A story about the communal violence that broke the peace of the subcontinent in 1947
|It was the summer of 1947.
A woman draped in a large cloth, carrying an infant, walked on towards the train station. An ominous silence followed her. She turned to look behind her back and was once again reminded of how utterly alone she was in the sleeping station.
She waited, darting anxious and searching glances hither and thither across the place. The blood in her veins curled up with terror as she saw a man clad in a civil service uniform walk past her. And she immediately clutched the child closer to her chest. The man however, ignoring her walked on.
Nearly two hours passed and she stood there, wishing and hoping against hope that Jhan would come for her.
The heat was intense and any moment now the child would wake up and start crying for food and water. And food was something she could not provide the child. For Zubaida was penniless, stripped to the last paisa she had ever owned in her life.
The station came to life as a train stopped by. And Zubaida’s heart began to thump wildly, and as it seemed to her, ready to break and set free from the ribs that caged it inside her chest. Every fiber in her body was hoping and praying, willing Jhan to step out of the train and smiling, engulf her in his arms.
People rushed out of the compartments. No one came out smiling or even glanced in her direction. They had their families to rush to and attend to urgent businesses. One man in a tremendous hurry knocked in to Zubaida with such force that she lost her breath and almost fell down. He looked at her and instead of apologizing went away, thinking of her as a beggar and someone who did not deserve to be given an apology.Or perhaps he knew that she was a Muslim and that was why he had treated her so ruthlessly?
This was Zubaida’s most inauspicious day; in fact it was the most abnormal and fateful day possible in the history of the subcontinent.
The British India had been broken down in to two individual countries namely Pakistan and India.
The rivalry that had existed between the two communities of Muslims and Hindus had reached its peak and no life or property was secure.
From that moment onwards ‘peace loving’ ordinary people would be found executing the most heinous of crimes human kind is capable of committing.
Man turned against man, brother turned against brother and friend against friend as the horrifying treachery of the communal violence of the summer of 1947 slowly unfolds.
The partition had been announced and the boundaries made clear when many people started to find out that they were living in the ‘wrong’ country.
Millions of people crossed the border to the country to which they belonged to, Muslims migrated to Pakistan and Hindus crossed the border to reach India. ‘It is the largest migration mankind has ever witnessed.’
Those who were left were subjected to the cruelest and vicious treatment imaginable.
Muslims left in India were brutally murdered by anti-Muslims Sikh and Hindu rebels who had formed an organized party to massacre the common Muslim in their areas.
In the Muslim communities the left out Hindus were butchered and murdered. Their lives were made insecure and their peace stolen.
All the while Zubaida just stood there, the weight of the child increasing tenth-fold every second. Sweat poured down her face as she looked up at the cloudless sky, her eyes were moist with tears and her spirit in intense agony with the physical and mental torture she had suffered.
She gazed at the encompassing blue ceiling of the sky and prayed with her whole heart to God to let Jhan be safe and secure.
Jhan was Zubaida’s husband. They had loved one another from the very moment they had laid eyes on each other and still loved with such fidelity and purity that their love could reach no parallel.
The armed forces of the old British India had consisted of a majority of Indians especially in the infantry division. And when the new countries of Pakistan and India were formed the British divided the military assets among the new countries in the ratio of 7:15 respectively. Thus the division of the soldiers was done on the bases of their religion.
The Muslims soldiers went to Pakistan and the Hindus to India.
Jhan was in the infantry, and being a Muslim had been transferred to Pakistan along with the rest of the Muslim soldiers.
Today he was to meet Zubaida at the Gurdaspur station and he could not wait to see her and their first child, Aslam.
All through the journey Jhan was worried to death about his wife and child and was anxious to see to their safe passage to the beloved homeland of Pakistan.
Jhan did not come that day.
Jhan did not come the day after that day.
Jhan was never to come to Gurdaspur, where Zubaida awaited his arrival.
And he was never to see the day of light again.
Rebels raided the train he was on and every occupant was either heartlessly slain or brutally butchered, their bodies were left on the train to rot and their goods and money stolen.
Zubaida came to the station every day for the rest of her life, in the dieing hope of seeing her husband alive for somewhere in the depths of her heart she knew that he was not dead and that he would come for her.
Her life was with Jhan, and always had been. She kept his last memory alive by visiting it every day, the memory of the station where he had left her last and the place where he was supposed to meet her again...