Category Archives: Love

It all seems sweet …

Tera Kiya Meetha Lage    

Whatever you do seems sweet to me, Oh God. The good, the bad and the ugly are all sweet to me as you are the source of everything.

I take it all as your blessing.  amrit

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‘You have cried, so have we’

How does one divide a land? And how do you tell this story to generations who have no idea of the deep loss and grief  millions of people experienced  when the partition of India happened in 1947?

Who decides what story to tell? When to tell? How many stories to tell? Who decides how should we tell the history of a nation to its younger lot? How can we tell these stories so that subsequent generations know the real cost of  hate, prejudices? 

 

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During my recent visit to Amritsar, I spent an entire day at the Partition Museum, the only one of its kind in the world. To be there is to be on a pilgrimage. It was deeply moving and engaging to be there. The Partition of India saw  the largest migration in human history and around 20 million people were affected. Yet, for many decades these stories have not been shared. The Partition Museum is all about people and their stories. They have opened their hearts, shared their gut-wrenching experiences and while sharing their stories they have once again lived the horrors of those times. But they have chosen to share their stories. That’s the beauty of the Partition Museum in Amritsar.

Here I am sharing some notes I took while I was there. Photography is not allowed inside the museum (barring at one place) which I think is a fabulous idea.  The physical space of the museum strikes a chord with your inner self. The haunting sound of a train passing by and the installation of an anonymous railway platform stays with you for a long time. This nameless platform is in memory of all those innocent ordinary people who lost their lives in train attacks  and all those who survived this intensely traumatic train journey without food/water as they fled from the land that was their home.  You come closer to stories of loss, grief, betrayal and also the story of hope and the indomitable human spirit to build lives from the ashes.

THE PARTITION … THE LINE THAT DIVIDES 

Sir Cyril Radcliffe had six weeks to draw the border line. He was commissioned to equitably divide 4,50,000 km sq of territory with 88 million people. Radcliffe had never visited India before and he had no idea of its people, landscape and culture. He arrived on July 8 and completed his report by August 12. In an interview later, he said, “I had no alternative, the time at my disposal was so short that I couldn’t do a better job. Given the same period, I would do the same thing. However, if I had two-three years, I would do it differently.”

Following the mindless violence the partition saw, Radcliffe did not take any money for the work he had done. He said, “The people who died, their blood was on my head.”

 

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YOU CAN’T READ LOSS 

Loss is personal yet in many ways it’s universal too. Sudershana Kumari and her parents had to flee their home one evening while they were preparing their dinner. They just jumped from one terrace to another in desperation and left everything that was once theirs. Sudershana was eight then. Decades later, she recounts that horrifying night as tears flow continuously from her eyes. In an extraordinary gesture, she has donated a ‘KARI GLASS’  (among other things) to the museum. She explains, “When you respect a guest, you offer them milk/lassi in a kari glass. As the polish never goes off, it was considered precious.” Her sense of belongingness lies in that glass.

Major Jagat Singh’s family and their village did not migrate initially because they assumed Lahore will be with India. When finally their kafila moved, they were attacked. Singh had just crossed the Ravi river, when he looked back to see his father and many others killed on the other side of the river.

(Radcliffe had said, “By population, property, standards Lahore was originally in India. But then there was no city left for Pakistan. So I took Lahore from India and gave it to Pakistan. From East Pakistan, Calcutta was coming to India.”) 

In Thoha Khalsa village in Rawalpindi, women jumped into the well to protect the honour. In the museum, when you see the well (an installation) under the subtle light you feel a knife cutting through your heart.

THE POOR ALWAYS SUFFERS THE MOST: There were many with no other means came by Kafila, walking miles and miles in the scorching heat and the torrential rains of heavy monsoon. They were particularly vulnerable to attack by mobs. They walked without shelter, sanitation, food and water. Thousands especially the elderly, the sick, the children perished from exhaustion, starvation. They started the journey but never made it to their destination.

WHO CARES ABOUT DALITS? Very less has been written about the Dalits and Partition. To be honest, I myself have not thought about this aspect of the Partition earlier. Dalits could not stay in the main refugee camps and they were also cut off from getting access to clothing and food rations. Rameshwari Nehru, the head of the committee to rehabilitate dalits notes that the land compensation policies excluded dalits as they were viewed as tillers not owners.

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HOW DO YOU DIVIDE CULTURE? 

The tragic consequences of the Partition were felt in music, literature, cricket and heritage. In an absurd matter of fact effort at equity, ancient necklaces belonging to Mohenjodaro were broken and an equal number of beads were given to India and Pakistan. Even giving either country one extra bead had to be discussed and put formally on file.

TOWARDS HOPE, LOVE AND LIGHT

The Partition Museum shows us that — We can never win against hate. Hate will consume all of us, sooner or later. Empathy is the only answer.

The last segment of the museum has a tall, elegant Hope Tree. You can leave a message on a piece of paper which is in the shape of leaf. History can be our greatest teacher if  we are willing to learn from our history.

Facing the Hope Tree, there is a board which has following lines of Sufi poet Bulleh Shah. “Entire universe is contained in a single point. The God is found not by those who follow rites and rituals but by those whose hearts are pure.”

Let us move away from hate, prejudices and stay closer to love and empathy. If not now then when?

Farewell

Kashmir… I love the sound of it. It’s my elusive lover. Four times, I have come close to Kashmir but I could never meet Kashmir. A land is like a lover, you might be ready for your lover but the lover is not ready to embrace you. There’s nothing you can do about it till it’s the time. I have my own imagination of Kashmir. Before the onset of every autumn (my favourite season), I always travel to Kashmir in my heart. Today, the whole of India is talking about Kashmir and the scrapping of Article 370. Beyond politics, there’s poetry. Agha Shahid Ali is one of my favourite poets and he was from Kashmir. He died at a young age but his poems are his legacy. He is there. Even in his absence. Here’s the poem titled Farewell by Agha Shahid Ali. 

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FAREWELL

At a certain point I lost track of you.
They make a desolation and call it peace.
when you left even the stones were buried:
the defenceless would have no weapons.

When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks,
who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes?
O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished,
who weighs the hairs on the jeweller’s balance?
They make a desolation and call it peace.
Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?

My memory is again in the way of your history.
Army convoys all night like desert caravans:
In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved- all
winter- its crushed fennel.
We can’t ask them: Are you done with the world?

In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other’s
reflections.

Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are found like this
centuries later in this country
I have stitched to your shadow?

In this country we step out with doors in our arms
Children run out with windows in their arms.
You drag it behind you in lit corridors.
if the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything.

At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me. You needed to perfect me.
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. You can’t forgive me.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect Enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory:

I am being rowed through Paradise in a river of Hell:
Exquisite ghost, it is night.

The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves.
It is still night. The paddle is a lotus.
I am rowed- as it withers-toward the breeze which is soft as
if it had pity on me.

If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn’t
have happened in the world?

I’m everything you lost. You won’t forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.
There is nothing to forgive.You can’t forgive me.
I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself.

There is everything to forgive. You can’t forgive me.

If only somehow you could have been mine,
what would not have been possible in the world?

Amritsar… after 25 years

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier

I went back to Amritsar after 25 long years. I went there to honor my mother’s memory, I went there to heal myself. To liberate my inner self from loss, pain and longing. To celebrate happy memories and seek strength to move forward with a sense of joy and lightness. I hope, there will be a new beginning.

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Some experiences need to be only felt deep within your heart and expressing them in words will be diluting them. So, I will keep the ethereal experience of kneeling down and praying in front of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib to myself only.

“Is it your first visit to Amritsar?”

“No, I am coming back to Amritsar after 25 years.”

“Oh, my God… 25 years. That’s really long. Can’t believe it. Amritsar has changed so much.”

“Yes, India has changed, Amritsar has changed. I too have changed.” Civilizations, nations, cities, lives, narratives … all change. Change is the only constant element in this universe.

I also feel, in those moments of deep silence, tranquility and prayers, I found what I had left behind 25 years ago.

“Time is how you spend love,” I remember reading this somewhere. For me, Amritsar is all about love. Love for my mother, love for my father, sisters, little nephew, young nieces, love for my dearest soul sister carving her own life in Dubai,  love for my friend’s father who is confined to his bed for the last four years following a brain stroke, love for India, love for India’s diversity, love for humanity, love for service….

Love meeting love. Love embracing love. That’s Golden Temple for me.

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Happy space

Home is where the books are.

I have been travelling and every time I come back home from a trip, I just put all my notebooks and books (that travelled with me) on the desk.  This does not add anything to the desk other than clutter.

In no time, the desk looked like a super cyclone ravaged place. The clutter irritated me but I kept on postponing the cleaning operation. Finally I woke up at 6 in the morning today to arrange my desk. I should have planned a before and after photo op.  Well, now I am happy to see this neat desk. I hope, it stays this way for some time.

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Remembering Ma

She gave me life and I held her hand gently as she breathed her last. I did not know how debilitating loss could be till I came back to her empty bedroom after her mortal remains were consigned to flames.

Her tryst with cancer was laced with grace and grit. In those five years of  innumerable hospital visits, intensely painful bone marrow tests, decaying plasma cells, as we walked hand in hand, we experienced infinite love.

Our birthdays are just one day apart…. Today is hers. She lives within me.

I hope in my own journey ahead, with her blessings I will be a better human being in every sense of the term. I owe this blog to her cause she was a mesmerising story-teller. And I am just trying to carry forward this legacy.

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Everyday Romance

She: I think, you have forgotten how you used to sleep on my lap for hours. Tum toh so jaate the aur mein deewar dekhti rahti thi ( You used to sleep like a log and I used to stare at the walls)

He: Of course, I remember it very well.

She: Then

He: What then? It’s simple — one will sleep where one belongs to. That’s his/her place. So, I slept in my place.