From The Washington Post:
Little Sadia Shepard and her younger brother, Cassim, grew up first in Denver, then Chestnut Hill, Mass., in what she considered to be a wonderful and normal life with three terrific adults: her American dad, a tall, rangy, white Protestant; her beautiful Muslim mother, who was born and raised in an affluent home in Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan; and her sweet maternal grandmother, who raised the kids and kept the house while the adult couple ran an architectural firm. This grandma has a set of slightly dissonant memories: “A very long time ago,” she tells young Sadia, “your ancestors left Israel in a ship . . . and they were shipwrecked, in India. They were Jews, but they settled in India. In the shipwreck they lost their Torahs, and they forgot their religion.” Sadia’s nana had spent her early adult years as a Muslim wife in a beautiful beach house in Bombay. But she was neither Hindu nor Muslim. Her prayers, years later, are Muslim, but in her childhood she was a Jew.
These tales told by Sadia’s grandmother change over the years and seem highly edited for the children. Yes, she was a member of a group called Bene Israel. As a young adult she worked as a nurse in a Bombay hospital, while being secretly married — or perhaps not — to a handsome Muslim. But then, in 1947, when partition came, she was forced to move with her wealthy husband to Karachi. She was in for a rude shock. “When Nana left Bombay for Karachi after the Partition of India,” the author tells us, “she left behind her birthplace and community for a new life; she became the third wife in a joint Muslim household, all three families under one roof.”
But to Sadia, the details of her nana’s Jewish youth remained tantalizingly obscure. What had really become of that legendarily small group of Jews who had set out from Israel 2,000 years earlier, who still evidently believed that they were one of the lost tribes of Israel, and who had settled so long before on the Konkan coast of Western India?