Few weeks ago, I lost my uncle (my father’s elder brother, profoundly called “taya ji”). He was the eldest member of my family and was in eighties. Last time, I’d met him in November, 2011 and he looked weak. My father told me about the unfortunate news over phone-call and it was like I lost someone who inspired me, who was strongest pillar of family, who knows a lot despite being illiterate, and I started crying for being helpless over phone-call. I felt lonely.
I can remember taya ji always speaking about the golden olden days of his life and his experiences. Taya ji migrated at the time of Independence from Sialkot (located in Pakistan in the north-east of Punjab province near the Chenab River) along with my grandparents. There wasn’t any official record of his birth year but as he remembered he was around 18 years old at the time India got Independence and he’d memories of it live with him. He never got a chance to go to school but he could read Hindi and Punjabi newspapers without any difficulty.
I had always asked taya ji what living was before independence. What was the life style of our people? Was it like today? Were we better off in Sialkot? Was our village in Sialkot same as it is now? Were we living in Hindu dominated or Muslim dominated village? Was there a mosque also? There were many things I asked taya ji. He always replied me with patience and I always got interesting answers from him. Interesting and strange answers.
“We didn’t even know we are under British rule.” He said once and continued, life for poor wasn’t any different as it is now and we were poor so it hardly mattered whether we were under British rulers or under Brahmins rulers of today. We were discriminated and caste system was as strong as it is today. Maybe today we can’t see open discrimination and upper caste people have devised new plans to discriminate but condition is same as it was before independence. We were offered dirty jobs; we worked in the fields as slaves and were offered nothing but few pieces of bread or rotis.
He told me once and my father confirmed me that our homes or any piece of land if any we had never used to registered under our names. We were not given lands under our names no matter even if we were capable of buying it. We had to register it under the name of higher caste people. We’d to convince upper caste landlords to let us use their name and get us register our land on their names. It wasn’t easy and enough, after registering our land on their names we had to keep them happy via working on their fields so that they don’t change their minds and grab our lands. All this continued till late 70s and I believe in many parts of India it would still be the case. Taya ji also told me that no matter how much money you had in cash at the time of separation, everything was looted from us. Partition of India was ill planned and unfortunate event. Only land was transferred and that also not in the proper way. So, it was another lesson for me and I learnt that also in early in life that is I’ll buy as much as land I can. Earlier we’re not given chance to buy a land and now if we have a right to buy a land then why to waste this opportunity?