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Salute to humanity

Partition is the darkest chapter in recent history. But I also believe that the worst of times brings out the best in us. A visit to my birthplace, Karor-Lal-Esan in Layyah district of Pakistan, two years ago brought back memories of love, hospitality and above all sacrifice. Mohinder Pratap Chand writes

chandigarh Updated: Jan 15, 2013 10:26 IST
Mohinder Pratap Chand

Partition is the darkest chapter in recent history. But I also believe that the worst of times brings out the best in us.


A visit to my birthplace, Karor-Lal-Esan in Layyah district of Pakistan, two years ago brought back memories of love, hospitality and above all sacrifice.

I vividly remember the largeheartedness of the station house officer of the Karor police station in August 1947. All along, he convinced Hindus of the town that as long as he was alive, no harm could come to them. He kept his word. When the train to India arrived at Karor station, that kindly SHO asked us to load as much luggage as we could during the night. The train was to leave in the morning. My salute to the braveheart.

Our household goods were transported on the backs of donkeys and loaded onto the train by four Muslim washermen. They didn't charge us for the service. Presuming it was our last meeting, the washermen wept inconsolably. Yes, we felt the collective pain of separation. We felt humanity.

Most would term this period as a low in life, but I see this episode as a rare 'high' in my existence. I bow to the simplicity and helpfulness of the washermen. May they prosper!

After leaving Karor, we took refuge in Jalandhar's Gadha camp. Days later, we moved to Ferozepur district when my father was appointed headmaster at Jeeven Mal District Board High School in Zira. I was 12 at that time. I happened to read a touching story of sacrifice by Saqib Zirvi, an eminent writer, in an Urdu magazine in our school. Zirvi narrated a tale of his escape from the jaws of death thanks to a Sikh friend, Gurmukh Singh, who was a tailor.

During the riots after Partition, Saqib was hiding in Gurmukh's house when the arsonists struck. Gurmukh could not think of any alternative, so he let Saqib lie alongside his ailing wife on the same cot. He covered Saqib with the blanket that his wife was wrapped in because of high fever. When the rioters entered the room, Gurmukh told them there was no one there except his wife, whose face was partially visible from the fringes of the blanket. Those slayers could never have thought that a Sikh would make such a sacrifice. They left. Later, Saqib migrated to Pakistan.

After reading the article, I resolved to meet Gurmukh Singh. The same evening, I went to his shop and as a mark of respect for his humanity, touched his feet.

Despite all the sad developments around, I think humanity still lives in many a heart even today. Every nation, and every community, has humane people. It only strengthens my belief that humanity will not only endure, but also prevail.

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