“At the stroke of the midnight hours, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. Not without a cost though……”
Mama shuffles a piece of paper into his hand and fondles it in a frail knot with her weak and shivering hands.
She closes her eyes and sits back in her chair coughing.
They had planned to watch the parade in the small Sony screen she had adored till date and kept it alive through regular fixes here or there. The screen would wake up on coughing and screeching as the son would wrestle with the remote buttons with his technical mind.
“Ma, Ma, where are you? Maa ! ” he shouts now at the moment. He knew this much that she was getting old. But hadn’t expected to.. No time was the right time. Not certainly amidst their bonding moment/
The flag brooch falls down, and a loud crunch comes from beneath his foot. Barely audible to the recipients in the room.
She doesn’t move now. She sits there a still figure disobedient to his trying call.
No not yet…
Some more spits and yellow phlegm. Some more hopeful coughs. And finally there is complete silence. That is Her heart stops.. Silence-
“ Maaa!!” He shakes her violently, and recoils down in sad weak cries.
“Maa pls come back”
But she doesn’t move and doesn’t pay heed to a single word.
Cries are the sounds in the room. After sometime, his red swollen eyes jerk up in movement. He opens the crumpled paper in his hands and begins to read it.
15 August 2021 7:00a.m
Today I am holding a pen after 75 years to write the last time in my life. I know that I am going to die tomorrow. I just know it is nearby, waiting. My 34 year old son will be arriving here for our celebration together. Still handsome and chiselled. Not exactly a celebration our bonding moment.
Maybe I had to be happy and smiling about it. Independence day.. Freedom.. Mahatma Gandhi.. freedom fighters! And whatnot.
Today I just feel sad. Gloomy sad. Not happy. And I can see a tear carving beneath my eye.
On the 15 day of the 8 month, I was there, my childhood self. Sullenly sitting behind in the cart. My sikh father walking behind. My mother among all the ladies…? no.
I was working to hold back my emotions because I knew any sound could get me killed as well. Invite killing stares from the other women.
We were travelling to the railway station from Ladakh to Punjab. I remember sleeping in the verandah with our family together and staring at the heavy black clouds carving into the air. And snippets of red bursted in night like guiding stars to traveller ‘flight.
It was Fire at the nearby village. I couldn’t hold my eagerness to visit the river the next day. Hands and legs and limbs If luck favoured even cut breasts or a face with no ears!
We got free from the British today that time. However there is so much more to the text.
Our Nehru ji and his Congress didn’t do enough to prevent the bloodshed. Their negotiations failed and I will and everyone who survived are the witnesses to prove them to blame for those who died! However. Let us move on.
Among the 14 million people who had to leave their homes, the 7 year old me was one of them as well. I was inside my small house with my dad when we heard chants of Allah, and loud clicking of metals. They had arrived.
I could not see them behind my father but through the long silhouettes under the roaring fire I could make out the weapons were sharp. Would they behead us? Would they cut us into pieces? Would they touch me after killing my father?
I didn’t know. They had the whole village lit into flames. All the houses, everything. My father gestured me towards the back door. He said he would come with clothes for me and some utensils. I was scared but he cared for me too much. He even defended me when grandfather was about to behead me among all the women before the riots.
Later when I had come to meet him after marriage we both rejoiced in the memory of the village. I still miss my Muslim friends and wonder about their state in Pakistan. Have they gotten married too? It is just so dreadful.
I see myself crouching in the same hiding spot and the replay of the scenes amidst laughter, in the living room. It goes like this first my friendship with my friends to silence, Muslim neighbours leaving in green lorries, Aarifa the last time meeting me then more riots, and my elder brother. And finally my mother.. Lovely end.
We talk about Fraternity. I say What fraternity? Three wars have been fought at the Kashmir Border and I am sure more will be fought. Revolts happen in robust show of religion ain’t they even after freedom?
Today at a time when we look at the past there is so much that India and Pakistan could have been together and the partition is now a black stain to both the countries where blood flowed in streams. Indeed, Partition should not have happened. Cyril drew without knowing that the lines he was drawing would be lines of blood.
But a wise person has said acceptance of past can tread us into decisive steps forward.
My mind couldn’t think about anything else today. I was scared to speak mournfully in such a frenzy of elation or hear the “Old woman is mourning again”.I wanted to write all this in my diary. Maybe this diary will go up for a historical record or something of a partition survivor. I can be famous after death too ain’t I? Eh I just feel happy knowing I got to write the sacrifices of the real people before I died. In some way.
And finally, Jai Hind!
Typical of Ma who can think of joking on her death hour, her son thought, grinning. He looks at her mother now. She didn’t tell him all this.
Now she looks so solemn and quiet, hands resting on her knees. Without movement. Her eyes don’t itch as they used to when she blinked, and spoke or laughed. She is no more.
He starts to cry.
“Ma please come back na!”.
Partition is a grave reality. A crisis between two communities which lived harmoniously together for centuries. Ethnic cleansing swept Punjab, Lahore and the region we call today as Pakistan. Yes it is very true that we have had grave distrust in relationships due to Partition, and it is another matter of thought. Yet today It is not social acceptance of Partition as it happened, rather the sorrowful tragedy has become a part of exchange of swathes of debates of another intention. This was a big refugee crisis in the south Asia continent. Its impact, far greater than we can pen down. Partition shares the common nuances, to World wars, across the European continent as well as wars worldwide. Gradations of people ‘s lives and emotions, deaths and betrayal, trust for sometime, and revenge the next get tucked away from the original debate. Are we yet still entangled and scuffled? Accepting the history is very important to understanding ourselves as we are. Blaming it or defuncting it from history textbooks can do no good. At the stroke of this midnight hour, when this post gets posted on 15th August, we must remember that this date means independence to us, too short from the real context because 15th August,1947 was yet another day of torment for those people who survived in a fearful atmosphere. Only torment and well
( Kunjal.G and Khushi.M)