‘Bliss was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven !’
No,It’s not French Revolution I am talking about just as Wordsworth mentioned, but some event that happened close at home .
That’s what youngsters felt in the wake of Indian Independence, a thrill, a euphoria which soon deflated like a balloon.
Midnight between 14th Aug and 15th Aug when the whole world was listening to our Prime Minister’s ‘A Tryst With Destiny,’ millions of people on both sides of the border bid adieu to their homes and their dear ones.
Brij Mohan was one of them, a man who was shaken from his roots forever on that fateful day .
And for millions others it was a Valediction.
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“ Where am I? “ a befuddled Brij Mohan asked as the army truck that was carrying him along with many other Hindus and Sikhs from Lahore was crossing over a dilapidated bridge.
“ In an army vehicle. We are going to India.” The person attending to him answered.
“India ? Aren’t we already in India ?”He asked and slipped into coma again.
His consciousness was like undulant waves. His mind wandered. Numerous incidents were cluttering his confused mind.
An image floated before his eyes . Guddi had woken up flustered and crying, “Look father, the bad people have burnt the corner house.They say they will burn our house too!”
“ No,child, there aren’t any bad people .” He tried to console her. “You have just seen a bad dream.Let me show you through the window.”
He took Guddi towards the window. What he saw startled him. Stained glass panes of the windows were aglow with the reflection of bright flames .The room was lit with rainbow colours. The corner house across the street was actually on fire.
He was delirious again, trying to decipher strange voices around. Now it was his mother insisting that he should send his daughter Guddi and his wife away to her parents’ house at Ludhiana.
“ You never know Brij ,nightmares can turn out to be true sometimes. Things are deteriorating. Everyday we hear horrible stories of riots .You can’t go because of your job, send them. At least they will be safe.”
“ Why don’t you take them there ! It will be a nice change for you too.”
His mind was slipping in and out of comatose state .Now he was sitting in his open verandah with his friend Ramlal .
“ Ramlal. aren’t we lucky that we will be the citizens of free India. I had never thought that this will happen during my life time.”
“ But we will be the citizens of Pakistan not of India .Haven’t you heard that Lahore will be a part of Pakistan?”
“ What are you saying , where will we go then? But how can you be so sure ?”
“Omi told me. He studies in the university. He gets the latest news . But don’t worry he is sure that Hindus will be safe here.”
“ You maybe right. There are stories of riots from everywhere but our locality is safe. We haven’t heard of any such thing here.” He hesitated for a moment,” But hadn’t someone tried to burn a house last month.?”
“It was because of a personal enmity.He was immediately arrested and punished. Don’t you remember?”
Brij Mohan was quiet for a moment but then he remembered something and a glimmer of panic crossed his face.
“ But what about Guddi and her mother ? They will be in India then and I will be here in Pakistan.”
“ You are such a coward. They can comeback anytime.” Ramlal quipped,” Be relaxed and enjoy freedom.”
In his semiconscious state, an image of Ramlal floated before his eyes, sitting in his open courtyard, talking excitedly about his son and his future plans .There was a glint of pride in his eyes.
“Where is he now ? “ he vaguely thought to himself.
His mind was now filled with a cacophony of disturbing noises from the street. There were bloodcurdling cries and shouts.
There were people making announcements, “All Hindus and Sikhs must leave Lahore immediately. We won’t be responsible for their safety.”
“Who are they? Where is the army that is supposed to protect Hindus and Sikhs ?”
“ Don’t worry, army will take care of miscreants “ Ramlal was sure that his young son couldn’t be wrong.
Their locality was soon surrounded by the rioters .No questions asked, no demands made. They were dragging people from their houses. Killing them ruthlessly
Brij Mohan tried to go outside, but Ramlal got hold of him, “Don’t stop me, can’t you hear the cries coming from Bimla’ s house. How can I leave them like this. Bimla is just like my Guddi. I will have to help her. “
“ You won’t be able to do anything. They are armed .”
A stab of pain pierced his heart .He shuddered to think what was happening to the little girl and her parents.
He was overcome with a sense of guilt . He freed himself and ran towards Bimla’s house but was attacked with swords. He squirmed in pain . Then was knocked senseless by a blow on his head .
He had no idea what happened to his friend or to the people he was trying to save .
He was later told that a patrolling army convoy had found him and brought him to that refugee camp at Ludhiana. He was the only one to survive in his locality.
A total chaos prevailed at the camp. People were desperately searching for their dear ones.
Brij Mohan was lucky that his wife was able to find him .he was able to reunite with his family.
The authorities told him that they had sealed and locked his house.He could visit his house when the things get normal.
That day is yet to come.
Event Sponsored by Kasturi Patra, Published Writer, A Mother’s Goodbye
Can a woman be a mother at the cost of being herself? Can circumstances force a child to be a mother? To know the answers, do read Kasturi Patra’s A Mother’s Goodbye, a poignant tale of a woman, her children, and a mother who said did not say good bye.