My uncle, who is 78, is visiting me these days. Last week, I was working on my computer when he asked me curiously what sort of things one could do on the machine. I explained to him that people could write documents, make presentations, seek information on any topic, and view different places, including their residence. After a brief pause, he asked me: “Can it show me my Uche Ladhe village in Lahore district?”
I don’t know for how long he has been holding this desire in his heart. On Google Earth, we located the village where he was born in 1937. The excitement on his face told me it had awakened the long-sleeping child in him.
He tried to locate his primary school where two kind-hearted teachers, including headmaster Faizaluddin (he had a faint idea of his name), taught. He told me about the fun the class would have when both would take a short break to offer Namaz.
Then he asked me to show the adjoining village of Ladheke Neewain. “Between the two villages is a mazar (sacred tomb), where an annual fair in the month of Poh (mid-December to mid-January) was held,” he said.
Adjusting his thick glasses over his fading eyes, he searched for the fair ground where he used to feast on jalebis and laddoos with his siblings and friends. “A similar fair was held in March-April at Pandoke, a few kilometres from our village,” he recollected. We also looked at the nearby village of Lalyani, to which his maternal grandmother belonged.
He remembered the time when a warehouse had opened at a small place named Pursram (now Mustafabad) on the canal bank of the Lahore-Kasur road. A police post and a gurdwara lay across the road; and Neharwali Masjid was an imposing sight to the boy. Then his family moved to Raiwind in Lahore district. He still has clear memory of his primary-school teacher, Sher Mohammad, who would help the students get scholarship.
From his middle school near the Raiwind railway station, he remembers his English teacher, a Sikh gentleman with a stern voice. After that, one could join either Mission School at Raiwind or Government High School in Kasur, two stations away after crossing Raja-Jang and Rao-Khanwala. He remembers that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also has a big house at Raiwind.
My uncle was just 10 when he lost his home to Partition and came to India. He still hasn’t forgiven the British for dividing the country and her people, triggering the largest mass migration in the history of human conflict.
With no hope of seeing his birthplace again, he was delighted to at least revisit his childhood, courtesy Google Earth. Behind the wrinkled face and inside the fragile body is a boy still longing for the village fair.