14th day of August, 1945, Lord Mountbatten’s Partition plan was implemented, the Indian Muslim League under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah had tactfully convinced the English rulers to bestow them with a very integral western part of India. Everyone, except Mahatma Gandhi, accepted this partition plan and thus, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was born on that day. On that very day, at the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world slept, India rose to freedom. The Union Jack was brought down, and our very own Tricolor was unfurled and flew high atop the Red Fort. At the Central Assembly of the Parliament House Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was taking oath as the first Prime Minister of a newly independent India. The music of Vande Maataram echoed through the streets of Lutyens’ Delhi and throughout the country with the fervor of independence being celebrated as Diwali, Holi, Id and Christmas. India is free. Is it?
While the entire nation was drenched in the happiness of freedom, the Western Province, including the State of Punjab, that was partitioned, was drenched in blood. The British gave us our land albeit broken and shattered. The people of Punjab, parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat were left in a lurch. They were homeless, they had no idea which land they belonged to, they did not know whether they are Pakistanis or Hindustanis. The only thing they knew was that they needed shelter. They needed some food to feed their infants. That was how bloody our partition was. For over sixty years, both India and Pakistan have engaged in a show of might. Liberation of East Pakistan (Bangladesh), Kargil, or the ever contentious Jammu and Kashmir, both sides have ensured heightened hostility and animosity between Indians and Pakistanis, so much so that today’s generations could never think that Pakistan was ever a part of the great Indian fraternity. Pakistan is always demonized and the Pakistanis are always our enemies. This is what the charter of every Indian family has been.
22nd day of August, 2015, Zurich, Switzerland: It has been 70 years since that fateful night when our land was unwillingly divided and two brothers were made to see each other as enemies. The hostility between India and Pakistan had touched newer heights. No amount of peace talks could bring a thaw in the bilateral relationships and the continued terrorist attacks in India had made us look at Pakistan with the same view-the haven of anti-India Terrorism. My family and I were holidaying in Switzerland, and we were staying in a hotel in Zurich. That day we had planned to explore the city on our own without the help of any guide.
We reached the nearby tram stop and looked around for some clue as to where we can go and what mode of transport would be the best. We could not understand anything since Zurich is German dominated and the language was a big barrier for us. My father was becoming restless since we had been roaming around the tram stop for over an hour and had no clue of what to do. Suddenly, I heard someone speaking in quintessential Hindi, I turned around and saw a brownish looking woman in her thirties talking over the phone probably with her husband. Our eyes gleamed with joy as if we spotted the mildest silver lining in a blanket of dark clouds. From her attire and poise she seemed to be acquainted with the locality and thus we approached her to help us. She seemed so eager to meet Hindi speaking people and at once exclaimed, “India?”, and I replied assertively. Her expressions beamed her joy of meeting Indians in a foreign land. We told her the description of the place we wanted to go to, she ecstatically responded by saying that the next tram would take us to our destination and that she would accompany us till at least half of the journey. She helped us buy our tickets and then boarded the tram with us. All through the way my father talked about how good it feels when you meet people from your own land and how India is progressing fast. We came to know that she was a Swiss citizen and she and her husband owned a specialty Punjabi restaurant in Zurich, just ten minutes from our hotel. She gave us her business card as her destination approached, and asked us to be her guest as long as we were in Zurich and if we needed her help anytime, we could call her at her personal number which she wrote behind the business card. The tram journey was indeed interesting with mutual experiences being shared and specially me and my brother getting to learn a lot about surviving and succeeding in a multi-cultural environment. There was mutual admiration and respect. She smiled throughout the journey portraying her happiness of meeting Indians. The time came for her to de-board from the Tram, and my father asked her, “Which state of India are you from madam?”, and she replied with a smile, “Lahore, Pakistan”. The gates of the tram closed and it went ahead leaving the woman far behind.
Shubhashlok Dwibedy | Batch 2016-18