Monday, September 29, 2008

The return to Lahore

Eight generations of my family lived in Lahore. We are a Kashmiri Pandit family who had lived for many years in the same 'haveli' in the same location for generations. All that changed in 1947 when my grandparents packed themselves and their children, my father and his three sisters, and moved to Allahabad, as India got divided into two. The hindus moved across to India, and the Muslims moved to Pakistan, causing untold misery, death and devastation.

As a child I heard stories from my Dada (Grandpa) about his life in Lahore, the haveli, the paintings, the gardens, the library, the temple in the house, the well in the house, the furniture, his cameras, his friends, his walks, his college (Govt College Lahore) and then the sudden decision to move. He mentioned these things as memories, fond ones, I never heard a hint of bitterness or regret in his voice. He always believed in fate and destiny, and what is not meant for you, will never be yours kind of thinking. He missed his life there and at the age of 37 when he moved to India, he found it tough. They were compensated by the Indian govt for their losses in Pakistan and in his case the compensation was substantial (from my perspective) but nothing in comparison to what he had left behind, but hey, it was something. My grandma never spoke of Lahore. She had managed to dig out a Hanuman and a Kali from their home and those statues are in the temple in my house even now. She did smuggle some of her jewellery by stitching it to the insides of her clothes, some of which I now own, but she lost a lot more material wealth and peace of mind, then what she was compensated for.

Time passed. No bitterness or regret was heard. They mentioned once that they would like to go and see their home before they died, but that did not happen.

My father, who was very young when they left and had seen many pictures and heard far more stories than me decided to go to Lahore. It was the first time, someone from my family would go back.

He walked to what used to be his house and its vast grounds. It now is a block of apartments and the grounds have been turned into a market place, so there are no open spaces or trees, just a large old building (being a listed one, it still stands) surrounded by a market. He saw the name of his ancestors, still there, engraved in marble, attached to the boundary walls of the market.

He then went scouting around to his maternal grandmothers house, they were also Kashmir and had lived for many generations in the same house, in Lahore. He walked along the road, but again it was unreconizable, so he stopped and asked an old man if he knew about the Haveli and its grounds and whereabout they were. The man asked him why he wanted to know, to which my father replied, they were his grandparents and he was looking for their house. The man asked him if he knew what the neighbours were called, my father said the names and the old man's eyes lit up. He walked my father to the Fatima Jinnah Medical College, the old house had been sectioned into three blocks, with five apartments in each block. The grounds of the house now held towering blocks of the Jinnah Medical college's hostels for women!
The old man asked my father to stay and talk, but being in a rush he could not stop. The man asked him to come for a longer time when he was free and they could talk about the past.

From the sounds of it, my father was quite taken by what he saw. He did not know what to expect. He still owns old architectural plans of the house and its grounds, he has photographs of his mother as a newly wed yougn girl, sitting around the house. I have photos of my grandfather standing along with his fellow Kashmiri friends in his house. They are all memories, of lives transformed by politics and religion. However there is no resentment or regrets. Dada did not believe in wasting time regretting thing, life was too short. Live it to its full he always said, he did.


Upasna said...

It's fascinating...wonder how i will feel if i go back to the valley

Anonymous said...

Hi ... this was a nice experience... there are many people who where displaced by the partition. My grand mother is from Pak Punjab. She says they had very big home there. But after partition everything is gone :(