Memories of Lahore: Summer 1947

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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.

Long retired. Widower. A son and a daughter, their spouses, five grandchildren, two hens (impartially, one black, one white) keeping an eye on me as I stand still and the world goes by.

 

In 1947, I was a student at DAV College, Lahore. It stood fairly close to the Zamzama Gun, an artillery piece cast before Maharaja Ranjit Singh created the Khalsa Empire. An empire, which, despite the word Khalsa, was as non-communal as any. In fact, Ranjit Singh's youngest or junior most Maharani was a Muslim.

Before Ranjit Singh consolidated his hold on the Trans-Sutlej Punjab, the gun was in the ownership of the Bhangi Missal (sect). They were Jat Sikhs, reputedly fond of Cannabis indica. The Punjabi name of the gun was Bhangian di tope (The cannon of the Bhangis.)

It was commonly believed that whosoever held possession of the Zamzama would hold the Punjab. It had the longest range of any then in service in the sub-continent. When the East India Company defeated the Khalsa, they displayed the gun in Lahore.

I used to eat my lunch sitting on the platform of the gun. (At that time, I had not read Rudyard Kipling's Kim who reportedly used to play on the gun),

It was a hot summer. Tempers too were boiling. Rioting had started. Prudence called for escape - if possible.

My father was a lawyer in Shahdara courts. Shahdara was then practically a suburb of Lahore.  Physically he was small but he was strong. Tennis, walking, walking in the hills in summer kept him fit.

He was not optimistic about peace in the Punjab. He was familiar (from repeated visits) with Simla and its Hills. He arranged for the rental of a very large bungalow, standing by itself, on one of the numerous hills in the Princely State of Solan. The bungalow was to be the "secure" residence for three families:  my aunt's, my uncle's and ours.

I used to cycle the couple of miles to my College, as did most of the students. Because of the possibility of being attacked en route, I would carry, in a fold of my trousers, a kitchen knife. Never did I think that a dagger from behind would slice my neck before I could reach for my Weapon of Defence.

Every day, Lahore was burning.

My maternal grandfather travelled to Lahore to bring my grandmother to our home, so that she could accompany us to Solan.

At the end of June 1947, we went from our home to Lahore Railway Station by a tonga (horse-drawn carriage). On board the tonga, pulled by an unusually strong horse, were the tonga driver, my father, my grandmother, my brother (13 years old) my sister (10 years old), me (15 years old), and a couple of suitcases. My siblings and I were students. My maternal grandmother was a farmer's wife, who expected to return to the village when the dust settled.

We also had some Aaloo parathas, a couple of thermos flasks with cold water so we did not have to listen out for "Hindu pani, Muslim pani, Hindu chai, Muslim chai" calls on wayside halts.

My mother and her father stayed back in burning Lahore. My mother was a doctor in the government servants' Estate hospital, and she could not leave until she got her official transfer orders (which came later only a few days before 15 August 1947). My grandfather had come to Lahore, literally with not a spare set of clothes. He had expected to return to his village the same evening. My mother persuaded him to stay with her till the religious mania subsided. Just as well - the killings continued until a kind of population exchange was completed by the autumn.  As a full Sikh, with his beard and turban, he was recognisable as a target for attack by Muslims.

As my mother hugged us when we left our home, the tonga driver, a Muslim, said, "Yes, embrace your selves. You may never meet again."

The drive to the Lahore Railway Station seemed interminably long. I wondered why we were not going the straight and familiar route. When we finally disembarked, the tonga driver said, "I have brought you through areas safe for you. Now, Khuda Hafiz." Here was a gentleman, at a time when there were very few of them in Lahore.

______________________________________

© Joginder Anand 2015

Comments
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Vinod Puri   |2015-07-19
Dr. Anand's story is well written. We living in Amritsar came across similar
tales from several relatives. Greetings to Dr. Anand from a younger graduate of
Amritsar Medical College-1964. I will love to read more of his stories.
Juginder Luthra   |2015-07-19
Dear Dr. Anand
Thanks for sharing part of your life history along with
history of the countries. Our father also brought us to hills near Shimla in May
1947.
What about your mother and grandfather. When did they cross over?
I also
graduated from Med. College, Amritsar in 1966
You are not standing still. You
are moving and making my fingers move as I relive those days gone by.
Best
wishes
Juginder Luthra
Joginder Anand   |2015-07-19
My mother received her transfer orders about three days before Partition Day.
She and my grandfather reached Ludhiana (her new post) on the 13th or 14th of
August 1947 by train, taking some household effects. As there were no postal
services, no telegram services, and in Solan we had no telephone, we had no idea
whether they were dead or alive. Towards the end of August 1947, my father left
us to go in search. Well. It was a journey.
Hazel Kahan   |2016-10-24
Dear Mr. Joginder Anand,
I am writing to you from the USA and would like to
connect with you to discuss interviewing you for my radio program about
Partition times in Lahore. I will await your email reply. Thank you.
Hazel
Kahan
Sanjay Sharma   |2016-11-29
Dear Mr. Joginder Anand,
Would it be possible to communicate with you to get
some of your insights on pre-partition Lahore and the summer of the
partition?
Many thanks,
Sanjay Sharma
My email address is
snsharma_ca@yahoo.com
JK Anand   |2016-11-29
Thank you Mr Sharma.
As you are aware no doubt, awakening of some memories
leads to other memories. Not always pleasant.
I sm grateful to Mr Subodh Mathur
for starting and maintaining this site - the descendants of the "Indians
" of the Past, living in all corners of the globe will find it valuable.
Your ancestors may have once lived in the Punjab-that-was. If so, you are
understandably curious. But please forgive me for letting the past gather more
dust. Sincerely . JK Anand
jatinder sethi   |2017-11-22
JOGINDER
I had not read this before,till today(23/11/2017).And surprised on the
response. you are right-when you say "letting the pastgather more
dust"
IOt may be interesting one day,late in life, to DUST off that-dust and
give usmore of your Long life to you/ stories.
JK Anand   |2017-11-23
Thank you Jatnder Ji.
You are right. Sometimes blowing off the dust reveals a
masterpiece. There are also times when blowing off the dust irritates the nose
and you start sneezing.
One memory sometimes triggers another memory which
might be pleasant. Half memory, half dream?
Another memory might spark off a
recall of horrible events which had lain buried deep in the brain
Yes. I will ,
I am sure, wake up one day with something that brings a smile to my shrunken
lips and impels my fingers to the key-board.
Do long. Fare thee well, my
friend.
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