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Post-Partition Punjab Vignettes

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Dr. Anand - an unholy person born in 1932 in the holy town of Nankana Sahib, central Punjab. A lawyer father, a doctor mother. Peripatetic childhood - almost gypsy style. Many schools. Many friends, ranging from a cobbler's son (poorly shod as the proverb goes) to a judge's son. MB from Glancy (now Government) Medical College Amritsar, 1958. Comet 4 to Heathrow, 1960.
Widower. Two children and their families keep an eye on him. He lives alone in a small house with a small garden. Very fat pigeons, occasional sparrows, finches green and gold drop in to the garden, pick a seed or two and fly away.

Posted: October 2017

 

IT WAS IN 1958, I think. I had been out-posted from my proper job as a "casualty medical officer" at Rajindra Hospital, Patiala. The out-posting was to  the dispensary at Sauja village, about ten miles away (actually 18 km.) I was required to be there for the working hours of the dispensary. Then, return home to my quarters in the hospital in the evening.

Every morning I would  catch the train to Sauja, and then back to Patiala in the evening.

One day, an emergency delayed me - I missed the train back to Patiala. There would be a very long wait for the next, and last, train.

I started walking along the railway track. It passed over a rivulet which was  almost dry. However, the bridge was rather high and I did not relish the thought of falling down if I failed to step on the next railway sleeper. Nor did I relish the thought of being knocked down by a goods train, if it happened to come along.

Anyhow, I made it across the rivulet. Then my appetite woke up. Of course, all around were fields. No shops, no villages.

Then, there was a glimmer of light in the dark fields. A hundred yards away? I made my way, stumbling along. There was a hut. An old farmer sitting by his chullah, the dying embers keeping him a little warm.

I greeted him with a Sat Sri Akal. Told him I was hungry. He said he had only a dried roti and stale Sarson da Saag. I accepted with joy and thanks. He refused to accept payment. He did not know that I was the local doctor, so it was not a bribe.

With my stomach at peace, I returned to the railway track, and resumed  my walk to the next station. There I caught the train when it came along.

Back in my quarters, my fellow doctors had eaten. The cook-servant had put aside for me Kukar (chicken) and rotis. Delicious. But the stale saag and dried roti were a more tasty memory.

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© Joginder Anand 2017

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