Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Partition Story

If you're not familiar with the partition of Punjab, I've written a post here about our family history with links to help you understand the history and violence surrounding this event. As I grow in my marriage and continue to learn more about my Indian family, I learn more about this particular event in Indian history and how it affected the people of that time.

I've written very briefly in various posts about the little old lady we take care of. In the past I had been told that all of her family was dead and we take care of her but it was never implied to me that she was our family. I'm just now learning of her connection to us. I'll try to start at the beginning.

Before the partition, my husbands family lived and thrived in what is now Pakistan. They were wealthy landowners. One day, while working on the land the husband and wife were both bitten by the same snake and died. I don't have full information on this story but that is what has been passed down. There were two male children in the family. I've not yet heard of any other children.

The eldest brother began taking care of the children and worked to maintain the family land. Then came the partition. The government of India offered those who chose to move an equal amount of land in their new destination. So, basically if you had a lot of land in what was going to be Pakistan, the Indian government would give you equal land in what would be India to compensate for your loss.

So our family decided to migrate, at least part of it did. The two brothers gave up their land and moved to Amritsar. They were given 4 tracts of land in the city of Amritsar and 2 tracts in Jalandhar. The eldest brother continued to care for the family and the younger brother sought work. The younger brother was very intelligent and built up his own business landing contracts from the Indian government to design military equipment.

Seeing so many families they know from what was going to be Pakistan displaced in India, the brothers agreed to let the families live on some of the land they had been allotted. They kept 2 of the homes for themselves and their subsequent families and leased the remaining 4 to other families. The two brothers also agreed that they didn't want to see this kind of thing happen to their children and as such decided to put away all the money they could to educate all of the children - even the girls.

Eventually the brothers married and started families. The little old lady I have written about was the eldest brothers' wife. She never had children of her own and she now lives alone with no family to care for her but us. (The emotion I have over this and other family stories could quite well spawn another post on widow's in India.) She goes around talking to all the neighbors on a regular basis so as not to feel so lonely.

I find this story both heart-breaking and touching at the same time. Our family was one that was divided by the Partition. While these two brothers migrated to what is now India, they also left behind aunts, uncles, cousins and all of their family. They had to see the struggle and hardships of lives being torn apart and families trying to start over with nothing. Unlike some who are quite self-centered, my family sought to help others as they still do to this day. Money and status is not at the forefront of their minds.

Some days, now that I'm back in the states, I miss the little old lady. She came to visit me 2-3 times a week and always had a hug for me. She laughed with me, though neither of us understood each other very well, and she never forgot who I was. I think she rivaled in the fact I didn't give her much to gossip about lol. She's probably the reason most of the neighborhood liked me. Knowing her story now makes me feel even more connected to her and to the family and it gives me a whole new respect for how they all bond together.

Recommended Reading:
Punjab Department of Revenue: Land Resettlement Manual
The Partition of India: Demographic Consequences
The Second Migration: Displacement and Refugees from Rawalpindi during Partition

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