Monday, February 18, 2008

Questions And Answers

We are watching Sanjiv Bhaskar’s Journeys of India. Today he is showing Punjab. First he shows a Sikh wedding in a prominent Jalandhar marriage palace. Then he travels to the Indo Pak border at Wagah. The scene is complete with the blue attired coolies on the Indian side handing over the stuff to the coolies in red on the Pakistani side.

He travels to his home village and tries to find his ancestral home but it’s impossible for him to locate it. After all, the winds of change have swept over the Pakistani villages too.

His sentimentality is so well received among me and my children. Rasan is preparing her school bag for the next day. I am telling her to go brush her teeth. She is mesmerized by the similarity of the land, vegetation, the sunset and the sky that is common between the two countries.

She suddenly asks, “What is Lahore?”
“It’s a city in Punjab,” I say.
"Yes, there is a Punjab in the Pakistan too , and it was once a part of this Punjab.”
“Okay, that is where Nankana Sahib is, right?”
“Cant they give it back to us?”
“Why, its our land!”
“No, its no more ours. When the country was partitioned, it went to the Pakistani share.”
“Okay, so India and Pakistan fought?”
“No, not over Nankana Sahib.”
“Mama, when Dhesi mama (my mom, Dr Dhindsa) came to India, how old was she?”
“She was Jai’s age.”
“Oh, and how did she come?”
“She was brought with her family on a truck by my Bapuji.”
“Oh, and your dad?”
“Well he and his family had to travel by foot over to India.”
“Oh, and how did they manage? Did they have water?”
“Well I am not so sure; they probably didn’t carry water bottles in those days…”
“Did they have any money?”
“No, when you are asked to leave your house suddenly, I don’t think you can get hold of any money, right?”
“Why did they have to leave the house?”
Well, because the leaders said Sikhs and Hindus were in danger in Pakistan.”
“Because they said that Sikhs and Hindus had killed Muslims in India and the Muslims might like to have revenge, and they might kill Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan.”
“They were lying, right mama?”
“Yes they were, partly.”
“So the people didn’t kill each other?”
“They did, but again that is because they were misguided by leaders.”
“What do leaders get out of it mama?”
“They like to know that they have power over people, and that people agree with what they say…”
Meantime she goes and brushes her teeth in between the commercial breaks. She comes back to announce,
“I hate England.”
“Because they divided India.”
“Well, they didn’t. Partly it was our own fault. We allowed them, so they could.”
“But they ruled over us. Why did they have to rule over us?”
“You like to mind your class, right? You like to be the monitor too, right? How would you like if you were told that everybody around you would agree with you and you will have immense power over your friends? Every body likes to be obeyed.”
“Well ruling people is different, ruling countries is not acceptable.”
“Yep, but that’s no reason to hate England, you don’t have to use the “hate” word, (Well, as a rule, my kids don’t use the phrase, “I hate”)
And I tuck her into her comforter…

“So what did your grandpa do, Mama?”
“Child, he was a farmer, but he died 5 years before partition.”
“Oh, what did your dad do then?”
“He had to rely on government scholarships.”
“Does government give money to study?”
“Yeah, to intelligent children who need it.”
And the conversation lulls her to sleep.

Everytime I visualize the scene of people abandoning their homes from this side, and from that side for ever with next to nothing with them, my throat is choked. And now my daughter’s too.
Are my children inheriting that pain, too?

Answering the simple questions is so hard sometimes.


Sidhusaaheb said...

What do we tell children when they fight? I suppose most people would agree that they say that they should make up with those with whom they've fought.

Well, we can't tell the governments of India and Pakistan to do that or to the extreme right-wingers who preach messages of hatred, but if children on both sides are brought up to believe that all that happened is in the past and that good people live on the other side, with whom we can and should make friends with, I believe a lot of good can come out of it. :)

It's been 60 years and the 'leaders' who ensure their own positions of power by preaching hate should be bundled out. It can happen only through the building up of a ground-swell of public opinion though and whether that can happen within our lifetimes is a million dollar question.

Rajindarjit said...

Got your peice of writing after a long break.
Answering the question like the partition and leaving the native land without the fault of oneself,
is very difficult.
But we will have to satisfy our ward's querries.
Rasan is right because she has the inheritence of this episode.

Though the clever people divided the countries , but they fail to divide the cultural values, languages ,love for native place and much more.
So now my birth place - Gujranwala is a part of history. Nankana Sahib's darshan is long process to adopt. Lahore is not our part.

And we are to keep all this in our memories only.

You have reminded many the scenes of 1947.
God bless your pen with more power.


Anonymous said...

waoh, its so good to read ur short conversation. ur flow of writing is wonderful. i dont want to comment much upon it, but i will only say,it is so original,so true..... I felt as if i was part of the partition and the karvvaan(journey) of the sorrows,miseries and hatred. u r such a wonder kid, i am amazed and i feel honoured that ur an asset with me and close to my every feeling. keep it up. M.I.Singh

Raza Rumi said...

Brilliant piece - so down to earth and yet deep..
I agree with SidhuSaaheb -

please come and visit Gujranwala and Lahore anytime - you will not be disappointed - hearts cannot be divided

Blogbharti said...

Pingback from Blogbharti: [...] Manpreet’s little daughter Rasan tries to understand the partition of India and Pakistan [...]

Manpreet said...

Sidhusaaheb, yes, I keep grappling with these questions deep inside, and her questions just brought mine to the fore.
Mama, I long to go see your birthplace. Raza, she is very happy that you have written encouraging words for her.
Sudipta, thanks for providing a link on Blogbharti,
and Mahesh thank you so very much for always encouraging me in my endeavors.
These and many more questions still linger on, perhaps they will find their way out in some other way, with Rasan's help...

Anonymous said...

wonderful post!

Devaki said...

What a beautiful post... touched me to the core!

It's when we look back at history through the innocent eyes of our children that we truly realize the futility of it all, isn't it?

I wish I could *ask* these questions to someone and get a good answer sometime...

Manpreet said...

Ikeos: Thanks for dropping by. Please keep visiting.

Devaki: I was the one always asking questions. Now it is my turn to answer. This is our responsibility towards the generations to come.

Anonymous said...

Manpreet you've thrown me back into the memory lane.It was very painful to hear a real life story from my grandma.
It was summer. The sky was clear and full of stars.Lying with my Biji, I(aged somewhere 7 to 11)remember her telling me how she and my grandpa had to leave the place where they lived while my grandpa was working in Lahore.with eight months old baby in her arms[my daddy:)] what she took from her house filled with items that she made or bought was a garvi,(like a jug) to drink water on the way back to her original house and the clothing they were wearing. A muslim friend of my grandpa helped them to get out of there.
She said that they were lucky that they were from this side of India. Many people had nowhere to go they walked for miles and miles to a unknown future.
And when she finished I started to ask her thousands of question, she answered none..... simply she said that she is tired and told me to sleep.
yah... simple Q's are hard to answer somtimes