The Great Migration

On this 65th Independence day of Pakistan when everyone is in a jubilant mood, patriotic songs which many deemed paindo (villager-taste) are blaring out on every Radio and TV channel, while some armchair-Internet-pundits are discussing the relevance of Pakistaniat and Government is as usual busy doing everything but Nation-building. Makes me wonder how many of us still remember what Pakistan meant for our elders? Here are just three stories among countless others which personally touched me.

First story is of my Maternal Grandfather who until 1947 was a relatively successful businessman in Amritsar (now Indian Punjab). Being informed about political dynamics, he was smart enough to safely move all his family before time to the present Pakistan. Being one of the last to reach Pakistan amongst his family, he witnessed first hand how friendships were tested and how centuries of connection were lost in mere moments.

When he was about to leave Amritsar he found himself trapped by angry Sikh and Hindu mobs, carrying swords and other weapons to lynch any Muslim they could find. These once loving neighbours were now thirsty for blood. But during all this madness one of my grandfather’s life long friend, a Hindu, came to his defence. He gave him refuge in his own house and then escorted him all the way to the border for a safe passage.

Second story is of another relative of mine. His family were poor village-people who did not know much about the politics or of anything such as Radcliffe Award. So just like countless others, they were also jolted by a rude-awakening: they are not in their own country any more! A land they had called their own for generations is all of sudden someone else’s on basis of the God they prostrate to. In frenzy of the moment he only picked up his most prized possession, his adopted father, and left for his new home – Pakistan. His adopted father was so frail and ill that he had to carry him on his shoulders. Due to his age and medical condition he could not even hold his stool and as my other relatives would later tell it would fall on his son’s back but he wouldn’t even say a word and would just clean up and keep on going forward.

And finally the third story is of one of my Professors during my undergraduate studies. Dr Qazi was a young boy of 10th grade in middle of India. He belonged to a middle class educated family. When Pakistan was announced his mother got emotional and told him that given we all cannot move to Pakistan, at least one of us should go to “that blessed land”. So she gave him some money and put a camera around his neck. She told him to take care of himself and once possible rest of the family will also join him there. Years back Dr Qazi told me with a slightly teary eye how he saw dead bodies all along the way as the train he was on made it’s way to Lahore Railway Station. I cannot forget the joy in his eye when he told me how he felt when he heard a street-hawker selling grapes. The place where he used to live in India, grapes were a prized commodity. They would only be given to someone who was sick, that too with a fanfare of being presented on a silver plate and of not more than a few pieces at a time. But there they were being sold at an extremely cheap price. He said he then remembered what his mother had told him, he was indeed in a “blessed land”. He bought a kilo of grapes and ate them before even thinking of what to do next.

This young kid later travelled all the way to Karachi, found some distant relatives there, sold his camera to raise funds for his studies and later become a highly respected Nuclear scientist of Pakistan. He however could not meet rest of his family in Pakistan. Their travels were not that lucky.

On this 65th Independence day I wonder how my Grandfather and that relative would have felt seeing Pakistan of today? I even want to find Dr Qazi and ask him how does he feel about Pakistan today and his decision of going through all that trouble and heartache?

This country is not in a very good state for sure. We have reached a new height in corruption, have become a prime example of how a diplomatically influential country can become an utter failure at that, are at epoch of our national PR disaster, and have non-existent Nation-building activity going on from the Government’s side. But then again there are small specks of hope here and there. We come across people everyday who are doing some effort in their own way and capacity everyday to make this a better place. One of the world’s largest charity run Cancer hospital – Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, vast quality educational network under Citizen’s Foundation, world’s largest ambulance service under Edhi, expanding Higher Education footprint, pioneering Agricultural research and above all our young kids who keep on doing amazing feat in education and other activities every other day are all a hope that there can be a better tomorrow ONLY if we can somehow converge all these efforts.

I am disappointed for sure, but I haven’t given up all of my hope yet.

Happy independence day, the most resilient nation in the world!

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