Amritsar, August 11
Septuagenarian NS Gabarhia, a retired station master, still keeps track of the tiny town of Khangarh in Mujjafargarh district of Pakistan. He has spent seven years of his childhood in that area. He has never visited his birthplace since 1947, but longs to do so.
He is well aware that the town was flooded last year and Khangarh’s Nawab Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan died on September 27, 2003. Khangarh was a Mohammedan princely state.
He has painstakingly preserved the news item appeared in newspapers from his childhood town. With a glint in his eyes, he says that he can still recognise the house and area where he lived with his father Dr Manmohan Singh, an alumnus of Government Medical College, Amritsar, in 1937, mother Jeet Kaur, siblings Narinder Kaur and Surinder Kaur, besides uncle Charan Singh.
He vividly remembers that his father was engaged by the Nawab in his princely town. When the communal riots broke out before the Partition of the country, the Nawab took the Sikh family into his haveli. The Nawab had even opened fire at the rioters after they attempted to enter forcefully into his haveli.
“We lived in the haveli for over six months. After that, under the vigil of Gorkha troops, we boarded the train to reach the Chheharta railway station on the outskirts of Amritsar. Trains were attached with an open coach each for troops to provide security from hooligans,” he says.
He recalls that some people, who had concealed themselves between the bag and baggage on the roof of the train, had to die when a low-lying iron railing of a bridge hit them. Some people were already there near the bridge to pick the material fallen from the train as they knew it from experiences of previous trains.
Hailing from Jhanjhotti village in Rajasansi area, his father had settled in Khangarh in 1938. His desire to visit his birth place remains unmet. Once he tried to visit the town during his job with the Railways but was asked to answer a questionnaire with 21 questions. He abandoned the idea.
He said after coming to Amritsar, they stayed with the family of their relative, Padam Sri Thakar Singh, a renowned painter. Subsequently, his father got a job with the Uttar Pradesh government and retired as Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dehradun, in 1976.
Since the relations between India and Pakistan have been mostly strained since Partition, Gabarhia says the words of philosopher President Dr S Radhakrishnan still echoes in his mind that the area (India and Pakistan) which was protected by one Army will now be guarded by two armies. However, there will be hardly any durable peace.
He still longs to visit his hometown and enjoy its khajoor and mangoes.