Some time back I came across an organization who are running this drive to conduct video interviews of India Pakistan partition survivors. The objective is simple- to record history from those who saw it happening. While we have numerous books and lot of material in every form where the history of partition is recorded; but accounts of people shared by them, who were part of the biggest change this sub continent has seen, are rare. So a group of individuals from US, decided to take this up and now they have formalized this drive and invite people to become part of their organization and record interviews. As we know, the survivors would all soon be gone. Already, we are in the last phase where we can still find some living people who were old enough to remember the happenings of the gruesome events that happened around partition in 1947.
Their website is- http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/
I have always been interested in history. Specially the modern history of India which covers the British Raj leading upto independence. I am always ready to lap up stories about that time. I am not sure when my interest in this area began, but in the past few years I have been actively reading about partition, how and what led to it in every form. Apart from the books on history of partition, I am particularly on look out for fiction which is based in that era. Though I am not sure of the reason of my interest in this area, but may be its because of the fact that I have spent the initial years of my life amidst partition survivors and their descendants. I am basically from Uttaranchal. I am not aware of anyone in my immediate or extended family who has anything to do with freedom struggle, or later partition for that matter. However, my parents are settled in Saharanpur for the past 35 odd years. Its a small city in the northern part of UP, India which borders Haryana and now the relatively new state of Uttaranchal. Saharanpur was one of the places where a lot of partition refugees settled down. When I was born, my parents also stayed in a refugee colony where all the occupants were people whose previous generation had migrated from some or the other part of Pakistan. They all were Punjabis displaced from West Pakistan. Our landlady was an old aunty, whom we use to call “jhaaijee” and the old uncle was referred to as “bauji”- by everyone including his own and my parents too. The neighborhood was all Punjabi. We stayed their till I was about 6 years old. The next house we moved in was also in a refugee colony where everyone around us was Punjabi, migrated from West Pakistan. My father who had mostly Punjabis as his colleagues, always had interesting stories to tell about people who had migrated and how they had re-build their life in India. Most of the big shop owners or businessmen in our town were people who had come here with practically nothing with them. Many of my classmates in school were kids from families of migrants. So, overall the initial period of my life had a huge Punjabi influence. I would hear stories of how one of my classmate’s grandfather was a tonga owner or a fruit vendor when they moved to India, leaving everything behind. I guess it was a combined effect of all this, that as a grown up, I am always attracted towards stories and tales from that period of time. I am equally fascinated by the description of Lahore of that time as I am by any Indian’s account of a visit or stay in Pakistan now. (Just to mention here- there is this beautiful book by Pran Nevile called Lahore. Its one of the most beautiful accounts of a city I have read. It literally transports the reader in time)
I have picked up numerous books which cover those dreadful times of partition – both fiction and non fiction- and have always loved reading them. In recent times I read this book – Beyond the Border by Yoginder Sikand, it also shows some glimpses of Lahore; however much in stark contrast to the Lahore of 30s and 40s as depicted in Pran’s book. Needless to say, the current situation is disappointing.
So basically, I am enchanted by the partition history, not only by what happened at the macro level, but also by the life and times of that era. It interests me like nothing else. Sometimes i feel I must have been there in my previous birth. A soul from Lahore trying to cross the borders with nothing but a faint hope of making it alive to this side!
So when, I came to know of this amazing opportunity, of becoming a citizen historian and do interviews of partition survivor, I was elated. It was like a wish come true. I enrolled for their mandatory training program last month and attended a 2 hours long training over web. It was basically a session on how to conduct interviews, the methodology, etiquette etc. Post that the requirement was to do and submit one interview within one month of the training to become a member and continue the membership. Now, I know a couple of partition survivors in my native- that is Saharanpur. However, since now i reside in NCR and the requirement was to conduct a video interview, I started writing mails to all people I could possibly think of who could give me any reference. After writing to all possible contacts on all Whatsapp groups I am part of, and e-mailing all friends I could think of, I was surprised, that nobody could give me a single reference. Either, people did not take it as seriously as I thought they would, or we actually do not have many of the survivors from that time period left. In both cases the situation is very disheartening. I have not given up though. I plan to take the online training once again, whenever it happens next, and will plan a short visit to my hometown, to get in touch with the people I know and would be more than happy to share their story. My only fear is, that hopefully by the time my plan materializes, the said contact points are alive and kicking. No I am not being pessimistic; fact is that those people are actually very old, and while I pray for their very long life, I am still scared deep down of something unforeseen happening.
If you happen to read this blog, and know of any partition survivor in NCR (National Capital Region- which includes Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad in India); pls do share the reference in the comment box. It will be or a great cause. Narration from those who saw it all is history in its best form which we can archive for our future generations, for whom partition would be something not more than a mere event in history, as they would be even more distant and unknown to people who experienced it first hand!