TRIGGERS THAT SUDDENLY AWAKEN THE OLD, LONG FORGOTTEN, MEMORIES
Ring Road of Delhi, Sawan-ka-Mahina & a Book
Catapulted me back in 30s to my place of birth & youth
One day its a clear blue sky, life going on like a regulated clock- work.Mind, as usual, busy sorting out the days chore – calendar, carrying ones office-the Blackberry’s and I Pads –in pocket. Without a hint of routine being upset, suddenly, out of the blue, a thunder, a cloud burst, rain, torrents of water break the flood-gates, like it happened. Both in Pakistan and India!
I suppose, that’s exactly what happens to the human brain. The old pictures & memories, which one had forgotten for years, buried in the past, break the time- barriers and come pouring out-as if it was only yesterday. It seems that some memories of child-hood get indelibly etched in the psyche. Needing only a pin-prick to waken-up.
The trigger, the pin-prick, like a cloud burst, could be anything. An insignificant sign. A forgotten childhood incident. A deep rooted desire to revert back to ones real roots. Mist of time clears, and you get transported back-in time. It happened with me. From Present to Past.
In my case there were multiple trigger points that lifted the hazy curtain, took me back to my place of birth in 1930s. My home town till 1947.The place called Lyallpur---now renamed Faisalabad, in Pakistan. .The place where my parents, moved in shortly after this new township was developed. I would guess that must have been in the first decade of 20th century. The deep roots and love of home town, which took decades to develop, got up-rooted, and had to be re-established from scratch in Delhi .We landed in Delhi just a few weeks before the actual declaration of Independence. And were witness to both the riots and the jubilation of Independence. (But this is Post is not about those unpleasant-also long forgotten events).
The first trigger that reminded me of Lyallpur was the RING ROAD of Delhi which led me back to the GOLE BAZAAR of Lyallpur. GOLE BAZAAR! The concept of inter- connecting all the town roads by a ring road---originated more than 120 years ago in Lyallpur.Delhi is only a late follower. And the Gole Bazaar, between the Katchery and Chiniot Bazaar, was the place where we had our house…Hence the link clicked.
The second trigger was “Sawan-Ka-Mahina” and the rains. In those days of our childhood, I remember, month of Sawan had special significance for us kids. The fact is that this month-Sawan-is woven into the heritage fabric of North India and Pakistan. A common heritage!(How can one forget Ustad Bundu Khans SARANGI and Thumris of Akhtri Bai Faizabadi(Begum Akhtar ) For us, the Sawan meant rains, and holiday from school for being a “Fine Day” and picnic at the canal with the family. A very old song, depicting the Sawan atmosphere was the second trigger----“Baagoen mein paday Jhule, tum hum ko bhool gaey, hum tum ko nahin bhule”. Jhule, or as the Punjabi call it “Peeeng”-the swing, perhaps, is still the icon of this month. Especially for young girls.
Some how, both these triggers were not strong enough ----as they had become an un-noticed part of the daily routine life--to break the barriers of mind to the past.
The real trigger that blew the mist of time and swished me back in time past, was the book-A Fine Family-by Gurcharan Das.It seems an autobiographical novel (I presume)that depicts the life of a Lyallpur family and how they got uprooted from their loved home -town because of the Partition of India in1947.I had read the book in 1990 when it was published, but,somehow,didn't connect with its contents, in the hustle-bustle of Bombay life.This.in spite the fact, that I worked quite closely with Gurcharan Das from 1972 onward ,while he was with Richardson-Hindustan(which later became Procter & Gamble and he headed it).But now living a more relaxed life, in Gurgaon, close to my family and having enough time, I re-read the book given to me by my niece,Shashi. The impact was totally different. It was as if I was walking in the bazaars of Lyallpur.I closed my eyes once after reading about Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) and the mysterious burka-clad lady--and I was the little kid back in Lyallpur. Lyallpur—which we had to leave, like the Baujis family in Gurcharans book.
After partition in 1947, my family moved to Delhi. Delhi, which got invaded once again, but this time not by Mughals or British, but by us “Refugees”(that's how the Pakistan-displaced people were known, then---perhaps hated by the local Dilliwalla residents of the walled city.`)Eventually, the family settled down in Nizzamudin . My father retired and did not take up his law practice. My mother looked after the house while some members of the family found jobs, in the meantime. I left Delhi in 1958 for London. After spending six years there, and almost 35 years in Bombay, came back to Delhi. In the meantime, my parents had passed away, but rest of the family was spread in Delhi—so was my wife's family. In Bombay, all our regular so- called friends were business or cocktail- friends. Not really “friends-in-need” class. After all -those years away from Delhi —even at the ripe age and being a nuclear family, one still wanted the emotional warmth of closeness and security umbrella of ones own brothers & sisters. No matter they all were involved with their own families, and met each other only on special occasions.Yet the bonds had strong pull to bind the family closeness. And inspire feeling of” sure- hand –of –help- in- need” Here we were with our own family! Another fine family of Lyallpur.
I was the youngest of eight siblings-six brothers and two sisters. All born in Lyallpur. All studied in Arya School- both boys and girls. My eldest brother, now ninety six graduated from Lyallpur Government College(I don't know which year was that).Now, after his retirement, he looks after our agriculture land near Sonepat, (Haryana)which we got in lieu of the land my father lost in Jhang(Pakistan).My elder sister, the second child in the family, who passed away last year at the age of ninety four, was also the student of Government College Lyallpur.(Imagine ,a girl, in co-educational college, sometimes around 30s!)She passed her FA before getting married, and going off to Sargodha, (Her daughter, Shashi, a golfer, recently presented me Gurcharans book) I think I was just about four when my sister got married. But I vividly remember, waiting for her BARRAT (marriage party) at the Gumati Fountain, at the end of Rail Bazaar from where the Janji (grooms people) were to turn back into Rail Bazaar, and go to JANJ GHAR (Banquet Hall,) where they were put up for the night. The Brass Band Bajas were there even then. The songs they played were from Yamla Jat film of that time. And about the Jagga dacoit of Lyallpur”Jagga Jamya Lyalpur unther”
We used to call all elder brothers, Bhajis’and my Nath bhaji, third from the top-end, also graduated from Government College, (around1939) and was unable to find any job in Lyallpur. So, he went off to JJSCHOOL OF ARTS, Bombay, to do a five year course in Fine Arts. He used to have an Agfa Box Camera, and did wonders with that (few pictures of old time-30s- are still available. The youngest kid in them is me.)Later on, he started his own Art Studio in Connaught Place which was office-cum residence. This became our first refuge for sometime after partition, before moving on to Lake Square, Patel Nagar and finally to Nizamuddin. He was a pretty tall and handsome young man. Whenever he came to Lyallpur, from Bombay during vacations, he always slept on the large white marble slab (I forget the Punjabi name for it) we had on the big terrace of second floor under the open sky.
Except for my eldest brother and eldest sister, who were married in Lyallpur, rests were refugee bachelors. Eventually all of us had love marriages, with the blessings of our great mother. May be it (the love affairs) had to do something with our ancestral DNA connection with HEER (of Heer-Ranjha).Heer belonged to Jhang, and she, according to the fable, is supposed to have just disappeared into the land, while running away. Her Kuber (grave) is built on that spot .My father showed it to me, since it was in our land at Jhang.Whether the romance by Warris Shah is a fiction or not, they have now built a big mausoleum on her grave. One had to ride on horse back, from the Bus stop at the road side much before the city of Jhang-Maghiana, to go to our land. My father had once taken me with him when I was just a kid. And I never forgot
the top- open grave of Heer.Many years later, one heard the “HEER” of Assa Singh Mastana.
Prem Bhaji, the Maharaj, of-course never married. He did his MSc from the Agriculture College, Lyallpur. Joined the irrigation department, Jaranawalla, near
Lyallpur.He was right from early days more spiritually inclined than any of us-my father being Arya Samaji.
During the Annual functions of Arya Samaj, a line of
Tongas, carrying various participating swamis used to go round the Lyallpur city, singing Bhajans, playing harmonium, promoting the function. (No Hindu-Muslim problem then) One of the swamis was Swami Satya Nand ji Maharaj, who became a big influence on Prem Bhaji, and he became his “chella.”After Partition, Swami Ji turned away from Arya Samaj, and became RAM Bhagat, and started “Shri.Ram Shernam”in Lajpat Nagar Delhi. (Supported by another Lyallpur family-I think it was the
My brother, Prem bhaji, who was then working in the Central Water Power Commission, continued to be tied-up with Swamiji, who became very close to my parents and family .Many years later, when Swami Ji passed away-Prem Bhaji to us- became the MAHARAJ of Shri Ram Shernam at Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. Although he had lakhs of followers, he was still Prem Bhaji to us. Reveals our character as unbelievers, muddle-headed men and lack of blind faith.This, in spite of the fact, that I, myself, had taken NAAM from Swamiji before getting married and going off to London in1958.Premji Maharaj (Born 2nd October1920) passed away few years back. Before leaving this world, he anointed Dr.Mahajan (a long time follower of his) as the Maharaj of Shri.Ram Shernam.
It was actually Prem Bhaji while studying in Lyallpur, who taught us swimming, in the Chenab Canal, which ran near Lyallpur.My father who was a very keen swimmer, also helped, if bhaji was not there. To jump in the gushing waters of the canal from top of the lock- bund was sheer joy. Another thing Prem Bhaji taught us was the YOGA (much before the present TV preachers were even born!) In-fact, well –known Bhappaji, who lived in one of the inside streets of Katchery Bazaar, after Sawhnys house, used to conduct daily yoga exercises for large number of his followers. This was a huge, green lawn, bigger than a hockey field, with a well (past the Company Bagh, and near the Jail, I think).I think it belonged to Bhai.Bal Mukandji, who was very well-known person. Every morning all of us used to go and do all the Assnas—right from Mauyar to Sarwang Assan.Then have a bath with the well-water-even in winter. This place was about a mile or so away from our house, and I used to go on a cycle with Prem bhaji every morning, before going to school.
Ved, called Vedi by my mother, was the next from Govt.College, and found a job with Karam Chand Thaper, in Delhi, after partition. Later on he went on to work for UNO and retired from there. Now he also lives in Delhi. All his children and grand-children live abroad. That left three of us, from the lower end. While I was in school, my brother Satinder, finished his FSc from Govt.College, Lyallpur, and managed to get admission (with full scholarship) in the prestigious Mac Lagan Engineering College, Moghal pura, near Lahore. He was the youngest boy to ever get into that college. One can gauge the kind of respect that college had from the incident he narrated us. Once while traveling back to Lyallpur from Lahore for holidays, all the co-passengers in the rail compartment stood up to pay their respect, when they came to know that he is a student of Mac Lagan! Of-course, he also had to leave that institution, after the partition. Luckily, later on he got into Roorkee, and went on to Imperial College of Engineering, London. He retired from the Central Water Power Commission, and lives in
My other sister and I had luckily left Lyallpur before the serious riots started and tried to continue our studies. My sister, after doing social service at Kurukeshtra (started by Lady Mountbatten), like many refugee students to get degrees, got into Delhi University. Completed her M.A. in Social Sciences, married a colleague from London School of Economics. Unfortunately her husband (Sikander).a brilliant man, died pretty young while he was the Director of Corromondal Fertilizers, Hyderabad. She brought up her three daughters all by herself, while teaching in a School in Delhi. And now she divides her time between Singapore and Delhi .Her elder one is a senior professor in JNU and the younger is teaching in Singapore. Both from Cambridge. Third, the middle one, IIM, Bombay, runs her own business.
I finished my studies from Delhi University, wasted little time, without a meaningful job. Like TSEliot, part of life was spent over cups of coffee in the India Coffee House, Jan Path, during the 50s.While doing my MA from Delhi University, I met a contemporary in the University Coffee House, she was doing MA from Inderprastha College, and we got married, and went off to London for further studies and work. She was a regular visitor to my mother before our marriage.
Imagine, eight children, all born before 1931 in Lyallpur.With not a whiff of family planning in those days, my father produced eight of them with almost exact gap of two years between each child! And sent each one-both girls and boys-to study in school and college. That was the unique thing about Lyallpur. The great thing about Lyallpur was that most of the settlers to this new township came from other older places like Jhang(my fathers place),Sargodha(my mothers place) Multan,Shikarpue etc and were all educated, liberal, modern people. Like the new City of Lyallpur—which at that time was considered the most modern and planned township. And truly it was. One has no qualms in admitting the influence of British Empire Builders.
It is well documented that the architectural plan of the Lyallpur city and its famous eight bazaars was replica of Union Jack (as a tribute to the Queen of England) A rectangle containing a Cross and two Diagonals. All the eight bazaars starting from Ghanta Ghar (clock Tower) which was the focal point of the town. Four bazaars out of eight were Perpendicular (and you could see the full face of the Ghanta Ghar). The other four bazaars were diagonal to the Clock Tower (from these bazaars you could only see the diagonal face of the tower. In fact you could tell which bazaar you were in by looking at the angle of the tower).All the eight bazaars were inter-connected with the Gole Bazaar.
The names of the bazaars indicated the direction they led to. Katchary Bazaar led you to the Courts. Jhang, Chiniot and Mintgomery Bazaars led you to those destinations. Karkhana Bazaar took you to all the factory areas. To go to the railway Station, you had to take Rail Bazaar. I am not quite certain about Aminpur and Bhawana Bazaars.Aminpur Bazaar was the place where most of the stationary and book shops were located. I remember we used to rush to sell our class books after the exam results were declared, (always passed) and buy books of the new class. We were not allowed to buy NEW books, if there were good second-hand books available—which normally they were—sold by the students. Moreover these second-hand books had notes jotted down by the earlier owners which were quite helpful, and money was also scarce commodity—it always has been! We used to sell our old books at the same time. We always went to the same shop-it used to be on the corner of a lane, the right hand side of the road (from Ghanta Ghar) I think it used to be the biggest book shop on that road. Being a small town, the owners knew most of the regular children and their parents. More like family friends. (Miss that personal touch now!)
Bhawana bazaar was full of shops selling baans (bamboo,) and other such material. If I remember correctly, it also led to the festival grounds where the annual Dussera festival used to take place; and had annual Mandi Fair—farmers bringing cattle--cows, buffaloes, calves, grain wheat etc for sale. It used to be a very popular affair.-in fact it was a mela (where the twins get separated in the Hindi movies.) The Primary Arya School was also located around there. Was it Douglaspura? I think so. Because that's where we used to go after having finished “Kutchi Class nursery? School, and before going to the High School at “Mai-Di-Jhuggi”.All the Arya Samaj annual functions also used to take place in this school building. The other school was M.B.School, where the children of non-Arya Samaji went. One of my childhood friends from that school Ravi belonged to the first batch of Cadets from Deradoon Academy to join Indian Navy of the Independent India. He retired as a Vice-Admiral .His father was also a lawyer, and lived in the first big house in the left side lane after Gole Bazaar, towards Courts. He was a tall man, and always wore Pagri and smoked hookah.Now, to think of it I find that most of my fathers friends, lawyers, had same age children as us. Sons & daughters. May be they all came to settle in Lyallpur at the same time, immediately after their marriage.Eldorado of that time? Another friend was Dharam Malik.His people owned a cloth shop in Katchery Bazaar, near the Upkari Cycle shop. He became an architect, did his Landscape architecture from Harvard, and settled down in Toronto.
Our house was located in the Gole Bazaar between Katchery and Chiniot Bazaar. The first building on the left side as you entered the Gole Bazaar, was the Meat Market run by the butchers(most of them known as “Kanjars-who also ran the red-light area).Our house was the fourth house on the left side while going towards Chiniot Bazaar. The house, a two story building had a long, almost 20 ft, veranda and to reach it you had to climb three steep steps, as the building was on a higher level from the road. The veranda had three doors .The door on the extreme left side opened into a drawing room, (the main entrance was from inside the hall) meant only for the family and friends. The other two doors opened up the big long room-which was my fathers office-stacked with law books and “briefs” in the Khaki big envelops printed with his name. Chaudhry Jai Ram Das Sethi, B.A.LL.B.Pleader! Besides a big table and chairs, for clients, it had a low divan on the extreme left corner for the MUNSHI to sit and write all the briefs. All court work was done in Urdu. There was also a room-width PANKHA on the ceiling for which there was a special man to pull the chord. My father always came home for lunch from the courts---as they (Katchery) were hardly ten minutes away. He would have his lunch meal in the varanda, where a table and two chairs were laid before his arrival. My mother would make fresh hot fluffy PHULKAS with lot of home made butter melting on top of it. I vividly remember that, as a small kid and the youngest in the family, always had bites of hot phulka soaked with butter while my father enjoyed Gobi-ki-bhaji with butter. And Gobi-ki-bhaji (vegetable-not brother!). Was always with butter. I picked up this indulgence as a small kid while looking at my father, enjoying Gobi vegetable with butter. Some childhood habits, even silly, ones live with you for ever.
In the evening, a table, few chairs and a Charpoy (cot) was placed on the road-side, after the Mashqui had watered the ground to take the days heat out from the earth. This was the time for meeting the friends for a chat. Unlike most other friends, Pitaji never smoked hookah or cigarette. The family was vegetarian. Even the onions were not allowed in the house. He was a very gentle soul, modern, liberal, well read and not all concerned with money.Frankly,I don't know how my mother,(Biji) ever ran the house. I had never ever seen my father asking money from his clients. Yet he used to pack his “Hold-all” and go off to Kashmir every year the courts closed for two months for summer. May be it was the job of the Munshi.As my father was a Civil (and not criminal) lawyer and the civil cases of his upcountry, village clients went on and on (Tarikh pay Tarikh? as the Hindi film says). The clients stayed on in our house for weeks. Luckily my mother didn't have to cook to feed them. (like Gurcharans Bhabo).The food used to come from the Tandoor run by a big woman ,just three buildings away from our house. At night these clients slept on cots which we had kept for this purpose. In winter they slept in the veranda. My father was the second of three brothers who were all born in Jhang. All the three brothers were practicing Lawyers. The eldest,Taya ji,Chaudhry Jinda Ram ,and the third youngest-Chaudhry Jagjiwan Ram continued to live and practice at Jhang.In-fact both these brothers also managed the huge agriculture land—almost 500 acres -- . My father was the only one to move out to Lyallpur.Sethis in Jhang were quite well-known.Especislly the Taya jis son—Harish Sethi and his wife(our Bhabi).Harish bhaji was a very successful Lawyer in Jhang.His wife, tall lady, in salwar kameez was the most modern woman in town. She had her own Tonga with a handsome horse which she used to ride herself, in whole of Jhang.After Partition they moved to Hissar. His younger brother, Professor.Vidya Sagar Sethi was a Professor of Physics in Government College Lyallpur.He was a frequent visitor to our house as he lived near by. After Partition he worked at the Government College, Ludhiana. I think our Biji and Pitaji were the favorites of all their relations. May be it had something to do with them being”Mod” and living in the new modern town? Biji were also a good host.
There were quite a few other lawyers staying in Gole Bazaar and they all had their clients living there One of our neighbor lawyer, Khan Sahib, was a very tall Pathan
wore a huge turban----tied on a “Kula”(a sort of head cover for tying turban) with almost one foot high “Tura”. He used to smoke hookah all the time, and share it with his clients. He died of a wound caused by the barber’s razor while shaving. Next to that house was
a Ghani, “Kohllu”, oil -seed crushing place churning out oil. It was mostly unattended as the blind-folded ox kept going round and round and round by itself.” Like Kohllu –ka- baiyal (Ox) and "Uss-pay -Tura yeh” are popular idioms in Indian language. This Gole Bazaar had both residential buildings and few shops---like the “Lat Photos” and “Aleem Painter”. Most of the residential houses on both side of the bazaar, extended right up to the back lane. For instance, our house extended right up to the back lane, running parallel to the Gole Bazaar, next to the Jama Masjid. The main door carved and with two knockers, opened to small alcove. On the left hand side was the staircase that took you to the first floor, which had huge open L-shaped terrace, two large rooms overlooking the bazaar. It also had a toilet“Tatti-which was every day cleaned by the lady jamadarni (Bhangan). In those days houses didn't have WCs and flush system. In fact no-body had a wash –basin for washing hands. (Till Bhabo of Gurcharn got it installed in her house to show-off). At the back of the terrace was another staircase which led you the second floor, where Nath Bhaji used to sleep in summer. Another staircase went down to Veranda on Gole Bazaar side.
After entering the house from the main gate on the galli-side, the left side took you to the main living quarters. There was huge open court-yard, with a big long marble platform along the wall facing the Jama Masjid lane. On the extreme left corner was Tandoor for making tandoori-rotis.On the right hand corner of the slab was kept a Hamam (with a bucket underneath) for washing hands with Lifebuoy soap. (No wash basins).Next to the tandoor, there was a large arch type opening, without any gate, that took you down two steps to a very big Barn where our three buffalos and a cow with a newly –born calf were kept. There was another room inside the barn for keeping hay and oil-seeds etc. for feeding the animals. . A regular Gujjar would come every morning to milk the cow & buffalos. Buckets full of milk every morning!!!I And all those years. As a kid I sometime used to milk the cow myself, after their back legs were tied by the gujjar, and at the same time drink it directly from the full udders. The preparing the feed and feeding the cattle was done by my brother satinder or me. If there was no servant---which was the case quite often! The barn had the separate entrance from the galli (lane) where the cattle were tied during the day. Just before the main door to the house. Beside two big bedrooms, there was a small room. next to the courtyard. This was like a bank vault. All the winter stuff, like quilts, blankets, woolen clothes and “Kangris” were kept there. Perhaps some valuable also as it was always kept locked.
Left hand side of the court yard, when you entered the house, was a long ,but not very wide, bath room, and next to it was my mothers kitchen like a big square 15 ft by 15ft— alcove shape. There was no door to it. The double CHULLHA was very common in those days since there were no electric or gas cooking ranges. Fuel was dried-up cow dung and wood, which was plenty. (How easy it for today's young housewives).For churning the butter and making lassi was daily morning affair (there being huge quantity of milk and Dahi (yogurt).My mother had kept a big “Medhani”just outside the kitchen. After finishing her early bath, my mother would read her “Gutka of Japjeesahib”, and then do all the other work. After taking the butter and lassi out, what was left in the cloth- strainer was POEN which made a very tasty dish. (Now-a-days you import Whey which is what it’s called today.)On the school days, Biji would make salted Prathas, with lot of white butter and a big steel glass full of thick lassi (what was then known as “Adherica or Matha)” for us .We always had all our meals in the kitchen. There were no tables and chairs but only small low Chokis(stools).Since the meals were eaten in the kitchen while Biji kept making chapattis and serving each one of us with hot(garma-garm) Phulkas..In winter it used to be tandoori prantha.I don't think our family as a whole ever sat together for meals or chit-chat. Maybe I don't remember, being a kid. My elder sister with her two children would often come from Sargodha.and would help
mother-Biji, used to do all the house work herself as there were no help—at least not in our house. She used to wash the family clothes also. I think, by the time I was born and became aware of things, I noticed that her fingers had almost doubled-up because of arthritis. Obviously she had been working for almost 15 or more years , giving birth to seven children(before me) bringing them up, sewing and knitting their clothes, cooking food, doing all other house work---all this for over fifteen years before I came into this world. Yet, she never ever said a word of complaint .She still had lot of time to keep my head in her lap and stroke my hair with love. She was a great favorite of her own sister’s children, and a very liberal big-hearted lady (may be I will write a separate piece on her.)”This lady who gave birth to a son like Premji Maharaj”, so said Swami Satyanandji. As I being the youngest and “Ladla” of my family, my mother was similarly, the youngest of her family. We were six brothers and two sisters; my mother was the youngest of eight siblings-six sisters and two brothers. Her father was a Civil Surgeon .Civil Surgeons in those days were also the head of the Police. Her elder brother, who arranged her match with my father, was the well-known criminal lawyer of High Court. It was said in Punjab that if you have murdered someone, just manage to
reach Ahuja Sahibs kothi in Sargodha, you are saved. I remember it was very big bungalow with almost 20 rooms and lawns as big as the football ground with three convertible cars in the porch. He was a very close friend of the famous Tawanas (?) Sir.Sikander Heyat Khan and Sir.Firoze Khan Noon. I was hardly in 4th class when he passed away. He was a great swimmer. Bijis other, brother became Indian Trade Commissioner in Toronto, and Council General, later; in San-Frisisco, during the Second World War. Her sisters were all married to big zamindars of Sargodha and Khushab. They also had to leave everything behind in Pakistan. And resettled in Ambala.Partition, in a way, was a great leveler.
Bijis kitchen was the nerve centre of the house. From there a corridor, with rooms on both side, connected to Pitaji office, and the Gole Bazaar side veranda. One of the rooms on the right hand-side was used exclusively for storing jute sacks full of wheat and other produce which used to come from our land in Jhang .One of the “MUST” was that the first five sack of new wheat will go to the orphanage (Yatim-khanna) of Arya School, which was headed by the Head Master .Shri Ram Lal Sapra. We all studied under him. In the same room, there were kept three big ALI-BABA-TYPE- MURTBAN (ceramic jars).One containing Meetha Acchar—Gobi, Gajar and Shelgum.A great favorite of Nath Bhaji and myself. The second jar was AAM KA ACCHAR (Mango Pickle with daillas). Third jar was the Gajar-ka-Murababa.This was a yearly routine of my mother. She would also dry these winter vegetables for use in summer. All that work,
with crooked fingers, yet happy that her children enjoyed her food. Moreover,Biji,being a regular Gurdwara going ,also used to be a volunteer for making tandoor roti on the Langer day, especially on Guru Nanks birthday .That day we all used to go and lunch at the Langer with hundreds of other people. I believe she missed her Kar Sewa the day I was born because that happened to be Guru Nanks birthday that year. She continued to do her work, even after partition, and helped her sons and daughter to marry their own friends. No tantrums.
Our house actually was in a Muslim area though quite a few, Hindus and Sikhs were also there. Our main door in the back galli was right opposite the Jama Masjid, next to the house of Hakim Sahib. All of us were sober, gentle and good friends. In fact, two brothers, also living next to the Masjid, were great pals of Nath and Prem Bhaji.Asherf, the elder one was in Government College, and Asgar, who became the Head of the local library, was in the Agriculture College. Both these colleges had great rivalry while playing Hockey Matches. I still remember the slogan shouting during the match to boo the opponents. Government college boys would shout “Hul Panchali—Hai Hai” while the opponents taunted the life style of Govt.college team by”Kangi Shisha Hai Hai(Comb & mirror users).I don't recall much of Khalsa College.Asgar bhai ,once came home to show us his new nine gear cycle bought from Lahore. It was such a thrill to ride it. Of-course we never had that kind of money to buy such stuff. In-fact, we didn't even own a radio which some of our neighbors had. Big sets with lighted tubes inside-Were they “PIE” or Marconi”? In our house, like many others, we used to fetch water for drinking from a Masjid. Just outside the Katchary Bazaar, before the Courts, you turn right along the small running canal, and come to a Maseet (Masjid) which had well inside. And the water from there was not only crystal clear but icy chilled. We used to take Ghagar (big pot?), fill up with water and store it in home. Still there was no problem of Hindu Muslim—not to my small world. Further up the Maseet lived Pandhis and Jhingans.All lawyer families—with children of our age –group.Pandhis were the Tennis playing family, like the
If Jama Masjid was next to our house, so was the main Gurudwara, which was in the street just across the road (Katchery Bazaar) where my mother went every morning. That street had large houses, and if I recollect there were Verma Brothers—both lawyers, with children the same age as ours. Their house with big gate was on the left side of the lane, which continued to Rail Bazaar. The lady of the house there was good friend of my mother .I don't know how far it is true, but our mother used to tell us about her that she used to wear a wrist watch and couldn’t tell the time and she would ask others to check the time. (Couldn’t be wash-basin walli Bhabo of “A Fine Family?)” Their house was just next to the big Gurdwara, which was fully Hindu area. Later on our family took a refuge in their house for the night after the panic started on finding a murdered Hindu near the garden. First murder of a Hindu. This gurdwara galli merged with Katchery bazaar, on one side and forked to Rail bazaar. At that junction there was another big house with two big gates (shape of a horse-shoe) and a stable for the Tonga. Belonged to another lawyer. My mother knew most of these residents-the regulars to Ladies Park & Gurdwara and get-together for happy or sad occasions of friends.
These two lanes---ours, on the left hand side of Katchery Bazaar (if you were coming from Ghanta Ghar) in the Jama Masjid lane, and the opposite Gurdwara lane of Verma brothers got divided as Muslim and Hindu zones. And we were caught in the Muslim zone, when the real trouble started. My second sister and myself(kids at that time) used to get scared when crowd from our lane shouted” Allah –Hoo- Akbar”.And the reply echoed”Jo- Bole –So -Nihal”.That's the time our father dispatched both my sister and myself to Delhi. The rest of the family managed to get police escort to drive them to airport and flew out in the last over- loaded plane that left Lyallpur. Prem Bhaji just managed to get into a running plane. But my elder sister’s family in Sargodha had problems, like Bauji, in escaping to India. But they managed safely.
My first school,”Katchi class, was just three building away from our house, towards Chiniot Bazaar, and next to the Tandoolwalli.We were taught Urdu, Hindi and English. We used Takhtis and Kalams and learnt to write Alaf, Bay, Pay etc of Urdu. And Ka Kha Ga of Hindi. I used to take a bucket full of Lassi for Masterji, every morning. Masterji would send that bucket to his house. From this school we went to Primary school, and then to High School. High School was about two miles away at a place called Mai-Di-Jhuggi.Cycle was the only mode of travel, beside foot marching. At that time the problem of Hindu Muslim was not that acute because the Independent Movement was much stronger.Imagine, in Arya school, after the daily Hawan, the poem sung in the Assembly was Allama Iqbals “Lub pay aaee hai Dua bun kay tamana meri, - zindgi shamaa ki soorat ho khudyah meri----dooor duniya ka mere dum say andhera ho jaaye –her Jagga mere chamkney say ujalla ho haay - ho mere dum say yunhi mere watan ki zeenat- jis terha phool say hoti hai chaman ki zeenat.” Is this Allama Iqbal, who is supposed to have been called the father of Islamic State idea?? How could there be Hindu Muslim riots? Arya School and Allama Iqbal! Can we dream of this One Brotherhood again? Doubts persist.
During the Sawan month, the whole family used to go for picnic at the Chenab canal which was not very far. It was a beautiful place with huge trees along the canal which shielded you from the hot sun, and used for putting up the Jhoola(Peeng).We would
take mangoes,milk,sugar salt, ice and the hand-cranking ICE CREAM making machine(?) since there were no ready made ice cream bricks..(In actual fact, we also used to get our biscuit made from the nearby Bakery, which was located between the Jama Masjid and the Ghanta Ghar.I remember my mother would give Atta,Sugar,Ghee,Milk etc and I used to sit in the Bakery near the big oven and select the shapes of biscuit to be baked. They were all playing card “Dhanchas”, shape—heart, diamond, club, spade etc. Fresh, hot, Khasta biscuits they were.)While we all went for the swim in the canal. Mangoes were left in the bucket full of water to cool them—and take the heat out. It was great fun to jump from top of the Lock-Bund into the gushing water, again &again. After swim, it used to be Pranthas with pickle or mangoes, which were abundant. And of-course, freshly hand made Ice-Cream. Along the canal, trees had PEENGS (Swing-jhulas) for girls and children to play. We would return home in the evening.
Having older brothers and sister added to few additional happy moments. My father used to celebrate the passing of exams of each child. (And eight of them!) The celebration (my grand-daughter laughs at it) consisted of making”Kuchi Lassi”---that was half milk and half water in a big tub, with lot of ice. Plus lemonade bottles with Bantas top which we opened with our thumbs. There was a shop in Katchery Bazaar, just before Ghana Ghar, on the left side while going from Gole Bazaar, which used to have the hand-cranked bottle filling machines. It was the only shop I remember which used to sell Lemonade and ice and flavored water. Any way these celebrations were good fun being a happy moment. My mother loved it, and would make kheer or Halwa for the night khana.I still can’t recollect how these purchases were paid. I never saw any money.But, obviously money was there, and people were paid (there was no barter with our land produce) Even the MOCHI, who used to make shoes for all of us never asked me for the money. While entering the Katchery Bazaar from Courts, this Mochi had his shop on the left hand side. We would go there and give foot measurement, and he would make perfect fitting shoes. He was a family mochi, like the family barber. The times are a changing. Hand made shoes were then, a necessity and cheap; though there was shoe shop next to cycle shop in Katchery Bazaar. Now-a-days, only richy –rich can get hand-made patent leather shoes.
The world in those days was small, simple, uncomplicated and full of helpful souls in Lyallpur till the volcano of madness erupted. Along with that vanished, at least in urban areas, some good souls who were great help to the housewives there. I am recalling the free services of three most-welcome-trusted ladies in Hindu homes; at least, in
Lyallpur.One was the NAIAN (wife the family barber, who used to come home every morning to shave my father. This lady, THE NAIAN was the forerunner of the present, so called social-networking sites (Face book.). Carrying messages from one home to other, offering various services. She was called upon by mothers to help in match making for their daughters. Total secrecy was maintained by these Nains who were very trustworthy.Nain was an institution in Lyallpur, which has disappeared now. The second lady was the PANDITAIN (wife/daughter of the Pandit) who would visit number of regular homes in the morning and collect Rotis.My mother used to await her and make special rotis every day. Like the Nain, Panditian was useful (in combo with the Naian) for organizing religious functions-like “Mundan” thread ceremony, Naam-Karan etc.Whereas these ladies were regular daily visitors, the third one only required, perhaps, once in a year. I Am referring to the old institution of “DAIEES” (mid-wife).There was one regular Daiee who helped my mother in the child-birth of all her eight children. She became like a sister to my father and we used to call her “Bhua”.
That was Lyallpur. Lyallpur where we, six brothers and two sisters were born. However the Sethi Clan of Lyallpur/Jhang expended in Independent India. Our children and grand-children, born in Delhi, without the remorse or feelings of hatred towards other religions. In-fact in their own ways, some of the younger Sethis are trying to re-construct the bridges destroyed by hatred and distrust. For instance, Nath Bhajis youngest son, now in Seattle married a Muslim girl from Pakistan. My other brother, Satinders daughter also married a Muslim boy in Delhi. His son married a Catholic girl. My sister’s daughter (JNU walli) married a Parsi colleague! Is that the left over effect of secular, modern Lyallpur in the family blood?
Our family has never been very expressive and big conversationalist, but that doesn’t mean that the bonds of emotional affection were also missing. On the contrary, they were and are very strong but in a silent way. I, being the youngest had affection, love and help from all the elders—not only in Lyallpur but even right up to today. This post, random thoughts, in a way, is my way to Salaam every one in my family. I, being the youngest, had the good fortune to get advice from everybody in the family. As Bulle Shah says”Bulle neun smjhawan aiyan behnan tey
Well, I would have no hesitation to say that ours is Another Fine Family from Lyallpur (with due apology to Gurcharan Das)I am sure there are many more.
Jatinder N Sethi
Captions of above pictures:-1, Location map of Lyallpur in relation to Jhang.2 Old family picture Circa1934? Back left-Vedi, Satinder, eldest brother, younger sister& myself with Pitaji &Biji 3...Gumati Fountain made in 1906?4 Engraving inside Heers grave.5 Premji Maharaj.6Agriculture College Lyallpur.7.Vedi(left, Nath Bhaji(Tall) with Sikand sahib-my father-in-law.8Lyallpur Ghanta Ghar,Union Jack, and Architectural map of Lyallpur.9.(.Ghanta Ghar seen from Jhang Bazaar.10.Mashiqui11Biji withPitaji(and his younger brother-1940.12Famil with elder sister from Sargodha with her young baby—with me,13 Eldest sister, just before she passed away—with satinder(Right) and me. 14 EXTENDED FAMILY. Right:-Senior Sethis:--eldest brother, Nath Bhaji, elder sister, Vedi, me sitting, with Children & grand children at a wedding reception 1986.