The Siddis (Indians of African descent) of Hyderabad are a proud community. The elders love to talk about how their ancestors came to India as freemen, how the Nizam was so impressed by the community’s loyalty and valour that he formed a separate regiment called the African Cavalry Guards and how bravely they had fought in the World War II in battles as far Aden. They play the distinctly African instruments- Marfa and Duff and sing in a language they no longer understand. They continue to live in the small quarters that the Nizam had built for them in Masab Tank. They take the train to Ajmer every May and offer a chadar to Khwaja Garib Nawaz. The youngsters enjoy playing Hockey and Football at a ground in Shanti Nagar. They are surprised when I tell them about the Siddis of Gujarat and northern Karnataka. They complain about lack of employment opportunities and show me the small community gyms they built.
AC Guards, Hyderabad. March 2012.