Engaging youths is a challenge

Engaging youths is a challenge

THE afternoon of May 9 was a fruitful one, as the tabla! team sat down with representatives from the Sindhi community as part of their tea session at Tandoor in Holiday Inn, Orchard City Centre.

Some of the issues that emerged were the problems faced by the Singapore Sindhi Association (SSA) in connecting with Sindhi youths and the difficulties in increasing space on their association premises and in preserving the Sindhi language.

Attending the session on behalf of the Sindhi community were Mr Chatru Vaswani, Mrs Divya Advani, Mr Ramesh Jethwani, Mrs Sheila Bhagwandas, Mr Ramesh Tarani, Mr Raj Thakurdas, Mr Harry Gurnani, Mr Partab Anandani, Mrs Pooja Mohiniani, Mrs Kavita Ramchandani and Mr Deepak Gurnani.

Welcoming the attendees, Tamil Murasu chairman S. Chandra Das and tabla! editor Patrick Jonas explained that the tea sessions were for the newspaper to get to know the individual Indian sub-groups and requested the community leaders to share their areas of concern.

Mr Deepak Gurnani, who has served in the SSA in various capacities for 10 years and was its president from 2006 to 2008, noted that while the SSA's Senior Citizens Group was quite active, they faced challenges connecting with Sindhi youths. He thought that one reason could be that Sindhi youths may find it "uncool to be seen at Sindhu House", the SSA's building.

Mrs Mohiniani, though, shared that youths have been coming together with the community's elders through the computer classes that the SSA organises.

Mr Tarani suggested that they could learn from other communities who have been more successful in drawing in youths, like the Punjabi community, which has an active youth wing in the form of the Young Sikh Association.

A persistent problem was the space constraints. The 94-year-old SSA purchased its premises at Mountbatten Road in 1955. Since then, the Sindhi community in Singapore has grown so much that the existing space is insufficient to cater to the demand.

During his time with the SSA, Mr Deepak Gurnani lobbied for increasing the space. He wanted to build an additional floor in the building specifically for the youths in the hopes that it would make the space more appealing to them. However, due to the association's location in a residential zone, their request was turned down.

Mr Das encouraged the association to approach their area's member of parliament for help, adding that perhaps the timing was right for renewing the discussion on extending the existing space.

tabla!'s supervising editor Rajendran Jawharilal asked whether the community was having any challenges preserving the Sindhi language, as this is an issue that has come up in previous tea sessions with other communities.

The community representatives explained that Sindhis are scattered in different parts of the world and are assimilated everywhere. Because of this, it is difficult to preserve the language. In Singapore, for instance, many Sindhi students take either Malay, Hindi or Mandarin as a second language.

They added, though, that there are efforts in place to teach children Sindhi, as the association offers classes that teach Sindhi in a romanised form.

The attendees walked away from the session feeling more enlightened.

Mrs Ramchandani found the session informative, especially as she found out a lot about the history of the Sindhis from the elders in the community. "I didn't want to leave," she added with a laugh.

bhavnav@sph.com.sg
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