It was Partition time and the hearts were shattered. Many of them – our elders, our ancestors went through the period of turmoil as they made their move from their land to another one. There was fear everywhere. There was the big giant called Insecurity that had gripped them all in its fierce clutches. They moaned in agony. They wanted to breathe away the suffocation and taste the air of freedom.
The doors had to be kept shut – lest someone came to prey upon them. The children in all their innocence were being taught to live in fear of the tyrants. Their childhood was precious and had to be protected but their self respect was far more precious. Little girls were being handed out those tiny packets which suggested death at the cost of respect. The childish innocence had been traded by poison of hatred.
The facts aren’t hidden from anyone. Google it and you will know what the people of Sindh underwent when the country was divided into two – Pakistan and Hindustan. The word Pak means pure but it had lost its meaning with the onslaught of terror. Households that had witnessed peaceful habitating between the Hindus and Muslims were a sight to dread. They tried helping each other irrespective of their religion but eventually either they gave up or they paid a heavy price for it.
Lahorimal who was a prominent member of the society – a landlord who owned huge expanses of land in Nawabshah was in a dilemma. His efforts of several years would have to be left behind if he made the move. Land that couldn’t be carried along and couldn’t be sold at this crucial time meant a very big sacrifice. Earnings of his entire life were at stake.
Khubchand who was a vendor in Hyderabad, after toiling at the Railway station struggled to feed his family of four. Things weren’t that bad because he lived together in a huge joint family of eight brothers of which he was the youngest. Post partition everyone had found different pathways and Khubchand was left with his wife and two children. With no savings and small kids life became a tough journey as he found a small room to be called a house in Ajmer.
Lahorimal after being in a dilemma for two weeks decided that he didn’t want to leave behind all that he had earned after years of hard work. He was brave enough to face the situation in the divided India as he stayed back in the town of Nawab Shah and attended to his grocery store. Being a rich landlord, he galloped on his horse to the store and back everyday. The common form of transport those days would be horses or horse/bullock driven carts and rickshaws.
This decision wasn’t taken very well by his now grown up sons, specially the eldest one called Mewaram. He feared for his wife and children and prefered not to live a life of fear and restrictions as Hindus could not be seen moving around freely. There were constant attacks and looting and those who were once friends had now turned foes.
Mewaram tried talking to his siblings about making the move to the Hindu tolerant part of the divided country. While the youngest brother Shewaram seemed convinced about the move, the middle brother Jhamandas wasn’t willing to give up on the landlordship and settled life to make a new beginning. The brothers went to speak to their father who refused to give them permission to leave.
Mewaram wasn’t happy with the decision. He planned up and one night he sneakingly left home at midnight along with his wife, seven children, his brother Shewaram and a few more of the extended family. Moving out in the late dark hours was a risky task but it was a bigger risk leaving during the day thanks to the stern head of the family.
Being the eldest of the group that fled, he had to ensure that all under his care were well provided with the basic essentials. He was careful enough to hide stashes of currency in his inner garments. As they boarded the train to India, he felt his heart tear apart. It was no joy leaving one’s comfort zone, one’s ancestral abode, one’s parents and all the riches and luxury. He had made a tough decision for he feared the safety of his wife and children.
While the children were put to sleep,Mewaram, his wife Pevibai and Shewaram stayed awake, being watchful of any unpleasant situation on the way. He wondered how Lahorimal would react upon realizing that his children and grandchildren had fled like scared crows. Would he be ashamed of his son? Would he find out that the money hidden on the niche behind Guru Nanak Dev’s huge portrait in the prayer room was taken away by his son? Would he send a search party after him?
Thankfully, there lot was among those rare few who survived the journey intact, safe with no respect lost on the way. Many others were often victims of brutality on these trains and instead of them, their disfigured dead bodies reached the destination. Most of these trains were drenched in blood and the stench forced parents to wrap up their little ones within the folds of their garments.
Meanwhile Khubchand who sold the dail freshly made savoury delicacies at the Hyderabad Train station to make ends meet was pained to see the absolute change of scene on the platform. The crowds were larger than ever before yet no one had the time or inclination to buy his Sindhi delicacies like Chhola Dabbal, Kuney ja Bheea, Mirchai Pakora etc.
They came in hordes, some wounded, some being afflicted with fresh wounds, some wrapping fragments of their torn garments on the bleeding arms and legs, struggling to hold on to the only belongings they shall possess for an uncertain time period. They would come rushing, holding hands of each other with the fear of losing their loved ones, boarding the trains in haste to secure space. The trains were packed like never before, often having no place to move around yet unsure that all of those who board would reach the desired destination.
Things were getting tougher by the day. The brothers had parted and made their move one by one to various parts of the New India – Hindustan. Khubchand couldn’t hold on much longer as well. He too boarded one of those trains with his wife Devibai, his son Parsaram,daughter in law Khemibai, grandchildren, daughter Laxmibai with husband Tolaram and elder brother Jethanand with his family. Their parents Moryomal and Hetibai were no longer alive so Khubchand was saved from the agony of leaving the parents behind.
They witnessed the nightmarish scenes on the way. The fields through which the train passed were strewn with headless bodies, bodiless heads, bloodied body parts and fragments of soiled, abused luggage with vultures feasting around. It was a torture to witness all this and Laxmibai couldn’t hold on resulting in her fainting. Khubchand felt the pain and anguish of those who faced such atrocity and eventually lost their lives. Fear had gripped all of them upon seeing such scenes.
They thanked God for being alive as they disembarked from the train in Hindustan. Khubchand moved to Ajmer and Jethanand gradually made his move to Jaipur. They had to feed their families, hence had to find a source of income. Khubchand took up the job of a salesman at a garment shop in Ramganj area of Ajmer. Parsaram too found a job and gradually got a break to secure a job in Malaysia.
The affluent Sindhi migrants had made their way to various other countries instead of India and started of their businesses. They understood the plight of fellow Sindhi migrants and offered them jobs to uplift their life status. Parsaram and Jethanand’s son Pesumal were beneficiaries of such opportunities. Gradually Parsaram’s son too finished his schooling in Ajmer and secured a job in Malaysia.
LATER ON IN LIFE:
Mewaram too after lot of struggle, finally started off with his own business in a well to do area of Ajmer where many sindhis had settled.
Life had taken a big turn and finally after many years things seem to have settled down but the pain of separation from their motherland lingered on in their hearts till their last. Mewaram got an opportunity to visit his father Lahorimal but couldn’t meet his mother ever again.
Khubchand never returned to Sindh ever again partly due to limited resources and partly owing to a sense of lost inheritance. The pain of separation from homeland was deep rooted but he moved on and aged gracefully to a ripe 92 years. His son Parsaram passed away several years ago which shattered him from within. He had barely stepped into his 92nd year when his daughter Laxmibai too passed on. Khubchand’s pain was unbearable and he went into dementia. In his sickness he often spoke about his days in Sindh. Such was the ache that during his last six months of life he kept imagining himself at the railway platform selling his home made delicacies.
That hurt which they felt is still felt by their younger generations and most of the Hindu Sindhis till date feel a strong connection with that motherland that their elders spoke of fondly. These Sindhis live a somewhat confused state of holding on to a multiple heritage yet not owning a heritage. Is Sindh their heritage? Is India their heritage? How many other lands became their heritages is a gaping question on their minds. Yet, unfazed they move on in life, tackling the challenges of becoming refugees, migrants, aliens, foreigners and other such titles.