I feel great pride in sharing with all the Pakistanis especially the younger generation some cherished and beautiful memories of a childhood spent in New Delhi and then the story of my migration to Pakistan.
My family, paternal side, was from Ludhiana, and maternal from Jullundher, my “janam bhoomi”. From the perspective of an under 10-yr-old girl, I have beautiful memories of my life in Delhi. Family was very politically oriented. What was happening prior to partition and our journey to our homeland Pakistan was full of hope and excitement but then last few weeks before our departure things started getting tense, skirmishes and clashes between Hindu and Muslims broke out. We had to leave Delhi, with the thought of visiting again, but that never happened. I still yearn to go back and visit.
We had a peaceful life in Delhi. We lived in French square, walking distance from Connaught place, Goal market was adjacent to my school, Pahargunj was not far away. Spent many evenings at India Gate, No. 1 Ashoka Road where my uncle lived within the premises of the Nizam Palace as he worked for the Nizam of Hyderabad. And down the same road, if I remember correctly, was the All India Radio building where my father worked. My father was a poet, writer, and a journalist and published a magazine called Fanoos in Lahore. In Delhi, he worked as a news editor with All India Radio and later with Radio Pakistan after independence.
I still remember vividly the announcement of partition by the British. Hot summer evening of June and the hurried announcement of partition made my elders very angry. I remember them infuriated at the unfair actions of the British and how they deviated from the generally agreed upon boundaries.
As we prepared for our journey to Pakistan things started to get tense. Thanks to my cousin who was in the Army, we got place on a train in which an army contingent was travelling. All the ladies of the family and the children travelled in that train to Rawalpindi. As the train left Delhi railway station there was jubilation, slogans of Pakistan Zindabad.
Our initial journey was safe but when the train reached Ferozpur junction where an armed group of Sikhs, brandishing swords, was waiting to attack the train. It was raining heavily and seeing the armed gangs ready to attack the train, the engine driver did not stop at the station and sped right through and we escaped unharmed.
The moment our train crossed the border into Pakistan, there was jubilation! My mother and ladies of the family took off their chadars and burqas and threw them out of the train saying we don’t need these anymore as we are in Pakistan now. People got out of the train shouting Pakistan Zindabad and fell to the ground, performing Sajdas. All the trains from India to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India that day onwards were a picture of inhumanity and barbarism. Alas, it’s better forgotten, let’s live in peace now, perpetrators had other designs and we ended up paying the price. It took a long time to settle in Pakistan but we never had any regrets, not even for a moment. We had left India with happy memories of life and friends left behind.
The holocaust of partition is a painful story; it was humanity at its worst, no point in repeating it. I pray that these two nations should learn to live in peace just as Europe did after two world wars.
Life after Partition:
After spending a few months in Rawalpindi, we moved to Peshawar and finally to Karachi, which became home. Life was not easy as basic necessities like electricity and water were in scarcity but still we were able to get it after some struggle. However, excitement of being in your own country made us not care about what we didn’t have as what we did have (we were citizens of a free independent state) was much more important!
New school with new friends, life rolled on. My life before independence in Delhi became a distant memory. I wanted to always go back and visit my school, my home, my friends, but that was never to be, this longing is part of life now and will remain.
Why did a negotiated, agreed upon partition resulted in such bloodshed, butchery and animosity is hard to understand. Why can’t the two countries live in peace? Sub-continent would be a force to reckon with if there was peace.
The departing rulers played a game, there was deviation from the planned and agreed upon terms when it came to division. India was given access to Kashmir, the main Achilles heel between the two countries. It seemed the bloodshed was planned: send one train of dead bodies and it will cause a domino effect and that’s what happened. It continued for weeks. Going to your opted country which was supposed to be a peaceful transfer of people became one of the bloodiest movements of people in history.
Pakistan was deprived of assets which were agreed upon by the leaders from both sides. Pakistan turned to America for help, which was in the US interest, as it was becoming a super power. As a result, we played into their hands out of necessity and short-sightedness of our leadership that came to power after our beloved Quaid Mohammad Ali Jinnah died. We are still paying the price of fighting American interest in the region and now religion is being used to divide us. It’s a sad situation. I have a dream of India and Pakistan living like friendly neighbours, making the sub-continent a peaceful and progressive region.
Let religion take a back seat in state affairs as it’s sacred and personal. It is something that is between an individual and God, it is not to be politicised.” Muzhab nahin sikhata aapas main baer rakhna”. This is my observation, based on my experience of my life before and after partition. Not hearsay.
Azaadi mubarak to all.
—The writer is based in Sharjah and is poet, writer, philosopher, educationist and philanthropist