Since time immemorial, I’ve lived under the lovely shade of my maternal grandparents. I call them Badhi Mumma (elder mother) and Papa (father). No matter how many blog posts I dedicate to them; their love and care towards me can never be equaled.
This post, though, is dedicated to my best friend and my most favorite story-teller, Papa.
Past one month, i.e. the whole of July, has been a hectic and emotional one. My Nana has been extremely unwell. We’ve consulted every doctor in the city, but to no avail. And it seems like, he, also, has lost all hope and, interestingly, he is advising us on the preparations of his funeral. It kills me from inside to hear him talking about what I never want should happen.
I’ve spent a lot of time with him. Though, when he was fit and fine, we would go to the bank and sometimes buy groceries together and all. I’ve always loved spending time with him. He would always tell me short stories about his childhood. But, now that he cannot go anywhere and is at bed rest, I sit beside him and he starts with very unknown incidents about his life.
Right from the pre-Independence era to the Narendra Modi era, he goes on and on about various, rather intriguing incidents, about his life.
My Nana was hardly 8-9 years old when India got its independence. He told me that he has seen the caravan of British soldiers passing by his village several times. He was too young to have any hatred or grudge against the Britishers. Though, he clearly remembers the aftermath of independence; the Partition of India and evidently, the formation of Pakistan. He said that after it was announced that all the Muslims have to migrate to Pakistan, all the people of his village got extremely emotional. While bidding adieu to their Muslim friends, they cried a lot. My Nana had to bid goodbyes to many of his friends. There was a refugee camp on the banks of river Satluj, where all the Muslims had gathered for the meantime. He said that ladies from his village, including his mother, would boil black chickpeas for the refugees, as they had absolutely nothing to eat in the refugee camps. Muslim migrants had taken along their cattle, but had to abandon them halfway through the journey. Nana told me that children would bring home sheep and cows. He, also, brought home cattle several times. Then they would set the cattle free after a few days and then bring some other roaming about the streets.
Nana always says that politicians in the modern era are nothing more than looters. He said that nobody can match the sacrifices of Pandit Jwaharlal Nehru, Lal bahadur Shastri and the likes. He has a personal liking for Shastriji. Nana was working in Delhi at the time when Shastriji was the Prime Minister of India. He said that Shastriji was a very simple man. He was against the renovation of the Prime ministerial home and wore simple clothes. Nana also told me that when Shastriji’s wife told him to at least buy a new dhoti (bottom wear), as his old dhoti had worn out, Shastriji replied to her that when the people of his country do not have the money to buy decent clothes, why does he had to show off? He was one among them.
Whenever Nana and I would go to the famous Ghumar Mandi ( a very famous market in Ludhiana, Punjab), he would always tell me the reason behind the name of this market. My Nana had studied in the Malwa Khalsa High School located in Ghumar Mandi. Interestingly, I’ve completed my graduation from Khalsa College for Women, which was formerly, my Nana’s school! Now the school has shifted to the backside of the college. There was only a single shop at the time when Nana was a student. And it was of a ghumar (a coppersmith). Hence, the name ‘Ghumar Mandi‘ was minted. And now, it is one of the busiest markets of Ludhiana with hardly any space for parking!
Also, whenever we would pass by Jawahar Nagar Camp, another busy market in Ludhiana, he would always point out that the area was meant to be for the rehabilitation of the people who came from Pakistan at the time of partition.
Last week, when I went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan, I couldn’t pay him a visit that day. Next day when I went, he asked me where was I? I told him that I went to watch this movie and then afterwards I fell sick. So he asked me the name of the movie. When I told him, he started laughing. He said that movies nowadays are rubbish! Then he started praising the movies of Raj Kapoor, a very famous actor and director of Bollywood. Then, he started singing the song “mera joota hai Japani..” (My shoe is from Japan). I couldn’t control my laugh. Then, I told him that the movie was quite good and that it was based upon a very positive relation between India and Pakistan. He shrugged. He said that India and Pakistan can never become friends. The next day, when I went to his home, he told me that he read about the movie in the newspaper and that it got very good reviews. Then, yesterday, he said,” You know what! Tickets aren’t available in Pakistan for that movie! People are going crazy there!”. And believe me, he was beaming with joy.
We’ve also had very candid discussions about terrorism which would be inappropriate to share publicly. But yesterday, he told me that there was this guy named Mohammad Iqbal, a friend of Jinnah, who had written the very famous poem- Hindi hain hum, hai watan Hindustan hamara (We are ‘Hindi’ and Hindustan is our country). He said that Mohammad Iqbal was the one who persuaded Jinnah to demand the formation of Pakistan. Then, he began reciting the whole poem. He said that this poem constitutes the words taken from Hindi and Urdu languages. Then he said that nobody knows Urdu nowadays. Nana had studied Urdu during school time. He also said that he can teach me Urdu. I was more than excited!
There are many nitty-gritty stories about his childhood, his adult life and old-age. I regret not spending much time with him before. He has got a vast knowledge about the history of India and ample experience of life. Sometimes I want to record all his conversations on my phone so that I can keep them with me forever.
Nana always say that if you do good, you get good and to second that, he narrates various incidents of his life. I’m not saying this because he is my Nana, but this man has always went out of his way to help many people. He has always supported what is right. My readers would think that I’m just sugarcoating it, but the people who know him, outside my family, know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s the most noble soul, so simple..
Yesterday, when we took him to a doctor, I was holding his arm, as he cannot walk on his own. He said,“Beta, ab aur nahin saha ja raha..” (My child, I cannot bear it anymore). But I still give him assurances that he will recover very soon. This time, I’ve bet him that he will recover by the end of this week. I really hope it comes true..
Signing off, and hoping to hear some more stories from him…