Image via Wikipedia
Leaving one's own country and migrating to one's own country! it surely sounds strange to those who have not experienced it, but this is exactly what happened in 1947.
We are refugees and still not refugees.....During pre-partition days, as children we had been singing in early morning rallies, prabhat pheries 'Aaj Himala ki choti se phir hamne lalkara hai, door hato, door hato, door hato aye duniya walo Hindustan hamara hai'. But everything changed , its context,its meaning...everything turned upside down.. overnight.
We got gagged all of a sudden. We could no longer call this as 'hamara Hindustan.We could no longer call this place as our own.
To get uprooted from ones roots is a pain which is beyond comparison. Many of you who have not experienced it, can never imagine the feeling of existence in a vacuum. This happened to a whole generation in August 1947.
The people who had been the owners of the land became 'refugees' or 'mahajirs' at the stroke of midnight in mid August, 1947.
When I was just about 10 years old...one fine morning in the middle of August 1947, we were told by 'Bhapaji'- our father - that we were going to Multan which was a very big town and a cantonement . No body, not even the elders had ever thought that we shall not be able to set foot on the soil of Vehari again.
Multan was known for its - 'gard' 'garma' , 'gada' and 'goristan' which means, the dust,the heat, the beggars and cemeteries. We had been reading this in our books till now, but we will be experiencing this ourselves. We were extremely excited by the news.
My eldest brother who was posted at Multan , asked his Brigade commander for permission to take a three tonne lorry so that he could take us to Multan before joining his duty.
Image via Wikipedia A Sikh Gurdwara in Central MultanI started collecting my things....small nick nack of a childs possessions, saying bye to my friends- Manzoor Ahmad , Lal Chand and Rafiq Qureishi, Asghar Jaffrey among others..I was not on talking terms with Rafiq, but we still liked each other's company. We used to convey our messages through our common friend Manzoor or through written notes .. We longed to talk to each other, but a childish conceit stopped us from breaking the ice.
I never realised that I shall never be able to see Vehari again. A visa shall be required to visit Vehari except in dreams. A place where I had learned to walk and play, where I had learned to read and write, alif,be, pe, shall be out of my reach for ever! O my God! whose idea was it to put a line on the map which shall be called International border.
On 14th August 1947 all the children, including myself, celebrated a flag-hoisting ceremony in municipal park which was just opposite our house. Our child minds were very happy because we got 'laddoos' and 'barfi'to eat. We came to know only after passage of considerable time that this was 'their' day of Independence. Independence from whom...from one's own people....? or Independence from British subjugation ...The friends Manzoor,Rafiq, Asghar with whom we had been playing till then had overnight become 'they'.
We reached Multan cantonement which was about 60 miles from Vihari in about 3 hours and were lodged in Brigade Officers Mess. It was a huge palace type building in Multan cantonment.
We were enjoying the sights of Multan..My two elder brothers used to be very eager to go on small errands to the market for our mother. They used to find some pretext or the other to be able to go to market. Back from the market, they would narrate the new and thrilling experiences which I would listen very attentively and with great interest.
Once my brothers came back to tell the mother of a great news...''look 'beji' ,that is how we used to address our mother, today when we were in the market a person was stabbed in front of our eyes with this big knife, gesturing with their forearms. This big knife... Everybody started running in all directions. We dashed back to tell you this great news.
'Isn't it great news, Beji', looking towards her for approval and a pat on the back.
But Beji was not amused. She listened to their chatter but felt greatly concerned. She made a firm resolve instantly to leave Multan and go back to Vehari. Our mother used to take quick decisions and stick to them which invariably turned out to be correct.
When my eldest brother came over for lunch she told him firmly that we are not going to stay in Multan any more. ''Arrange transport for all of us to go back to Vehari.''
We, the children were greatly dejected for not being able to enjoy our stay at Multan....thus ended our ten day sojourn in Multan... but these ten days brought an upheaval in our lives about which I shall write some other time.
Image via Wikipedia Punjab Pakistan Vehari district highlighted