We lived in Taragarh, Gurdaspur Punjab. It was a village of love where Hindus, Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony. We were five siblings, Muhammadin, Umerdin, Amna, Haikam Bibi and me, the last child, Nasim, with my mother S. Begum. My father Abdul Karim had died one year earlier of an illness.
I was seven years old in 1947. I did not even know what the fight was all about. I just knew it was Muslim vs. Hindu or Hindu vs. Muslim. It was Ramazan, and Partition was announced. That’s when the fighting started, riots broke out and the future of two countries began. That’s when everything changed.
Initially Gurdaspur was associated with Pakistan due to its Muslim population. But after two days they declared that it would be a part of India. They did this because the only way to Kashmir is through Pathankot, Gurdaspur and they would have definitely lost control of water which originates in Kashmir.
We started hearing that Muslims were being killed in nearby villages. My family got scared and we decided to leave. We put all our clothes and belongings in a metal suitcase and left it at a neighbor’s house. We buried our valuables such as jewelry, steel and silver utensils thinking that we would retrieve them when we returned.
We started our journey and had no idea how we would reach Pakistan which was now our land. That’s what my family said.
The sun was blazing hot. People were walking miles. Some were on horse guiding people and the cattle. When the caravan got tired or it rained they would stay somewhere for a night and then travel again in the morning. Help trucks would come around and give us roasted chickpeas as people did not have anything to eat.
After walking miles with caravan we stopped at village called Babral and stayed for 10 days or so. On the last evening Hindu extremists broke out from nowhere and started shooting at us. Everyone started running and people were falling like the leaves of trees, lifeless but still green. Destiny was waiting for us but to get it we had to swim through a tide of innocent blood.
The River Ravi was our only escape. We all were running. People were jumping, throwing their babies in the water so they might be saved somehow. It was something I had never seen before. I had a cloth bag on my head. My mother said to keep it safe but the knot opened and all our valuables fell into the water. I would hold my breath and go underwater when I heard the gunshots. After a few seconds I would come up for air.
The water was in my mouth and nose and the stress of whether every single family member was safe or not… I searched for my family. Suddenly my foot went into a hole in the water and I started drowning. My elder brother Umer Din grabbed me by my braid and pulled me out and threw me into Pakistan.
I opened my eyes. It was dark. Suddenly someone thumped me from behind and said, “Get up, we have to move.” It was my mother. I was relieved. My elder sister Amna and I had lost our pajamas in the water. My brother gave us his shawl to wrap around.
We reached Pakistan’s Khalaspur, Sialkot, where we stayed the night at a relative’s house. That night was peaceful.
We found a home finally, after a search. It was some abandoned house in Khalaspur. Perhaps it belonged to some Hindu who might have left just like us in search of his freedom, that we had just received. I hope he did get his. We started to build our home. It was hard because we missed what we had left behind.
We started from scratch.
We got busy with our lives.
After two years, on Eid-ul-fitr my brother Muhmmadin died of snake bite. In the next few years all three of my elder siblings got married and my brother opened a crockery shop in Lahore in 1954 and I moved there with him. My mother stayed in Sialkot.
My brother’s friend Akbar Mirza Chaudhary asked if could marry me. I was only 16 at that time. He was already married to a woman named Shad Begum and had one girl named Zarina Akbar. We got married in 1956 and he took me to his village Ai, in Azad Kashmir. I stayed there for about six years and gave birth to three beautiful kids, Imtiaz, Eijaz and Azra. I spent a difficult time in Ai, working day and night, taking care of everything. We didn’t even have enough money and my husband was working in Lahore at some bus transportation company.
In the next few years he had a change of jobs, but got a good one in Karachi’s PIA and in the next two years he called us to him and we settled there. We used to often take trips to Azad Kashmir but we lived in Karachi and our situation got better. I gave birth to five more kids in Karachi: Zaida, Rubeen/Hadiqa, Farooq, Jamshed and Imran. Zarina also came within a year to Karachi and lived with us.
Now I am 70 years old and I am in the most peaceful part of my life. I thank Allah who made a way for Muslims.
When I came to Pakistan my life was never easy. Hardships came my way, new challenges every now and then but you know what was one thing that never changed was my freedom and that this country was mine. The freedom which was given to Muslims, our Pakistan by our great grand leader Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
But those memories still live on. I remember those mango gardens near our house. Whenever mangos use to fall from the trees we could hear it even in our sleep. We use to get buckets and fill them with mangoes and eat them. Those memories still bring tears to my eyes. I wish… that both religions could understand and bring harmony, but this was not what destiny had in store for us.
The writer is an undergraduate student.
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