A walk through the past

Alisha Shinde
Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Our freedom struggle is filled with stories of bravery and sacrifice. On India’s 72nd Independence Day, Alisha Shinde talks to people who have much to share about their journeys and life-altering changes that they experienced in the days leading to August 15, 1947 and the Partition

I was born in Jhelum, somewhere really close to Rawalpindi in undivided India. We were five siblings and we lived with our parents in a home surrounded by lots of trees. 

One late evening while I was playing with my siblings, my father, who worked at the officer level in the administrative services, came home looking tensed. Even though I was slightly above four years old, I found it discomforting to see him stressed. While we were still playing, I overheard him telling my mother that we would have to leave our home and go to the other side of the country. This was around March end or mid April 1947. 

Initially, I found the thought of moving out vague because as a child I did not know what it feels like to relocate. But I was a bit upset about leaving behind my home and going to a new place. However, we had no choice.

My father booked us on a flight and I was really excited to be on one. But I remember him not boarding the flight with us because he was responsible to take a count of all those who would soon be travelling to India.

He joined us in Bangalore in August that year and we started on a new journey with a new house, new school and new friends. But starting a new life and erasing the memories of a place we once called home wasn’t so easy. We were both happy and sad. 

When we came to India we not only left behind our belongings but also a tiny part of us. Though for me it was fun getting on a plane, my parents felt the pain of leaving their friends behind and most importantly, a home that they had built.
— Baldev Singh Lamba, 75

I have lived in the city of Pune all my life which used to be a quiet, sleepy town back in the 1940s but when it came to the Independence Day struggle the people of this small town showed tremendous energy and enthusiasm. 

Back then, radios were a novelty, not many families had one. So when we and other families got together at our neighbour’s place to listen to the radio on the stroke of midnight to listen to Nehru’s memorable speech, it looked like a fun fair. I had never seen so many people gathered together.   

On August 15, 1947 I was in std V and it was a regular day at my school  — New English School, Ramanbaug. The principal soon made an announcement that India had become a free nation. Delighted with the news he distributed pedhas in the entire school. 

While people were genuinely happy about a free India there were also apprehensions about how the country stood divided from the people who once belonged to the same land. One day while I was returning home from school I found heavy patrolling in the city by the police, who were mostly sardars. They had a worried look in their eyes. While they were on duty, they worried about the safety of their families and friends back home. Considering how old I was back then it did not really sink in the way it sinks in now. When I think of it now, I know the pain that they were experiencing. 
— Ramkrishna T Chiplunkar, 83

When India won its Independence I was exactly 14 years old but the memories are still fresh in my mind. Some days before August 15, when there was a buzz about the British finally leaving our country, people were happy. We were overwhelmed with joy when we listened to Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech.  

But at the same time we were overwhelmed with grief when we heard about the blood trains going in and out of India and Pakistan and the number of people who were brutally killed. It was depressing just to listen to the stories of widespread violence and hatred amongst people who once lived together and also celebrated festivals together. No doubt Independence was the best thing to happen to India but till today the horrifying tales of Partition stay etched in the minds of people living on both sides of the border. 

Back then, I was in Bombay and I remember watching truck loads of people arriving in the city to restart their life. They took shelter in what we now call the refugee colonies. Once they settled down, things did change and the brutal acts did come to an end as people got busy with their own lives, but thinking what people experienced while crossing the border still sends a chill down my spine.
— Rangarao Panhalkar, 85

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