I think I fell in love with her right then and right there<
If you've seen the map of India
, you might have noticed how Jammu and Kashmir
look like head of some animated figure. This head rests on a neck like part. This part has the state of Punjab
. Or what's left of it after the Partition of India
The family of Mehtas was landlord in a sizable village by the name 'Chak Bahattar' near 'Kariyala' in the part of Punjab, which is now in Pakistan. In landlord families, during British rule, the eldest son used to get the entire paternal property in inheritance from his father. Other children had to find other occupations or businesses to support themselves. So it was rather important to be the eldest son in a family.
But this family was battling a serious problem since about three generations - the men of the family had a rather short life span as most were succumbing to natural and unnatural deaths.
The head of family, Bhai1 Bhagwan Das had a younger brother who was in Police force. They had both seen death of their father and sons before they were thirty. The younger brother was doing pretty good and had arrested some big time dacoit of his time for which he was handsomely rewarded and appreciated. But he soon died of poisoning. The police suspected the allies of the dacoit he had captured but nothing was ever proven.
Around this time Bhai Bhagwan Das got worried. He was the only one left of his generation in the family and he had no children. He went with his wife to a revered 'pir'2 and promised that if he is blessed with children with long lives, he'll give his first born to the service of God. He was soon blessed with a boy child. True to his promise he went to the caretakers of the pir and asked them to take the child under their service. But for some reason better left to higher forces to understand, the caretakers pardoned the promise and asked him to raise the child himself and teach him ways of life.
This child was my Grandfather - Bhai Kul Ram Chhibber. Two brothers and two sisters followed him; but before any of them were even teenagers, my Great Grandfather - Bhai Bhagwan Das Chhibber died of snakebite in his fields one fateful evening.
Being the eldest, my grandfather inherited the lands as well as the responsibilities of his father. He had to give up his education at a very young age so that he could attend full time to his fields and can support education of his siblings. His younger brothers were good in studying and where one of them went on to join Police forces, the other went on to Join Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army to help in India's struggle for independence. They were both married in their early twenties to the girls from good families of same caste and they went their way.
The sisters were also married to affluent families with suitable boys of the same caste and finally my Grandfather got married as well. Being the family with low survival rate history; he fathered in all ten children. Six were sons and four were daughters. The 5th child, the fourth son, was named Chandra Mohan. He is my father. He was born just a couple of years before the fateful independence and partition of India.
I'm not sure if many readers of this W/U would be familiar with the horrific incidences and riots that were part of the partition of India. Though most of the western world is very familiar with Holocaust, the massacre involved in India's partition is largely transparent. I'll just state this much that if you were a Hindu living in the part of India that belonged to Pakistan during partition - you were either already brutally hacked to death or in all probability, were soon going to be. And situation was not very delightful for Muslims on the Indian side either.
When you own lands the size of a village, houses no smaller than mansions, and large herds of livestock - you don't move. Even if they keep telling you that you'll be compensated equally well at the new location. So my Grandfather did not move till it was very late. Till, so to say, the riots were visible within the range of sight.
By then, the refugee problem on Indian border was at its peak; the best of the lands were already given out to early movers. On that my grandfather was not carrying all the papers of his properties along. He stayed with his family in refugee camps for some time till he could contact his younger brother who was in the Police and was officially transferred to Indian side long back.
The servants at the original lands proved very honest and did arrange and send out all the property papers by mail to my grand father on receiving the communication. And my grandfather was compensated for his loss to some extent. But the lands were not that fertile or big. Livestock compensation was not enough. And anyway, when you are uprooted from your home abnormally - you can never be fully compensated.
My grandfather picked the pieces of his life and started working towards raising and educating all his children because by his own current experience due to lack of it, he understood that now, education was the only thing that'll help the next generation.
Such were the circumstances in which my father grew up. And so he grew up to be a man of conservative thought and extreme emphasis on education and saving money; with extra careful details to the money you spend, cloth you buy, food you eat, books you read. My father has two sons, my elder brother and me.
We both brothers never really subscribed to our father's philosophies. We were born and raised in a city. His ideas never made any sense to us while we were young. But we never argued with him. Arguing with my father has never achieved anything ever for my brother or me. We argued with our mother. She was our representative to him and his representative to us.
For a large part of my life and due to various reasons, my father was a constant source of shame for me. I was ashamed to go to my school with him. I was embarrassed to invite girls to my home.
And I started by disliking the way he dealt with life and fought with day-to-day circumstances. His politeness was always irritating. But now when I am out of his wings, when I see myself fighting the same fights he did at my age, I see that I act more and more like him everyday. And I feel sympathy, and oneness with him. I want to sit with him for hours and talk about life. But I can't. Years of conditioning prevents my brother and me from sharing smaller things in life with him. Maybe someday I'll be a better man than I am today and sit down with him some evening on the roof top of our house and talk for hours about what makes him happy, what makes him sad. Is he proud of me, does he think he raised me well ...
1> 'Bhai' (Brother) was a salutation awarded to my forefathers by the Sikh gurus for helping them. For several genarations, the eldest son in our family was raised as a Sikh; a practice still followed to an extent in some families.
2> Pir (or peer) is a Shrine. It's an Islamic place of reverence. I believe that a 'pir' tradition is strictly Sufi but I could be wrong; the following of a typical pir is never religion specific.
>Arguing my way to get an arranged marriage