Vignettes from the Partition -A page from my grandfather’s diary.
Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience- Edward Said Reflections on exile and Other Essays.
August 22nd, 1947
The Loss of a Homeland
My grandfather, Vishin Singh stood on a dusty Jodhpur railway station. His family waited by his side, restless and tired from the enforced journey into exile.
He seemed to be making a decision as he looked up and down the now crowded station with the hundreds of people who had just arrived from Hyderabad-Sind in Pakistan.
He was a practical man, not given to unnecessary emotion. A tall Sikh gentleman, with a proud bearing, who had been forced to walk away from everything he knew and owned – his home, shop, his heritage and associations and start afresh.
He was the first educated person in his family – studying upto high school and then getting a qualification to become an electrical foreman and then going on to open his own electrical shop in Hyderabad- Sindh (now in Pakistan).
With a final glance, he made up his mind and asked his family to set up camp near the station, as Jodhpur would be their new home now.
The campsite was a ground with hundreds of people; “refugees” recently arrived – bonded together by the commonality of a loss of their homeland and a collapse of a familiar world. Their lifetime of belongings and memories bundled up in a hurry in a few meager trunks.
Vishin Singh along with other elders of the family headed into the town to look for homes. They found partly constructed quarters, which were being rented out for Rupees fifteen per month and this is where they started their life again.
A railway station steeped in History.
Hyderabad in Sindh and Rajasthan in India saw one of the world’s largest migrations as India and Pakistan got divided.
Many Hindus, Sikhs traveled from Hyderabad to Rajasthan and many Muslims travelled from Rajasthan to Hyderabad.
June 1947 – Hyderabad-Sindh. Undivided India
A page from my father’s diary.
My father, Ram Singh was born on 15th November 1943 in Hyderabad-Sindh –Undivided India at that time. Pakistan now.
His family lived in a lane called SIKHENJI GHITEE- which is a Sindhi term and in Hindi means Sikho kee galli. (Street where Sikhs live).
My father’s great grand father- Sardar Mansha Singh was from a small village in Sindh and he was a Sindhi -Hindu.
At that time, many influential preachers from Punjab used to visit the village and convert families to Sikhism. It was during one such visit that Mansha Singh’s family got converted to Sikhism and moved to Hyderabad in Sindh.
The lane had all Sikh families and two Gurudwaras, which were managed by the families.
My father has one distinct memory from his childhood days in Hyderabad. It is of the Phuleli Bridge.
When it was very hot in the summer all the children used to be taken to the bridge. This was a family outing and an exciting event. The cold breeze from the canal would be very pleasant and the children were allowed to buy the small knick-knacks being sold by peddlers.