Bolti Khidki: Blurring borders and hatred, one Facebook post at a time
Bolti Khidki shares experiences of people from both sides of the border, during and after the violent chapter when India and Pakistan were separated by the British in 1947.india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 18:33 IST
Two young men from India and Pakistan are attempting to gather stories and narratives of people affected by Partition and talk about the “memories of happiness and friendship that goes beyond borders and communal divides”.
Sandeep Dutt, an IT professional from Punjab’s Ludhiana, and a journalism student Faisal Hayat (19) from Pakistan’s Rawalpindi have created a Facebook page Bolti Khidki - The Speaking Window.
They post experiences of people from both sides of the border during and after the violent chapter when India and Pakistan were separated by the British in 1947.
The page launched just two months ago posts complex and heart-wrenching stories of people and also gives them a chance to interact and forge a bond. It shares the stories twice a week and already has more than 6500 followers, who are growing by the day.
Dutt said the story of 86-year-old Prem Singh Bajaj, a retired college principal who is now a librarian at Ludhiana’s Punjabi Bhawan, motivated him to start the page with Hayat. He studies Urdu at Punjabi Bhawan.
“Bajaj sir’s story forced me to contemplate about the life circumstances of other people who were affected by the Partition. Where were they? What were they going through? Why should they remain anonymous to our generation? Why does our generation know nothing about them or our common shared history of sorrow and bloodshed?” the 22-year-old budding poet said.
Dutt shared the first story he heard about the Partition on the Facebook page of Aman ki Asha, where he received positive comments and saw an interest about the pre-partition era in people. He shared his idea of collecting few such stories in his free time and sharing it with the world with Hayat, who he had met on Aman ki Asha.
Aman ki Asha or Hope for Peace is a campaign by two leading media houses, The Jang Group of Pakistan, and The Times of India in India to promote peace and cultural relations between the two nations.
Hayat and he connected instantly and he happily agreed to work with him. They then got Ritika Sharma, a Ludhiana based-English teacher, to edit their interviews for their page.
“The stories that people share are very important and what makes the recordings unique is the lack of malice or hatred in the hearts of these people,” Sharma said when asked about her experience with Bolti Khidki.
They decided they would collect 16 stories – eight from each side – and it took them a month and a half of hard work and efforts to collect them and create a platform to start sharing with the world.
“We discussed many names and finalised Bolti Khidki – The Speaking Window as neighbours usually share stories and talked through windows and India and Pakistan are neighbouring states. The goal was to engage and encourage communication,” Dutt said.
Dutt said while all stories are heart wrenching and tragic in their own ways but one that would stay with him forever was of Pushpa Rani from Ludhiana.
Rani told him how she was thrown out of a train in a heap of corpses on way to Ferozepur from Okara when she was just five-years-old. The mob assumed her dead and threw her out of train.bShe was separated from her family and her two paternal uncles and grandmother were killed.
Later, she reunited with her mother and siblings and got married in Ludhiana.
Dutt said Bolti Khidki is not just about pain and suffering but it is also about the memories of happiness and friendship that goes beyond borders and communal divides. “It is true that the Partition was filled with hatred and violence but there was also love, compassion and commitment to reduce the suffering and embrace the change,” he said while referring to Punjab Rai Talwar’s story.
The page is gaining a lot of momentum and love not just in India, on the other side of the border as well.
‘’It’s something that can’t be expressed in words. I can’t tell you how I felt when a 93-year-old lady kept asking me, Tu Pakistan jayega? Tu mera Sialkot jayega? (Will you visit Pakistan? Will you visit my Sialkot?). These old people talk about their love for their motherland and get emotional and it motivates me to keep sharing their voices with the world,” Dutt said.
In order to continue sharing the personal narratives, Dutt and Hayat now plan to initiate a volunteer programme to broaden their base. They also want to publish a book once they have gathered 120 stories.
They have already expanded their team by including graphic designer Rajat Ahuja and Najam-ul-Asar from the British Council in Lahore.