FAMILY CHRONICLES ON PARTITION
I am in Switzerland, visiting my Aunt. my mother has passed away taking with her all the stories of our origins locked within her chest except the ones I remember from childhood and teen days. Her autobiography except for the few introductory pages have been lost by irresponsible relatives.
I ask her to tell me her first experience of the Partition between India and Pakistan in 1947.
“Where were you?” I asked
“ the University had closed and L my husband had come to get me, “we are leaving for Bombay tomorrow”
“Let’s go get ice cream” I said happy as a lark to make the most of the University closure and its reasons, unaware of the danger that lurked in the shadows of a looming partition that was going to make us all refugees and driven from our homes to another land because of our faith and belief in Allah”
“What was the first sign of Partition for you” I ask my Aunt and she relates it in a matter of fact manner……….reminiscing the moment like a hologram.
“ Once we found out that the University was closed indefinitely, L my husband came to get me and I in my happy go lucky manner wanted to go eat ice-cream at our favorite ice-cream shop, We walked to the ice cream shop. The shop was open but instead of the usually crowded shop there were no people which seemed odd to me”
At 21 she was a carefree fine art student, who loved the arts. She carried in her stance the fearlessness of youth and the confidence of her background and traditional lineage. She came from an affluent home, a famous father in the medical field, a mother from a long line of aristocrats, and highly educated siblings. She was excelling at fine arts at the University and had been married off at age 19 to an older man ……which is another story.
“ We walked into the ice cream store” she said continuing her story“ The waiter came and politely said “ we have no ice-cream” Her husband was irate “ how come you have no ice-cream? Call the manager” L her husband also came from a privileged but relatively secular family with connections with the rich and the famous. He did not take a negation easily.
“ we don’t have ice cream …………” said the shop owner in a firm voice.
As we exited the shop………. a group of men had collected at the shop, and called out “oyeee” but another one stopped him “ “rahen day Sikh kuree hay”(leave her she is a sikh girl) I was wearing a shalwar kameez which was my usual dress, but suddenly I felt fearful of my identity as a Muslim and by labelling me a Sikh girl I had been spared the unwanted attention of this street riff raff that had suddenly gathered there.
I was with my husband but …….. it did not seem to affect this crowd with an animalistic hunger in them as if they had breached the iron clad walls of the class system of India.
“ We took a tonga and went to the hotel Flatties, one of the elegant British hotels as we were leaving for Bombay the next day”
“ My husband seemed on edge and on reaching our room said “ I thought they were going to attack us in the restaurant” he paused and then to my surprise said “If they attacked us, I was going to kill you and then kill myself”
I was appalled and fear permeated every cell of my body, such that I could not even detect the source of it” what was happening in this quiet peaceful town where I had grown up?
“ It was the first time I felt that I was a Muslim and I was on dangerous turf.
So began the saga of our family that was torn apart strewn across India and pieces of it delivered to Pakistan, all material goods and many loved ones lost on the path to freedom of Pakistan.
“ Do you ever feel that making Pakistan was an error?” I asked
I was met with a glare from her honey gold eyes steeled with anger and determination.
“ I love Pakistan! Pakistan zindabad!” she said sitting up regally. Gone was the carefree 20 year old artist with laughter in her voice and sweet innocence in her outlook towards Hindus and Sikhs……… here was a woman who had felt and braved the fear of being branded a Muslim, despite the crazed mob of Hindus and Sikhs who had unleashed their anger and brutality on the Muslims of India punishing them for wanting a homeland where they would no longer be second class citizens and could practice their faith with ease.
Did Prophet Muhammad not say and I paraphrase………….” If the practice of your faith becomes impossible in a land then migrate to where you can do so with ease”
“ Initially when we arrived in Karachi and were waiting for a Bungalow allocation to my husband, L we stayed at “Hotel Metropole” which was one of the most elegant. expensive British style hotels in Karachi, but money was not an issue with L. He too came from a very affluent family with international businesses.
It was there that I opened the mail and there was a letter from my father……….
He wrote: R.R your brother is missing, S Bhai your cousin is Shaheed while defending his family at the train station to board the train to Pakistan………..
“My heart sank……….,” she said “my brother was missing in the boiling communal riots of India spurred to anger at the independence of Pakistan……..missing, not dead not alive but missing!.”
There was silence in the room as tears filled her eyes, the love for her brother brimming with every drop that escaped.
It is such a feeling that eats at the hearts of refugees be they be affluent or penniless, it is the love of kin that are missing on the road to Pakistan, or the road out of Syria or the road out of Afghanistan.
For refugees the pain that they live with is indescribable, the lost traditions, the ancestral rituals that give comfort and security , the elders who were always there to advise and calm the turbulent hearts……….. all gone missing…….
I recently read this article: ( for details click here) Migration can take place for many reasons: economic, religious, or simply for relocation. Islam has witnessed various waves of migration. The Qur’an speaks of oppressed and weak people on earth and suggests that they could migrate from their oppressed positions to another land of God. The verse says, “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to flee for refuge?” (4:97). The verse indirectly suggests that those who have authority should take care of refugees, since it speaks of God as the owner of the land. Therefore, the worldly owners and authorities should feel closeness and openness to those who are destitute and oppressed and therefore open the doors of their borders for them. The verse continues, “as for the helpless men, women and children who have neither the strength nor the means to escape, God may pardon them. Surely God pardons and forgives. Those who migrate for the sake of God shall find many places for refuge in the land in great abundance” (4:99-100).
DUA: Surah 17: ayah 80:
And say: My Lord! Cause me to come in with a firm incoming and to go out with a firm outgoing. And give me from Thy presence a sustaining Power. (80)