Pre-Partition family memories

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Jatinder Sethi was born in Lyallpur, now Faisalabad, in pre-Independence India. He finished his M.A. (English) from Delhi University in 1956, and went off to London to study Advertising in 1958. He passed his Membership Exam of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (M.I.P.A) in1965, and joined Rallis India in Bombay. Later, for over 20 years, he worked for the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Now retired, he helps his son in his ad agency in Delhi.

My Nanaji, I think his name Mulakh Raj Ahuja, was a Surgeon and headed the administration in Sargodha (now in Pakistan) in around 1910.  In those days, Civil Surgeons were also the Head of all District medical administration-it was a very powerful job. He married his older daughters in Bhera and Khushab to men from big Zamindar (landlord) families.

His youngest daughter, Lajwanti, my mother, got married to a man from Jhang who lived in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan). He was my father, Chaudhry Jai Ram Dass Sethi, BA LLB, who was a lawyer.

My eldest Mamaji, Shanti Narain Ahuja, who lived in Sargodha, was Punjab's leading criminal lawyer; he had studied law in London. He had a big convertible car. And he was a very close friend of the Turray Waalay Khizar Hayat Khan and Sir Sikander Hayat Khan.

Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan

Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan with a turray pugree

This Mamaji died when I was in the 4th class, with what I think was called carbuncle. My younger Mamaji (my mother had two brothers) was a Trade Commissioner posted in Toronto. That family retired in Toronto.

I remember the very big Ahuja kothi (house) in Sargodha, with Khas Tattis outside, with commodes, and trees of bair बेर, and peengs on those trees, which we all used to Jhullo (swing).

One detail I never forget of my childhood.

As a family, we were very close to all the three Massis (mother's elder sisters) than our father's family. I remember at the age of 7 years, I was sent to Khushab (in Pakistan after Partition) to stay with one of my Massis.

After a stay of one week, when I was ready to return to Lyallpur, my Massi gifted me a hand-stitched Chinese Silk Shirt with Double Cuffs (fashionable in those days) and a pair of gold cuff links. I wore that shirt when I returned to Lyallpur.

This Massi's daughter, Kanta Bhenji, married a PCS officer Prakash Suri in Lahore. She was one of the most popular Ayurveda hakims. It was claimed that she could diagnose your disease by just holding your nadi (pulse).

My elder sister, Pritam Bhenji, was married to Batras in Sargodha. They were Shahukars (moneylenders). They had a very big house. But they lost everything, like many others, in the Partition.

After Partition, all of us Ahujas, Suri, Batras, Kanwers, and Sethis got together in Delhi, and lived happily after.

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© Jatinder Sethi 2017

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