 2012 01:54pm
A well intended idea, however, naively written. Obviously Mr. Mehdi still has holds prejudices for Baniya and Jews (although he didn’t mention Jews). How about Punjabi Sodagraans and Memon/Gujrati Jewelers or any other shrewd Pakistani businessman who is no less ruthless than a Baniya or a Jew to make a profit. Baniya ( I am using it in good term) are omnipresent (universally) and their Moto is “In God we Trust, everyone else pay Cash”. Making money is no sin. Those who don’t have it claim it to be a curse, however would love to be cursed by it.
BRR May 15, 2012 01:54pm
I might as well be a Baniya and I don't feel there is much to be ashamed of - if a Baniya makes honest living with his skills, and lives an honest life, why should that be a problem. The caricature of the Baniya has served its political purpose - generate hate and gather votes. Thus it is the golden goose that keeps on giving to Pakistani politicians and the military.
Saad M. Waraich May 15, 2012 11:50am
Beautifully written. Keep the dream alive.
vinit May 15, 2012 02:33pm
if genetics is considered what is the genetic thread of pakistan .? it is the same as indians .
Dr. Yousaf May 15, 2012 10:30am
For my knowledge....isnt all this India-Pak bhai bahi and such sentiments from pakistan side......????? Do we have similar reciprocacity (i mean at the "general" media level)???? My impression is otherwise, and it gets reinforced when i look at the way pakistan is beign reported by teh wide-spread media (even our media is not that antagonsitic towards India)......May it be that we are "Aman ki Asha" with "Paksitan ki Asha" ????? Please educate me as no matter how i have tried to convince myself ... i couldnt get convinced of reciprocity on the other side of the border
Rohin Angral (Delhi) May 16, 2012 10:10am
Dear Dr. Yousaf... I am sorry for the kind of feeling many comments might have given you...i don't know about the whole country but for myself i can say that i sincerely think that we are bhai bhai.....even more than that...a neighbour is much more than a brother who lives miles away. To hell with people who spread hatred and i don't give a damn to them,neither should you, We have many more problems which our country men are facing. One more thing u ll see, people who haven't faced anything make more noise and people who actually were the victims still has humanity left in them and are forgiving...cos commentary is much easier than to actually play on the field. But lemme assure that there are people and large in number who think like me and you.
kaushik May 15, 2012 09:23am
One should understand that the Baniya is trained to be Capitalist. If you understand the philosophy, you will not find anything wrong with it.
P.R.Koduri May 15, 2012 07:55am
Certainly all baniyas are not Hindus but all baniyas are as depicted above. I have known a few of them and they are all stereotypical! One of them who I have interacted with over forty years paid for a cup of tea only once during all these years and only on my insisting on it. He would buy one onion among others for his cooking and it was embarrassing to be with him at that visit to the store! That was in Chicago years ago. Wonder whether Ghalib had anything to say on this.
sri1ram May 15, 2012 07:58am
Nice one. The process of unlearning of the stereotype-caricature of all Indians as manipulative banias will be a long one, and it has to start with the textbooks.
Chris M May 15, 2012 07:39pm
Saying "all Indians are Hindus and all Hindus are baniyas" equivalent to saying "All pakistani's are muslims, all muslims are terrorists"...........neither is true
anand singh May 15, 2012 08:07am
"The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group." For once I found it to be good idea to have posted the above. A strange confused and drifting write is what I have just read. it was strange to read of such pre-concieved notions that still exist among the educated. Thats all thats worth commenting on this blog.
BlackJack May 15, 2012 08:10am
Ridiculous blog. All Indians are not Hindus, all Hindus are not baniyas, and all baniyas are not out to cheat the poor naive and tender-hearted muslim. Baniyas contributed much more to the independence movement than muslims did - maybe it is time to start reworking those independence plays from scratch.
kayenn May 15, 2012 07:27am
Brain washing doesn't takes that long a period but redrawing a reality takes a long time ....... All Muslims are not terrorists also needs to be understood................... People start to ask questions as to why they should believe the new narrative when all these years education was to the contrary. Begining has to be made and the bad baggage of history needs to be forgiven, where ever neccessary.
vikas May 15, 2012 01:49pm
Only thing Baniyas knows is how to loot to multiply the wealth.
Sandeep Singh May 15, 2012 06:06pm
Yes, but they have 90% of Indian Money..Lol
(Dr.) B.N. Anand May 15, 2012 10:32am
Sir,In this context, I shall add that a Jew is a version of German baniya, totally with commercial interests and believing in profitability in all the dealings of life. I like when you say that all the Indians are not Hindus and all the Hindus are not the baniyas. BNA
Jawwad May 15, 2012 02:40pm
The writer was implying the stereotyping of Indians or Hindus at large in Pakistani mindset. This is something we Pakistanis have to sort out among ourselves with greater responsibilities lies with our leaders to counter that. We have forgotten any respite from Mullahs.
Bobby Srinivas May 15, 2012 10:33am
Funny and true! If Berlin Wall can fall and if U.S. and Canada are such endearing friendly neighbors, each benefiting from the other is it folly for me to dream that we too sooner than later will rejoice with new found friendship?
Surya May 16, 2012 01:20am
Sweeping generalization..The ignorance of the author hits us on the face lending credence to the depth of tolerence in Pakistan. .There is nothing called free lunch in business and all business men be it hindu or muslim are alike on their self interest.
TheseusIam May 16, 2012 03:26pm
Jinnah is from a baniya family and he is the father of Pakistan. Pakistan would be a better place if the mullahs had less power than the baniyas of Pakistan.
digiloveslicking May 16, 2012 08:54am
Jinnah too was from the bania castes of Kathiawad!
puri- Ludhiana May 16, 2012 08:56am
The author has missed the forest while counting the trees.All the communities have specific traits inbuilt in them down the generations. These traits have their advantages if correctly used. I am sure that Pakistan must also be having communities with similar professions and hope that they are not disliked for a similar reason.
Tauqeer Mustafa May 15, 2012 08:24am
Outstanding piece. Very well written indeed.
Farhan May 15, 2012 09:57pm
Listen! I used to agree. I was always a big proponent of friendship and breaking the stereotypes. But ever since I saw the comments below the Times of India news of Avalance in Siachin and Bhoja Air Crash, i do not feel like that anymore. Common Indian is venomous against Pakistan to an absurd level, while reciprocally you won't find much hatred over here. Please don't tell me that we have no grievances against Indians and only Indians have against us. There is a litany of complaints both real and perceived by both sides. You issue with banya and hindus is superficial one. There is nothing wrong with being a baniya. They are mere stereotypes of society. But issue is the hatred Indians have against us and the irrationality in their arguments. We cannot hang Hafiz Saeed without any proof, but Indians did not even bother about all the proofs and gave Modi clean chit. We know that we in Pakistan have problems but Indians just deny any problems on their side. That is the irrationality
Prashant May 15, 2012 01:10pm
Banias are not even 10% of the Hindu population.
Indian May 15, 2012 05:48pm
All Baniyas are also human & all humans are not bad
Guest May 15, 2012 01:36pm
Its indeed very sad to see that most Pakistanis, including the most educated ones, see India and Indians as their perennial enemies, who always want to trample poor muslims under their meanness. We, Indians, might have a different religion and philosophy, but we share much of our traits, both good and bad, with pakistanis. Amongst the differences, most Indians are much more tolerant lot, due to a secular upbringing and respect for all communities, unlike most Pakistanis.
Rohin Angral (Delhi) May 16, 2012 09:53am
I think the writer's point is different from what most have understood, he cites his own example of an old mindset based on his or his people's experiences, which is true for many Indians/Hindu's also for the character in the article. But he is actually trying to come out of that cocoon. And look at the lovely lines in the end...the writer is looking for love from both sides but not just trade, he hopes more...if u love each other u will surely help each other and do business for mutual good but if u do business/trade its not necessary that you love each other also. Lets learn to love. We all talk about it but we do not live it. One more thing for people from both the countries...for god sake stop being too touchy about all the things all the time, it is so irritating to see every time any opinion is given by anyone all the people start feeling offended or start ranting and the whole level of conversation goes down, also the essence of the topic is lost for ever. Lets be mature and handle things better now...we are not children anymore after all we are 65 now.
Punjab Singh Punjabi May 16, 2012 01:58am
I must concur with the author. Every Punjabi Jatt worth his salt whether he is Muslim . Sikh or Hindu absolutely hates the Baniya. The Baniya is equivalent to a parasite that simply latches on to the Jatts. Jatts however have come up with a novel idea to get rid of the Baniya. There comes a point where they simply blow away the Baniya. and i mean literally.
Ram Krishan May 16, 2012 10:03am
Author has a point . Banyas are a part and parcel of the Indian society. They have been there for the past 3200 years as far back as the Indian history tells us. Overall , they have contributed a lot in creating wealth for India and as well as for foreign countries where they immigrated and settled . The richest man in Europe is an Indian Banya from Rajasthan who employs thousands of white people in his steel mills.
Hariharan.S May 15, 2012 05:42pm
"all Indians are not Hindus and all Hindus are not baniyas." This is similar to what muslims say "All muslims are not terrorists" But your article,though in good intent,reeks of stereotyping.... You are villifing an entire caste as scheming dishonest misers who suck the blood of normal citizens... I'm sorry,but I've friends working in my companies having surnames of Aggarwal,Porwal but none of them rent money to others nor are they exhibiting descipable behavior mentioned in the article... Your sterotyping is similar to the Germany's potrayal of Jews as most of the moneylenders in Europe were Jews... Besides,you must know that Baniyas flourished in the Muslim rule of India as Muslims are forbidden to lend money,so they had no other choice than to borrow from a bania.... "All Hindus are not banias and All banias are not moneylenders"
rajan May 15, 2012 12:31pm
thanks mate!
ProudIndian May 16, 2012 02:11am
Baniyagiri and Economy. Both required to prosper. Religion or cast has nothing to do with Baniya.
Shubs May 15, 2012 12:25pm
"all Indians are not Hindus and all Hindus are not baniyas." So, I guess, as long as I'm an Indian who's not a Baniya or a Hindu, I'm in the author's good books? How about if I'm Indian and Hindu, but not a Baniya...maybe I'm tolerable. But God forbid, if my last name is Agrawal, or maybe Khandelwal, then I'm the scum of the earth? I understand the general tone of the article, criticizing the prevasive culture of stereotyping that exists. However, the epiphany the author has, expressed by the above sentence, itself seems to be a back-handed throwback to the very stereotyping culture he seems to be criticizing. It's like the narrative in the US before Obama's election, that he was not Muslim, not the fact that even if he was, should it have mattered?
John Doe May 15, 2012 07:09am
pakistani May 15, 2012 01:53pm
media dosent reflect what ppl feel and think, they look for their interests and viewership. as India is a big population and if our media get access vieweship there then you can how it will benefit them long run through ads and so much more relates to it.
Gaurav May 16, 2012 02:58am
"In God we trust everyone else pay cash - How hilariously apt :)
garry May 16, 2012 02:59am
GREAT! The author is against Baniyas. Is he against all forms of business. Idea of business is to make profit. Donot u have any " Muslim baniyas". The number percentage wise of Hindu baniyas versus Muslim baniyas would be no different . Author wants us to believe that Hindus are the only businessmen. Buniyas whether Hindu or Muslim are a breed of small entrepreneurs.
gaurav May 16, 2012 03:00am
amen to Jawwad ...his comment indicates that stereotypes exists amongst indians too
Hitesh May 16, 2012 03:39am
The Author want to point his finger towards the "Most Favored Nation" status given to INDIA. He don't want the trade flourish between two countries. He fear Gandhi and his ideals. He thought if one Baniya manage to truncate his Pakistan then what happened if there will be groups of baniyas invited to their Pak land.
dks May 16, 2012 03:53am
all pakistanis are not muslims and all muslims are not terrorists
JAY RAMAN May 16, 2012 04:14am
Interesting article. The intent is good. I am surprised at the gross misunderstanding among Pakistanis about India and especially Hindus. Baniyas are present in every society including Muslims. Like every section of society there are good Baniyas and bad Baniyas. WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THE WORLD WAS ALWAYS CONTROLLED BY"BANIYAS" THE BRITISH CONQUERED THE WORLD AND NAPOLEAN CALLED THEM A NATION OF SHOP KEEPERS. THE EAST INDIA COMPANY AN ORGANIZATION ENGLISH BANIYAS CONQUERED INDIA BEATING THE MIGHTY MOGHULS, RAJPUTS SIKHS AND THE MAHARATTAS.
Soman May 16, 2012 04:27am
Not exactly Bania - He was a "Ghanchi" or what you call "Teli" in the North. It was Jinnah who's grandfather was a Lohana Bania named Meghji Goculdas.
Nasir May 16, 2012 01:20pm
Vasan, yes progress overall, India has long way to bring lower middle to upper middle or upper class. Pakistan lacks business community(SME)
chakraborty May 16, 2012 04:37am
Some Facts : Indian Business is Dominated by Baniyas. Ambani & Lakshmi Mittal (They were in Worlds Top 5 Forbes richest List in 2010) are also Baniyas. Baniyas are doing Business in Africa. They are Indian Jews who didnt had to leave there land. But the trend is changing now, I have seen Baniya Commandos (One of my Friends Brother is), Baniya Scientists and Teachers. Caste traits are becoming diluted now and become more diluted with time. Pakistanis tend to forget that there are Hindu Jaats, Gurjars, Meenas, Yadavs, Tyagis, Rajputs, Gurkhas, Marathas, Nagas, Assamese, Tamils, Reddys and many communities which they forget.. As a German & French is different (although both are Christians) So are Hindus from Different States & Communities. However I hope Pakistanis read a little more about India to Know its diversity and cultures.
punjabi jatt May 16, 2012 05:14am
Sridhar, my boy as a Jatt who has to toil the desert sands of South central Punjab, I have yet to meet a baniya who has helped me in anyway. These baniyas do not even give you a fair price for your wheat which you grew spending hours in the Punjabi summer and cold Punjabi winters. Dozens of my co-farmers have sold up and moved on because they could not repay the debts they owe to baniyas. Baniyas sometimes charge 40cents to the dollar for a loan you take from them. Being business savvy is a good thing but being a fat dhotti wearing paan chewing baniya who charges you twice as much for even common household items, these cunning baniyas are nothing but a bunch of streetwise conmen robbing innocent Jatts.
Nikhil Shah May 16, 2012 12:28pm
When Art, craft and trade are flourishing in a community it is an indication that the social and political working is in order. There is no middleman in between who is eating for free. When you go to a shop and buy an item that has software from US and hardware manufactured in China and raw material from Africa and Australia, think of what an ecosystem your Rs.1000 has help sustain. if anyone with muscle tries to get any item for free in this ecology the entire system collapses. So I urge you to think of Artists, craft man and Businessman as the product of a working society rather than a sore that you have to bare. Just imagine How I could have communicated back to you unless some Baniya in between did not work. Baniya can never sell that is not required by the society. Some times the values delivered by the product are more important to us humans than the actual function of the commodity.
Ram krishan May 16, 2012 05:40am
A good article which truly depicts the knowledge of average Pakistani that every Hindu is a Banya. The word HINDU comes from the word SINDHU ( people living on the banks of river Sindh , which even today is a sacred river to all Hindus). Banyas have flourished in Sindh and the rest of India for the past 3000 years , well before the birth of Christanity or Islam or for that matter Bin Qasim.Banyas are a peace loving people and firmly believe in live and let live, and are always interested in creating more wealth. Nothing wrong with that. Please read the Indian history before the islamic invasion of sindh .
M.D.Bhasin May 16, 2012 05:48am
Bania comes from Vanij in Sanskrit which means a trader or a merchant. But somehow the term is most times meant to refer to a person who ruthlessly over charges in terms of interest from a person who happens to be in the dire need of borrowing money from him. But, in reality Bania is universally an essential part of the society. There are basically two kinds of people—one is Bania and the other is one who works for the Bania. Both kinds of people work for money and tend to earn as much as possible. Earning money is by no means a charity. If at all you are charitable, it is after drying up other people and resources (earning profit) to accumulate money.
annas May 16, 2012 06:15am
Indeed a good effort to bring forth all the true facts.
Indian jutt May 16, 2012 05:04pm
Jatts in India are far, far better off than Jatts in Pakistan. In India we own our own land and work with Baniyas (as the middlemen), rather than work for a feudal. It is better to be free than be a slave. Compare villages in India Punjab vs Pakistan Punjab. The difference in the wealth of the common man is shocking.
Tripathy May 16, 2012 09:30am
Who is afraid of the Baniyas ? It is not the same old society where people go to Baniyas for a loan . In the last parliamentary elections the Indian Government wrote off 70,000 Crores in loans by farmers meaning that small farmers instead of going to Baniyas for loan are taking loan from Govt. agencies . Still then some farmers are getting into the loan trap .The lender in that case can be anyone not necessarily a Baniya . This is due to lack of awareness mainly due to lack of education . Lack of universal education is the main cause of backwardness for the sub-continent .
Rome May 16, 2012 10:58am
Let's not call them banias. Let's call them business magnates. Problem solved. P.S. Bill Gates is a bania.
Srini (San Jose,CA) May 16, 2012 01:09pm
One should not look at TOI to generalize Indian public thinking. First of all TOI is a substandard news site with only goal in mind is to make money by increasing TRP ratings - they do that typically by provoking readers in the article ending with some twisted questions. India has population of billion people and on TOI you see less than a 100 comments.This is not to say that Indians donot hate Pakistan, some Indians do but that must be very small percentage today, about less than 5% of the population whereas it must have been quite a big number about a decade ago like above 80%.For every person who posts hatred message against Pakistan in TOI there are many who offer hand of friendship.
Ansh Thakker May 16, 2012 01:30pm
Lakshmi Mittal the second richest man in Britain is a Bania by caste. Banias are not rich just because they only fleece others - but because they have sharp business acumen too. The richest muslim business community is the Khojas who are also converts from Banias also still share the same surnames viz. Virani, Meghani, Lakhani etc.
Musa May 16, 2012 05:59pm
sorry Faruk you have it wrong it is the aarthis who control all the farmers even the so called feudal lords... secondly it is the big business which controls the market. So for instance if we get paid for lets say cucumbers at around 25/kg. you would be charged around a 100 atleast even if im selling it in the aarthi market for that. Therefor sir please do a little bit more research before you throw something like this out there. Regards, Musa
Pankaj May 16, 2012 01:35pm
A Jatt remains a Jatt after conversion, a Rajput remains a Rajput after conversion, a Gujar remains a Gujar after conversion - you can change your religion in the sub-continent but you cannot change your caste. So what is the reaction of muslim baniyas to this tirade against Banias in the textbooks and media ? Do they too deny the obvious and claim foreign origins ?
Paul May 16, 2012 01:51pm
Maybe you're right. That the author is using the word Baniya as a metaphor for the business community, and not as a social community as it is understood in India. If that's the case, then the article shows his anti-capitalist outlook, which is's just another political school of thought. However, if he is referring to Baniya as a community or caste, then his outlook is borderline racist, or, as we say in India, casteist. Nothing I've read in the story argues in favor of the former, though it may just be lost in cross-border translation!
NASAH (USA) May 16, 2012 07:52pm
Hard ti get rid of subcontinental stereotyping and old prejudices -- isn't it?
Amarnath May 17, 2012 12:33pm
The extreme capitalsim attitudes of Bania (or similar class) is akin to that of the 2000 - 2006 period American Mortgage industry. Fortunately for the Americans, the Bankruptcy laws are the saviours, but for the unfortunte customers of the unregulated loan sharks in India, there is no respite from the extreme capitalism. Here Banias and similar classes in the sub continent fall on the wrong side. Their activities should be more regulated. You cannot lure helpless people with 30 - 40 percent interest rates when you know that the party cannot repay this loan. You are actually eyeing the property that is guaranteed for the the loan rather than make a fair profit. And it is wrong taking pride in the capitalism of the Bania class (or any other similar class). For those people who call it fair for every society to have a Banian equivalent, it would be absolutely fair for the rest of the society to look down upon the mentality that damns the societal consequences of extremem monetization and capitalism.
Karachishehar May 16, 2012 08:53pm
A slight "jumbish" of fresh air in a media ruled by the deep state of our enemies, I hope against hope that I will see more of your articles.
Karachishehar May 16, 2012 08:54pm
I see that the Baniya Brigade has come out in full force against the author.
Pankaj Patel (USA) May 16, 2012 09:10pm
Soloman,I am sorry but you are terribly wrong. Mahatma Gandhi was a Bania from Porbandar in Gujarat and not Ghanchi as you have said. His Karamchand was the Diwan(prime minister) of state of Porbundar in Kathiawad region of Gujarat.This shows that a Bania can be a good administrator too.
Srini (Chenna) May 17, 2012 03:07pm
I don't get the point of this blog at all. It still villifies Baniyas and Hindus. The author's mind is still cluttered with untruth
kishore sahi May 17, 2012 12:03am
This very patronizing article smacks not only of ignorance but also arrogance. The author - and, unfortunately, millions of other Pakistanis -- are poorly informed about India and Indians (assuming his good intentions were influenced by sheer ignorance unless, of course, he was motivated by sheer malice and hatred which would not surprise me), though they had once been part of this big nation. Be as it may, I would urge Pakistanis to get more factual information about India and Indians rather than dwell on India-related stereotypes and cliches with which they seem to have been brainwashed. A thinking, critical mind is a healthy sign of a person's level of development. It also benefits the nation in which they live so that such fixe idees are replaced by more objective assessment. This also helps in the more complex nation-building process and in producing good national leaders.
Guest May 17, 2012 02:42am
Well said
RBB May 17, 2012 04:57am
Pakistan Exists for 60 yrs and Pakistani Muslims forefather were Hindu's (Brahamins,Baniya,.......) . Leave Hindu or Muslim Thing , People are lots of materialistic aspirations which keeps Humanity far behind . Economics is a new religion be you a Muslim or i be a Hindu. Writer has an isolated thought.
Gautam Chintamani May 17, 2012 05:19am
Great piece. It's important to remember the dream lest we forget what our hearts desired. Very well written.
ashwanimehta May 17, 2012 01:51pm
it was amazing to read the blog on banias written by a pakistani , who would not have seen any bania in his life in pakistam. bania is also a human being not a creature found world wide , but predominantly in india i have not seen such racist article against banias . I must have come across lakhs of banias , but they are all as good or bad as pakistanis , indians or any other nationalities.
P.R.Koduri May 17, 2012 11:33am
Eefa khalid gets the Gold for the Beautiful rendition of the Man! Highly original, funny and yet with so much insight!
Deb May 17, 2012 12:41pm
@T Khan 'Those who don't have it claim it to be a curse......'.Well said. On another level I wonder who were those Arabs,Europeans,Chinese who were trading with the Indians ( presumably Hindu baniyas) for centuries? Were they selfless missioneries doing charity work, to be rewarded handsomely in their afterlife.
Ajeet Kumar May 17, 2012 12:46pm
Having gone through all the comments and articles, It makes me think for a while, why such sentiment was voiced, offcourse it is out of question that this would have taken a long time to develop embryologically in heart and then get voiced..However I would want to tell my dear friends here is that, generalizing certain group of people and associating individuals to labels, which however represent certain behaviors would be tantamount to entering into an erroneous world..rather one must attempt to do it other way around...Because terms like Baniya's , Hindus, Indians and Muslims have meaning in them as opposed to their relation with the people of certain outlook...For E.g .Word "Baniya" is referred to a person who is running his business with misery and exploiting plight of people for his / her personal gains hence many examples of people observing this trait can be found at various regions in various groups around the world..similarly "Hindu" this term was coined when Iranians (Persian) after they were invaded by descendants of Changaiz Khan migrated to subcontinent..They tried to name the people who used to live near Indus River (Sindhu Dariya), hence instead of word sindhu, they were so able to voice it as "HINDU" and the term was so used for people of subcontinent irrespective of thier Cast, Creed, Race and Religion..It was later in history when division was made and this word was associated with people who were originally Vedantists(Followers of Rig, Ather, Yajar and Saam Ved)..."Indian" it would not be wrong to associate it with people who are living in "INDIA" after Pakistanis are living in Pakistan...and Finally My friends for centuries we have been living on the transitory thought of immaturity, which tell us about the people being "Muslims" according to which Go Forbid only those people are termed as Muslims which are so name by Arab Legacy and for anyone to become Muslim it becomes necessary to change the name present himself to be "Muslim" but in fact it is the Person who Has strong Faith in Almighty, Prophet (PBUH) and Who does nice works..hence its the person who believes that Good will Result in Good and Bad will result in Bad is the Muslim..and the one who believes in bowing against materials to satisfy short term physical needs is actually acting against the orders of Almighty..hence could not be termed as Muslim irrespective of Labels...
Deb May 17, 2012 12:50pm
@punjabi jatt I admire your toil and all the hardship that come with it.But I ask you, 'who decides that the baniya is overcharging ?' Who decides what should be a fair charge and how? Why don't you borrow money from people who are not baniyas?They might even give it free.
Deb May 17, 2012 01:04pm
You are correct except that after conversion the hindu baniya foresakes his worldly possessions becomes a fakir and goes live in a cave to work for a better afterlife.
Deb May 17, 2012 01:12pm
Agree 200%. I think it is the irresistable urge to score a few browny points against one's perceived opponent that lead many to make comments far beyond the tone and tenor of the article at hand.To be honest I too am guilty of doing that in the past.
Mustafa Razavi May 17, 2012 03:28pm
There are several genetic threads Muslims do not share with Hindus and vice versa. Why do you think there are so many Khans in your movie industry?
bkt May 19, 2012 01:59am
I am glad I read this piece and all the replies with it. The only thing I knew about Baniyas was that they were dishonest accountants and oppressors. Now I know that Baniya is not a profession but a community and a people. Next time I will be able to talk about dishonest accountants (what we thought were called baniyas) by their proper name, which is dishonest managers
bkt May 19, 2012 01:54am
Agreed. Being ethnic like this smacks of prejudicial mindsets. One should rise above it
Tanvir May 17, 2012 04:54pm
All of us tend to show greed at times. Baniyas are trained from childhood to maximize profit and this ends up being mean at times. Law and order keep the greedy people in check and law enforcement is better in India than Pakistan. However I have met few Baniyas who are in professional jobs in US and Canada and they often show miser behavior that is embarassing. Charging 3% interest on Mortgages is normal and supports economy and Charging 24% interest on credit card payment delays is Banya's trait. Baniyas are everywhere, even in North America.
Indian May 18, 2012 03:26pm
You know what is venomous... coming with all the weapons from pak and shooting the common man in Mumbai.. that is venomous, we didn't come to karachi and kill you.. you did. We can never forget Mumbai...
Lahore_a May 17, 2012 11:25pm
I think the author is still living in the past . The term bania is outdated now. The world has moved on but in our country the pre-partition myths still live because we have lost contact with the country that we were once part of. Probably the author has picked up these stereotypical terms from his ancestors who once lived in united India. Now it turns out both Jinnah and Gandhi actually had a Bania background. So our two nations were founded by Banias. What more do you want ? First they gave you their money and then they gave you your Freedom? Long Live Jinnah and Gandhi !
Mustafa May 18, 2012 02:10am
It is totally unacceptable to publish an article in a respected media such as "Dawn" depicting "Banyas" or "Pathaans" or any ethic group. There are too many ethnic jokes about "Sikhs" already and they are unacceptable too.
satya May 18, 2012 05:15am
satya May 18, 2012 05:26am
I can understand your feelings brother! Not all of us are like that. I do not even read the ToI or HT, much less comment on them. Dawn is the perfect paper for me.
Umesh Bhagwat May 19, 2012 06:52am
It is not correct to characterise all Hindus as Banias as it is to characterise all Muslims as terrorists. We have to rise above these stereotypes and judge people as human beings having a common destiny. The majority of Indians Hindus & non-HIndus are a secular& tolerant people as are majority of Pakistanis.
mann May 19, 2012 01:31pm
yes because without baniya no trade commerc possible. yeh to meri roji roti ka sawal hai yaaaaar!!!!!!!!!!
nandkishor May 20, 2012 10:45am
now a days there is no monopoly of any community in any profession , article is prejudiced, racist.. In india you will not find an article against any community or religion in national news paper or websites, Author is educated with half & lack of knowledge.
Ram krishan May 22, 2012 09:15am
Mr. Koduri, you made me really laugh when I read that your friend would buy only one onion at a time. Your friend is another class and most definitely not a Bania.