Punjabs’ Chief Ministers Amarinder Singh and Pervaiz Elahi had visited each other, and scores of delegations crossed the line Radcliffe drew. Thousands had watched the cricket matches at Mohali where displays of love for Pakistani brethren seemed to elbow out the cricket. In this lovefest of bonhomie, there was a queer development taking place. People from both countries were stealing. Bricks were being traded. I wrote this to assure myself that I too have a half-brick. Come on Pakistan, I am ready to trade. And I ain’t ready to wait for Wagah opening.  

Pakistan wants to trade? Fine, I have my half-brick! When can we start? 

S. P. Singh 

CHANDIGARH: Unbeknown to Islamabad and New Delhi, Punjabis on both sides of the electrified fence are busy in a thriving export-import business. Some bricks have been exported, a nearly equal number have been imported. By best estimates, balance of trade lies in favour of both and further demands are on. Brick by brick, countries are being stolen.

Caught in the new found love-clasp, Chief Ministers Amarinder Singh and Pervaiz Elahi are still to get down to the serious business of prizing open Wagah for trade, CII and FICCI, the umbrella organisations of industry, are still mulling over questions of permanent MFN status and enterprising souls planning to board Baisakhi buses to Nankana Sahib are inquiring what can be bought cheap there.  

But in this din of love-fest, some serious export-import is on. People are simply stealing the two countries! One hundred-year-old Jaswant Singh in Jagraon cried like he had done over half-a-century ago, when Tawakkul Hussain and his nephew reached Jagraon to see their Saidan Wali Haveli last Monday. Overcome with emotion, Jaswant pulled out a small brick, a Nanakshahi itt, from a haveli wall and gifted it to Tawakkul. He asked for one more. ``For sister Kaneez. This haveli was hers. She will ask for it,'' he said. 

Tawakkul was holding on to the bricks as if these were teddy bears. ``One I will give to my sister,'' his voice sounded as if he was thinking of gifting half of his fortune away. He invited Joginder Singh, the haveli owner, to Pakistan. ``Will you let me bring a brick from my house we left behind?'' Tawakkul cried like a child robbed. Bartering system works when you catch up with past. 

Months after the 1947 pogrom, Balwant Gargi met up with Amrita Pritam in Dehradun. Amrita was a die-hard Lahore fan but destiny ensured Anarkali, Ravi, Lawrence Bagh no more punctuate her life at every step. Gargi had left Lahore three days before Nehru's tryst-with-destiny talk. In Dehradun, they compared notes about those who had stealthily brought some Lahore along.

Jeewan Singh Jolly simply relocated the Lahore Book Shop at Ludhiana. Near the clock-tower, this tiny bit of Lahore is still the meeting place of men of letters. 

Years later Gargi wrote the pen sketches which alone could have ensured his eternal slot on Punjabi literary bookshelf. In Nimm De Patte, which created a new genre of biopics in Punjabi, Gargi quoted Amrita about how many tried to carry some of the country which they were forced to leave. ``Two refugees have opened a Rawalpindi Tailoring House. One has started a Pishore Hotel,'' Amrita said. 

In 1962, Balraj Sahni saw a halwai shop in Lahore and wondered in his Mera Pakistani Safarnama, ``A Muslim halwai?'' Strange things were cooking. When he reached Jhang and expressed a wish to see maqbara of Heer, some reacted as if he was planning to steal the beauty back to India. Sahni must have succeeded. Few Punjabi youth now see Heer as Pakistani. Nice steal, Balraj! 

Chandigarh's veteran scribe Chanchal Manohar Singh found that his ancestral house in Rawalpindi's Raja Bazar still has his grandfather's nameplate fixed into the wall. If there was not so much silver in his hair, he would have cried. Asking to take back the nameplate would have felt like ending a relationship, and he wanted the discovery to mean beginning of one. The name plate stayed, and Chanchal got a snap clicked as he stood pointing to the name plate. Look carefully. There’s a tear in his eye. 

“No, no. You are mistaken,” he said, trying to prove he didn’t cry. This time you notice the tear as he looks away from the photograph.  

Pakistani Punjab's top writer Afzal Tausif rubbed her forehead against a shabby wall of Nanakshahi bricks in Simbli, her native village in Nawan Shahar. Her family had lost 12 lives in the pogrom, but crying before the weather-beaten wall was one ritual that remained. She needed the little brick. It was all the India she needed. 

Janab Niyaz Irfan, formerly Education Advisor to Pakistan federal government, wanted his share of India. Mohali Test match had given an opportunity to Irfan to visit Sil, the village near Morinda where he was born. He placed some earth on his lips.

Pakistan's Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman's sudden request to Nawan Shahar Deputy Commissioner H.I.Singh Grewal needed no diplomatic clearance. Overcome by emotion at seeing his ancestral haveli, Rehman asked Grewal if he can take away ``just one brick'' back to Pakistan. ``And some earth from the village too?'' No one thought he was being greedy. 

Parkash Singh Badal took away some earth from Jati Umra village for Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan Punjab's Minister for Housing and Urban Development Syed Raza Ali Gilani offered to send me some earth from Hujra Shah Muqeem last year. My grandmother's house is no more, but I have a half-brick saved. Who knows someone in Pakistan asks me ever whether I knew a haveli in Ludhiana's Rarhi Mohalla? One should always have something to trade. A half-brick is not bad to begin with. 

S.P.Singh can be reached at singh.india@gmail.com. More of his work is available on www.spsingh.in

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