Just watching a documentary of an Asian Indian actor tracing her roots. And then the documentary talked about her Grand Uncle and his family being massacred on a train as they fled from the newly created Pakistan. She even met her great aunt who was on that train when she was 20, but somehow survived. Why do I feel a stab of pain each time I hear or see anything on the partition of India ? I am a partition baby, but I don’t really remember anything… but after all these years, whenever I see people from the other side of the border speaking Punjabi, looking and speaking exactly like my grandfather, I can’t help shedding tears …
….. why did we allow this to happen ? What happened to us that we became such barbarians ? Ruthlessly massacring one million men, women and children on both sides. Ten million people became refugees, causing the greatest mass migration of people in known history.
I escape into blaming the British. Not willing to accept that I carry the genes of the people of Punjab that did this. My culture, my genes. How could you take a sword to an innocent child and ruthlessly run it through her heart ? Could I do that in those circumstances…
.. so I escape. Escape into the politics of that time. I hate Mountbatten who came home as a hero, lauded for the fact that not a single British life was lost at that time. Who cared about a million Indian Hindus and Muslims ? In my mind I rebuke Nehru and Jinnah for standing on their ego’s, unable to compromise their personal desires to be the first Prime Minister of India.
But it was not the British that did all the killing. It was us. Our forefathers.
My parents were in Lahore where my mother went to Kinaird (spelling ?) College. My father to the Government College in Lahore, and then the Medical College. After partition my family came to the newly formed India as refugees. But my father went back because there were not enough doctors to treat the wounded and the dying.
I would often talk to my father about that time, and I would see the pain on his face. About his muslim friends lost in time. Friends with whom he stood shoulder to shoulder as they took the Hippocratic Oath. But the very friends that were too afraid to give him morphine to treat the wounded, just in case the raging, raving crowds found out they were helping the Hindus. And years later as I would go along on my scooter to my University in Delhi, I was shown a spot in Paharganj where apparently muslim women and children were thrown alive in a burning bonfire.
My mother would recoil at talking about that time. Except for the memories of the drains around the houses filled with Kerosene and put on fire. But she would soon escape into the memories of better times. Of when Lahore was the cultural capital of Asia. Lahore was still the greatest city to anyone that had lived there.
Years later I went to Lahore. To record the music for Bandit Queen with the amazing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I remember walking into the local recording studios where a large orchestra suddenly broke out in the theme music from Mr India and songs from Masoom to welcome me to Lahore. It was a moment I will always remember.
I went to Kinaid College. Where my mother went. I saw shy girls, giggling as they recognized me, looking so beautiful in flowing Salwar Kameez’s. I tried to imagine my mother as one of them. I saw her as a pretty young girl who passed me, and then looked back and smiled that eternal smile my mother always used to have. Everywhere I walked I imagined myself as one of everyone.
And I wondered, what turned us all into such beasts ?