The Partition in 1947 spelt doom for her marriage. Dhanno, 22, and her infant son had been sent to her peka ghar (parents’ house) in Dharoli Bhai village, 14 km from Moga, during the tense days before D-day. But when her husband Barkat Ali, a native of Moga, left for Pakistan amid the violent madness, she and their son were left behind in Dharoli Bhai.
Seven years later, after her husband had died of an illness and the madness had given way to perceived normalcy, her younger brother-in-law Mohammad Sadar came to Dharoli Bhai and took Dhanno and her son to their new home in Ukada village, about 120 km from Lahore. As per the family tradition, Sadar married her there, and life looked to be back on track.
So it was, except that hostile India-Pak relations and visa hassles meant Dhanno longed for the day she would visit her peka ghar again.
That day came on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, nearly six decades since she moved to Pakistan. Her brothers were in for a massive surprise.
So when a frail old woman stood in the fading light of dusk, at the door of the house where she grew up, Bhanu, the little brother she played peek-a-boo with, was dumbfounded. After she whispered her name through a faint smile, tears flowed, and flowed, tears of joy. When it sunk in a moment later, they hugged. Mallu, younger of her two brothers, joined in.
Dhanno’s son Maqbool Mohammad let her hand go and stood by the side.
“For years and years after I crossed the border in ’54, I missed them but could not do anything. It was only last year that I got a phone number where I could contact my brothers. We had long conversations, but the visa seemed impossible,” Dhanno told HT as our team reached the overjoyed village on Thursday.
“When I and my son finally got the visa last week, we just decided to arrive unannounced. We reached Amritsar on Wednesday morning, and were home by the evening… We were home,” she smiled, and then broke down. “I always feared I would die before I meet them. Thank God, Thank God!”
Maqbool, the dutiful son, had by now got a million pats on the back from the villagers. When asked what made him bring her mother here, he just smiled, underlining the banality of the question. Obviously, she is not his mother for now. Dhanno is the daughter of Dharoli Bhai.