I remember spending the remaining part of that year scrounging around for food on the station. Rich lalas would bring pooris and sabzi and throw the pooris at refugees like us from a distance, to avoid the fracas that would inevitably ensue. There were dead bodies on the station, I would sometimes sleep between them. I lived this existence till I got a job for Rs 10 a month at a shop near Ajmeri Gate.
Our entire village of Gobindpur Kot had been massacred, as the elders had taken a collective decision not to convert to Islam as they had been asked to. Among those killed were my parents and two of my sisters. My elder brother survived; a sepoy in the British army, he was posted at Multan. Two of my other sisters were married and lived elsewhere.
Those days, there would be announcements on the station to help people reconnect with lost kin. That’s how I discovered that my elder sister had somehow reached Shahdara. I went to her, but so hard were the times that her in-laws, equally destitute and refugees themselves, ill-treated me in the worst possible ways.
My most enduring memory of that year is not the birth of India and Pakistan. I could not even comprehend what was happening. As a teenager from a backward village in Pakistan, I had never seen a cycle, car or train. I was completely bewildered at the turn of events. All that mattered was how to get my next meal, usually a roti and an onion.
As told to Chander Suta Dogra
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