The need to be in touch to nurture the identity and roots
Halari Visa Oshwals is a very small community originally settled since last 560 + years in the Halar district around Jamnagar city in the western part of Gujarat, India. Prior to settlement in Halar, the community’s roots were in Rajasthan and Kutchh. In Halar, the community’s main source of livelihood was agriculture as the majority of the members were illiterate. From Halar the community families mass migrated mostly to Mumbai, East Africa and United Kingdom to earn livelihood and for advancement. Currently the total worldwide Halari Visa Oshwal Community population is around 80,000 in number.
The Halari Visa Oshwal migration to America, specifically United States and Canada, began in the mid 1960s. A group of Oshwals came here to further their education and professional careers. After their education, many oshwals entered the job market and found new opportunities attractive enough to settle in North America. This group of Oshwals was made up mostly bachelors who returned to their home land (India and East Africa to find suitable mates to start families and establish roots in America. A small number married American Anglos. Halari Visa Oshwals in America have generally preserved their culture, tradition and religion here, holding various organized social and religious functions.
In the mid 1970s, another group of oshwal immigrants came here due to unsettled political situation in East Africa. The majority of these oshwals settled in Canada as well as in USA.
During the 1980s, the oshwals immigrating to America were mostly relatives of the first and second Groups.
These pioneers who settled mostly in North East USA were instrumental in forming of the Halari Visa Oshwals of North America; there were a few common reasons that led to bring the community members closer via communications and frequent gatherings:
1. Everybody was in USA, so far away from homeland-India probably very first time. Each one was homesick being away from family in this new vast and strange land, culture and fast lifestyle
2. Communicating to the family members in India was difficult and expensive ( telephone call cost to India was five dollars per minute with minimum call charge time 3 minutes and the operator on the other side in India listening every word you speak on phone, reminding you that ” your three minutes over, do you want to talk more!”). For most of us this high international telephone call charge was not affordable at that time. (Graduate professionals were earning about10 to 12 k/year) with all kinds of obligations here in America as well as in India).
3. The Oshwal immigrants from 60’s,70’s, and 80’s that settled in North America was fresh and familiar with Halari customs, village lifestyle, our original Halari Katchhi language, food, functions, festivals etc- these things were missed by everyone as they were scattered in different parts and places in USA for work or studies.
4. We wanted to retain and strengthen the link with our roots, Halari common customs/ culture with the sincere hope to pass it on to the future generations of oshwals in America.
During 1990s and onwards a new group of oshwal immigrants mostly with advanced technical knowhow in computer and financial fields is steadily settling in America. Currently this group is sizable in number. They have advanced in their fields and careers much faster than the earlier groups of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. At the same time, the children of the Oshwal immigrants of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s are also entering in the job market with advanced degrees in education in multiple fields and they seem to be doing very well.
Nearly two generations- over 40 years have passed from that beginning of SINCERE HOPE. In our new and younger generations, the current trend for the interest in the community events participation interest dwindling and looks little bit less encouraging. There may be multiple reasons for this situation:
1. The majority of the oshwal community younger members in America are born and brought up here. Many of them may not have visited India or members of the joint family there. So obviously they may have less exposure to their roots. They are not homesick like their parents/grandparents. Everything for them is here in America.
2. The current trend of mixed/intercast marriages are increasing. So many common culture, lifestyles, customs etc. are changing.
3. The advancement in science and technology, new tools (cell phone, facebook, SMS, TV, computer, ipad, iphone etc) take away a lot of time.
4. With advanced education, the new generation earn much more than earlier generation. So they may have expanded hobbies, friend circle, leisure activities to pass time :
In closing, the history of the Oshwal settlement in America is almost 50 years old. We are in the third generation in America! The old generation is beginning to reach the retirement age. The new generation is in the driving seat. The new generation’s career fields, social contacts, interests, thinking, amenities, activities etc are much diversified leaving lesser time for community activities. Obviously the new generation, born and brought up in America has lesser degree of exposure and attachment to oshwal roots, history or the hardships that earlier generations went through. But now is the time that the new generation should take over the responsibilities for this organization to further cause, build the spirit that WE ARE A FAMILY.