Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Days Gone By - One Mans Legacy After the Partition

As time moves on I learn more and more about my home, neighborhood, city and this country. Just recently I learned that our family acquired this house during the partitioning of Punjab. It's really sad in many ways because that tells me of the struggles this family has always been through and the various conflicts they've survived in this home. I'm not sure how we got on the subject but hubby lit up as he was telling me about his families past the other night. Before this story I had paid little attention to the partition and mention of it because I had enough to learn already and I didn't think this was relevant to me at the time.

Our family acquired this home when it was only one story high during the partition. His grandfather came as a young, unmarried man from somewhere in what is now Pakistan. Some of his family came with him and some was left behind. He purchased this small two bedroom house and moved in with the family he had with him. I can only imagine how frightening that must have been given the circumstances of the time. Punjab was a violent place at the time. 

For those of you not aware of the partition let me explain.

For a decade (which is speculative as it could have been going on much longer) there was an uproar of religious tension throughout Punjab. Though very little reputable information exists it all culminated in an excessive amount of violence predominantly related to religious issues that baffles historians even today. Between 1946 and 1947 Punjab was effectively split into two different states in two different countries and Amritsar is on the bordering edge India, dead center in the chaos. The violence didn't stop there and it's been speculated that this same violence continued to erupt here intermittently for almost 50 years after the partition, only ending between 1991-1993. (Amritsar is not the only place where there was violence erupting in regards to the partition.)

Hubby's grandfather settled here in Amritsar and began a life for himself. He landed a big government contract for an invention of his that is military related and was provided a hefty sum of money which he invested for his children. It was his dream to see all of his children educated and to have a good life. He and his wife had 5 children survive and all of them were afforded any opportunity they chose.

As his family grew so did this house. He added on one story with a new kitchen, two more bedrooms and another bathroom. His youngest daughter was married in this house. His oldest daughter grew up to become a prominent doctor in her local community after she got married. His middle son became a well known architect who helped build many well known structures throughout Punjab. His eldest son advanced his career through a local government office and made it all the way to the top while still maintaining the family home. His youngest son started his own business and grew it into a small empire.

These children carried on their father's legacy and in turn saw to it that all of their children were educated, male and female alike. This one man wanted a better life for his family and wanted to see India become a better place and his legacy has now lived on for three generations here in Amritsar where they continue to grow - along with the house. A man who lost his family to senseless violence, gave everything he had to make this country better. There really should be more people like him in this world, even if some of his views were stricter than most of us would understand.

The family maintains one room of our house just the way this grandfather and grandmother had kept them. It was their bedroom. Their pictures stand in the room in honor and in remembrance of them and all they did for their children. I find it inspirational that over 50 years ago one young man demanded equality for his children, male and female and sought to make all their lives better, even if it wasn't tradition. Even today education for women is only thought of as a means to land a better husband in too many communities yet this man, 2 generations ago wanted his girls to have opportunities besides just marriage. That makes me even more proud to be a member of this family.

To read more about the partition, visit these links:
Journal of Genocide Research: The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47:
Gopal Krishan: Demography of the Punjab (1849-1947)
South Asia Post Issue 45: Partition of Punjab


  1. I always love learning new things about the history of Amritsar and Punjab. Hubby's maternal side that has ancestral property near your house also left behind life in now Pakistan during partition for the same part of Amritsar, leaving behind property, family members and even the pets they had at the time. My MIL still talks about how her father cried leaving behind his horse and it is said that back in those days many people kept lions as pets!

    We were discussing the house we live in now a few nights ago, and as it turns out during the mind 70s Indira Gandhi declared India an emergency zone due to political tensions at hand. Because of this, throughout Amritsar people holding land larger than 1000 square feet had their land acquired by the government for safe houses and the like.
    Where we live now used to be one building 'Lal Devi Building' and instead of having the government steal his land, the then owner sold it to his tenants for whatever they could give our home was bought then by a previous owner for 7200RS, and many others in the lane were bought for as little as 1000RS! Many of the families here are the same that purchased the homes back then, and if they sold now would sell for well over 1000 times the amount that was paid.

  2. nice post Krisy ! I read a wonderful book called " What the body remembers " all about the partition it was fiction but a wonderful read and I learned so much from it .

  3. Partition
    happened when (then) undivided India was split into India and Pakistan,
    as the British left in 1947. The split was primarily based on religion,
    where India was the Hindu safe haven (though India is still a secular
    country with no official religion) and Pakistan was where a lot of
    Muslims went. The (monstrous and unpardonable) genocide and the subsequent riots that was commonplace till a decade ago, was driven by communal (Hindu-Muslim) agendas. 

    Interestingly, Punjab was not the only state that was "parted". Bengal
    was another prime example. East Bengal was a part of Pakistan (till they
    gained independence few years later to become Bangladesh) and West
    Bengal was a part of India. [This explains why West Bengal is called
    "West" Bengal even though it is on the eastern extreme of India.] All my
    4 grandparents were originally from what is now Bangladesh. They moved
    to Kolkata just before the Partition.

  4. It's hard to even fathom that there was still fighting happening in this city right up until the early nineties. I guess that's why this cities heritage hasn't been preserved properly. I can't imagine what it must have been like for those people living here during that time. I personally come from a country of peace where people don't fight about religion or land, so it's really difficult for me to understand the meaning behind it all. So many lives lost and so many lives effected, all for what.... religion... I thought religion was supposed to be peaceful. How is one's religion better than another... who gets to decide that!

    Nicky Singh

  5. Thank you, it sounds like a great book. The title is very intriguing. I think I'm going to have to look that up.

  6. I did read about other states as well and many were mentioned with the main difference between Punjab and the other states is the Sikh religious movement to determine where the line would be drawn in relation to the Golden Temple. I did find it interesting that before the partition this area was not nearly as heavily populated with Sikhs and I've also heard recently there are still some concerns over how Sikhs who are in what is no Pakistan can cross the border to come to the temple. It's all quite interesting!

  7. It is hard to understand how the fighting lasted so long and how most of it was over religious issues. From my experience in life here and in the US, religious people always tend to be more violent and aggressive than those who are non-religious though. It's very sad.