107 days back, someone very close to me lost his life in the most unexpected way. Days were tough, nights tougher. I was, and still am certain that my outlook towards life, people and relationships will never be the same. Everything changed and became horrible in a flash.
105 days later, I start reading the book ‘India After Gandhi’ which notes that history in India has stopped being written after midnight of 15th August, 1947 (Independence day). And for those who wrote biographies on Gandhi have their history till 30th January, 1948 (Gandhi’s assassination). So the writer tries to explore what happened next in the contemporary India. Still it starts with 1940s.
Migration of 10 million people – 150,000 brutal deaths. These are the official numbers that are recorded attributing to partition.
The above two incidents, separated by 7 decades are interestingly connected by Joseph Stalin. I heard this quote years ago, but suddenly it started making so much sense. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic”.
While reading the book, I was reminded of an old photograph and a heated conversation that I had with my grandmother after this photograph was taken.
The first character in this picture is 8 years old Gurpreet, my elder cousin, and probably my first friend. Since his dad (my father’s elder brother) was moved by the preachings of Sikhism, he changed his religion from Hinduism when he was 23.
The tall guy in the middle is Abdul in his teenage. He used to assist his dad in a shop in our neighbourhood when he wasn’t playing with us. Two of his many other tacit duties were to pick me up from school every day and to bring my favorite ice cream so that I keep my mouth shut as much as possible.
The third one, in the green sweater is me after 6 years of coming into the world.
If you are used to Indian names, you would get that the 3 people here are from 3 different religions – worshipping 3 different forms of God, going to 3 different holy places, though celebrating all festivals together. And how bizarre this fact sounds to me while writing. These people cannot be different. These are still inseparable!
But I do remember my grandmom advising me to stay away from Abdul. When a child aged 6 is asked to stay away from his friend who never fails to bring smiles to him, he is bound to retaliate. When I couldn’t find any sense in what she said, she showed me a deep scar on her back and narrated the day when at the age of 14 she saw her parents being killed and how she managed to get on a train to India from Pakistan, bleeding by the knife attack. No matter how much I am sure that she’s completely wrong, still I think I have no idea what she went through.
But the reason for writing all this is that I need to know the other sides of the story. I am sure there would be 4 versions to this history of partition – the Indian government version, the Pakistani government version, the British Raj version and finally, the truth.
One version’s villain is the hero of another. But I am curious to know what the people of Pakistan and British think about there versions. I sincerely invite everyone who is reading this to tell me what/who according to them was the reason of so much violence and their views about the partition of India. Also what image do they have of Jinnah, Gandhi and Nehru.
I am refraining here to give my opinion because I need to listen and learn, rather than speak, for a change 🙂