S P Singh, a senior journalist working in East Punjab and a regular contributor to APNA, has launched his personal website www.Penmarks.com. He introduces the APNA visitors to his website through this brief piece:
Gathering Penmarks Left On Memory, and Lost Shoes
S P Singh
Little did I realise through my growing up years how one man, completely unknown to my family and millions others, sat in a dingy room, poring over outdated maps and racing against a clock, deciding our destinies. As I was thinking of a suitable day for announcing my website, what more appropriate date would have done than August 17, the day on which the line he scorched through the sub-continent was made public.
Had his eyesight been good, Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe GBE PC would have continued in the Army for much longer and not turned to the legal vocation. And the idea of visiting India may not have appealed to him since his brother had died in this country. But none of it was to be. It was my destiny to be so affected by his cartographic adventures.
In some earlier incarnation, Radcliffe may have been one of us. A quintessential Indian. Since others may not like what you are doing, so do it in secret. Since the consequences of what you are doing are in any case going to be horrendous, so do it brashly anyway.
And since even the most carefully crafted new sub-continental map would have enraged millions, why bother to take care that lines do not pass through villages and thick population clusters, or at least through houses.
And in any case you are a neutral party, because you do not know a thing about the country, because you have neither been here earlier, nor intend to do so later. And also, because you are hell-bent not to let others review what you are doing, so no one can affect your decisions.
My family certainly couldn't. On 17th of August 1947, they knew their fate.
So from the sleepy Hujra Shah Muqeem area of district Montgomery, a seven-year-old child, frightened to death, hung on for his dear life to keep pace with his father and elder brothers, walking tens of miles, losing his shoes on the way, keeping their distance from marauding blood-thirsty mobs which raised loud cries in the name of their God. In order to save people like this seven-year-old and his kin, people like us were killing others, raising loud cries in the name of God, our God.
I am sure some seven-year-olds must be running in the other direction. They also would have lost their shoes.
Rich people had lost many of their riches, so they became poor. My family was already poor. So they lost everything. On August 23, 1947, from the Suleiman Head side, they dragged themselves into the Indian territory near Fazilka, eventually landing at Ludhiana's refugee camps. “How many members?” the soldier would ask as my grandfather would meekly reply, and spread his kurta to receive bowl-fulls of flour. Sometimes I want to be a beggar for at least a day, just to understand what it feels like to receive alms.
The seven-year-old frightened child grew up to be a sensitive man, and a father. My father. One to whom stories came so easily. All of them were thrilling stuff. As I insisted every night to snuggle into his bed to listen to one more story, I found this man to be so much more interesting than the others. Not because he could tell stories, but because he was someone who was part of them. It was like meeting the Tin Man himself than just reading about the wizard.
As I thought about rustling up some stuff and have a website, I had so many thoughts rushing to my mind. Of a seven-year-old asking my grandfather who the hell drew this line he must cross over so that the mobs don't kill them in the name of the God, and of the seven-year-old asking my father to tell all the tales once more, but this time without crying!
I am long past the age of crying over a tale, but you will excuse me for an occasional tear. You see, poor seven-year-olds can’t do all their crying at one go, and some tears take time. But I am grateful to so many from whom I tried to learn the art of story telling, and their list is long. My friends, my family, the marauding mobs without whom the stories wouldn't have come, and to the man who came all the way from Britain to draw the map of my destiny. It takes a lot to make up stories which leave Penmarks on your memory. Welcome to a walk through www.Penmarks.com, and wishing you a happy journey.
No tears. No lost shoes. And count your blessings. In many parts of the world, seven-year-olds are still running. Still losing their shoes.
My salute to all those seven-year-olds who sometimes stop running and hurl a stone at the marauding tanks.
August 17, 2006
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