As the sound of festivities concerning Independence Day resounds around me, my mind travels to my growing years when I would listen to the horrific tales of Partition.
As a daughter (you know, sons seldom have the time and patience), I listened to my father recount how he had travelled to India on August 12, 1947, and how the entire train before and the entire train after had been butchered.
He was saved because a loyal servant, Minvaz Mir, sat in front of him at the train's window. My father, stalwart at a very young age, was quite the doyen of Rawalpindi, who owned Regal cinema house and other businesses. Offered to barter Regal for Delhi's Moti theatre on August 8, he reacted: "How can I leave my beloved Pindi? What about my seven-bedroom house on 155 Edward Road?" As a child I just wondered at his outburst but I now realise it was the echo of the sentiments of many.
During celebrations galore to commemorate the day of independence, he would be lost down the memory lane, into the realms of nostalgia, remembering how when he had trudged the final few kilometers in the boggy, rainy area to reach India, he like the other hordes of Partition-wrecked citizens had thought: "What was my fault?"
Life continued and he became a known figure in Shimla and Delhi but his heart remained in Rawalpindi. Today, when he is no more, we have parted with all his personal possessions gracefully but somehow I am unable to give away his black suit he had worn to the meetings in the Lodge, then the elitist club of Rawalpindi. It reminisces of the grandeur he enjoyed and the fact that it was wrenched from him for no fault of his in the hurtful days near freedom.
I enquired from him: "Why didn't you leave earlier when you knew this was going to happen?" Again, he echoed the voice of many: "I could never imagine leaving my homeland, and since the people of Chowki Number 22 had placed their faith in me by entrusting me the custody of their valuables, how could I abandon them?" No one had a reply.
Every August 15, his thoughts and feeling come back to my mind involuntarily and I have a relook at and retouch the elegant black Lodge suit, hang it back into the cupboard, and say to myself grudgingly: "Happy Independence Day."