My father wrote a piece a few years ago summarizing his childhood and his professional life. Today I read it again after a long time. It generated in me a wave of emotions that I have attempted to jot down on paper:
My grandparents used to live in Allah, Punjab (now in Pakistan) – ‘British India’.
India gained independence from the British rule soon after my father was born. He must have been around six months old on August 15, 1947. He mentioned in his writing how difficult it was for my grandparents and their family to leave their home in Allah and migrate to Attari, Punjab, India. Wearing layers of clothes on top of each other and carrying all they could in two hands, facing the fear of death for the first time, venturing into the unknown. All this, not by choice.
I can only imagine what they all must have gone through. While the rest of the country was celebrating freedom, there was horror and death looming at every doorstep at the new border. My grandparents were successful in crossing over and after a few years eventually settled down in a village near Varanasi (UP, India). But millions of others were not so successful.
All these years I have been celebrating the Indian Independence Day with enthusiasm and zeal. When we were kids, my parents used to buy us paper flags and small gifts as a token of respect to the ones who sacrificed and fought for India’s freedom from the British rule. I remember how we used to sing patriotic songs in school and take part in parades in the honor of the fallen; for it was our country’s birthday.
But the birthday of India is also the partition day of India. The partition of India lead to the largest human migration in the shortest time span in the entire known history of mankind. Millions of people lost their lives, some physically, some economically and some psychologically. Many died, many were murdered and many others separated from their loved ones. So why don’t we pause for a second on our nation’s independence day and think about the ones who had no choice but to migrate, no choice but to leave their lives behind and follow the path that they were forced on to for miles and, perhaps, years? They were the ones who had to restart their lives – from scratch – in a newly born nation.
August 15, 2011 just went by. I paid my respects to the ones who put their country’s freedom before their own lives. But today I also pause to pay respect to all those who endured the pain and suffering that came along with the joy of India’s independence – to all those who contributed to making India their new home.