Delhi 1947-48

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Born in 1933 in Dijkot, a small hamlet in district Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan), I came after about eight attempts, including miscarriages. I grew up in Lyallpur as a pampered child. At the age of five, I was sent to nearby one roomed primary school where spartan old Jute Hessian bags (borian) were used for mats.  I refused to study there, and was enrolled in Sacred Heart Convent School for the next 9 years.  After getting his college degree in India, he moved to Singapore in 1954, and then to Malaysia in 1957, where he worked for Guthrie & Co., a large Scottish plantation company. He retired in 1988. He lives in Malaysia with his wife.  More about him at this link.

The India Coffee House in Connaught Place was an institution in Delhi.

In 1947, during Partition, I landed in Delhi, and lived for a while in 27, Queensway (later Janpath).  It was next to Imperial Hotel, and also the famous Easter and Western Courts.  At the age of about 14, wearing shorts, the Coffee House would not have me stray in.  It seemed to me for a special class of people.

No matter. Years later, when I visited Delhi, I did cross the Coffee House's threshold. It was a convenient place to meet people. And, of course a place to impress your girlfriend.

Prior to living at 27 Queensway, I stayed at 3, Hailey Road for a while.  This was due to my Jhija Ji (sister's husband) and sister, who were well connected.  The significant phase for me was to become a typist for Sardar Sant Singh, an elected politician, who went on to become India's first Ambassador to Ethiopia in 1950.

During out brief sojourn in Hailey Road, Amaltas were in full bloom.  What a beautiful sight it was.  Just apposite  3 Hailey Road was a Bungalow that belonged to Bawa Glass Company - a  Sikh Family not overly friendly who probably thought that if we were in a difficult condition, then it was our fault.

The family we shared at 3 Hailey Road has a radio  dealership  in Montgomery Bazar in Lyallpur. (I remember there was a shop by the name of   Grover Store in Montgomery Bazar that sold all exotic stuff.) Their shop was called Gardener Company.  They eventually had a shop with a similar name in Connaught Place.  It  may still be there. One of their brothers became a pilot  and I did fly with him once.

Thanks to my father's foresight, I had learned touch typing when I was about 11-12 years old. Sardar Sant Singh had a portable Underwood typewriter, and I knew how to use it well. I became Sardar Sant Singh's typist for his usual press releases.  I had problems with spellings, but otherwise I could produce a reasonably readable copy.

During those days, a family from Lyallpur, where I was born, drove their Morris 8 car and landed in Delhi.  I could drive that car - sort of. Anyhow, I became a personal driver too.

While I was in Delh, I was waiting to  get news of the rest of my family.  At that time, All-India Radio was transmitting messages 24 hours a day about families.  We also used to go to Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, which was the meeting place for the relatives. And, of course, it provided Guru Ka Langar.

The only entertainment that I remember from that time was seeing the movie Les Miserable at Regal Cinema in Connaught Place.  Due to my short sight and not having my glasses yet, I couldn't make head or tail of the movie.  It was much later I could afford the first pair of glasses!

Soon Sardar Sant Singh's vivacious daughter Kamal came on the scene. And, there were plenty of  fellows trying to catch her eye.  As a young boy, I felt it was my duty to protect her. So, I hung around when someone  would be dying to get her attention.  I didn't realize what a nuisance I must have been at that time.  On my part I offered my services to teach her how to drive.

In time, my immediate family managed to reach Ludhiana.  Luckily, my uncle, Dr. Trilochan Singh, who had been a Professor in Government College Lahore, managed to get us a play to stay in the boys' hostel, where each room was occupied by a refugee family.

Later on, we were allotted a house in Wait Ganj.  There were at least 6 refugee families form Multan living there. They became a part of one large family. Later, they got scattered, and  I ended up in Malaysia. The eldest daughter ended up in UK, and did look her up during my odd visit.  Still they  are still sporadically in touch and remain very much a part of extended family.


© Sangat Singh 2017

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Jatinder Sethi   |2017-05-06
nd all the six brothers got seperated doing their own things.
I think it was
1948 when i had a classmate .Ved Sannon,who used to live in No.8 Hailey Road.

You know one thing about those days we had great National Spirit and I remember
having walked all the way from Birla House to rajghat along with Mahatma Gandhis
funeral;and i think it was Mellvedemellow?,the well known broadcaster of
AIR,giving commentar while moving in a truck following Mahatma Ghandis
Vehicle.
luckily,we as refugees never had to stay in a camp, as we had two
brothers who were already in indian side.
You were very lucky that you met
people who helped you move along in life .Lets all be grateful to the WaheGuru
for seeing us through this wondeful life and country.Thank you for relighting
the old days,my Lyallpur friend.
Jatinder Sethi   |2017-05-07
I think we were some of the lucky people who did not have to suffer much from
Partition - in fact not at all. Little uncertainties, yes, but much better than
millions of others.

We seem to have crossed our path quite a few times, in
Lyallpur, and again in Delhi in 1947/48 around Connaught Place. We were perhaps
destined to meet like this through the good offices of both Indiaofthepast and
Subodh Mathur.
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