One Nation, One People

I have never been to Pakistan. But I have a strange, unexplicable nostalgia for Lahore and Karachi.

My mother was born in Karachi. My father, in Lahore.

My maternal grandfather came from Hyderabad, Sindh.

As a child, one heard of how they made it across the border after partition. Some of my early childhood years were spent in Jalandhar, on the first floor of a shop where my grandfather, with his white beard with matching turban and Turkish features traded in wood and counted his rupees and coins, read his prayers in Gurmukhi, maintained his records in Urdu and read Urdu newspapers till the end of his life, which was in 1984, as tanks marched towards the Golden Temple and curfew was imposed all over the truncated limb that was called Punjab, but really should have been called East Panjab.

Very much like the Indian Bengal that is still referred to as West Bengal. Somewhere, at the back of the mind, the feeling of One Bengal remains, whatever be the conventions of the modern nation states.

Whenever I read about buses and trains going back and forth between Lahore and Amritsar, I am moved, followed by a strange calmness that overwhelms me. Jaise beemaar ko bewajah karaar aa jaye, as Faiz remarked so poignantly in a different context but so aptly.

I feel as if I am walking in Krishna Mohalla in Lahore. Maybe, my grandfather’s house survives there. Maybe. Maybe some walls survive, perhaps even a door and a few windows that look out into the red brick lane that had turned brown and black over the years, as people rush by and my grandmother haggles with the vegetable vendor over the price of brinjals…

Born in Bikaner, near the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan, Reshma’s family had migrated to Pakistan at the time of Partition.

‘‘What is the difference between India and Pakistan? We’re one people, one nation. There is no difference in the minds of artists and common man,’’ she said.

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2 Replies to “One Nation, One People”

  1. Thanks, though the problem with nostalgia is that much of it is based on imagination and my fear is that a visit may shatter that nostalgia 😦

    But then, I guess I will have to make that pilgrimage one day. After all, jinne Lahore nahin vekhiya, o jamiya nahin.

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