“I was around six-years-old when the worsened situation at Shoojabad at Multan District in Pakistan compelled us to leave our houses to save our identity and lives,” recalls Anuradha Sharma, a strong and empowered woman who has lived through the trauma of partition. Today, an independent jewellery designer with multi-faceted experiences in life, she still remembers the partition memory when an invisible border divided two nations and brought an irreparable crack in the lives of millions. She has also authored a book titled Batwaare ka Dard that precisely describes the loss that Partition brought in her family and life.
Sharma left Pakistan (Shoojabad) with her father, who was a surgeon, her pregnant mother, elder brother, grandmother and her pet dog. She rode on a tonga to reach the railway station and catch the next train to India. The sight on the station was unbelievably terrible. There were people running around, shouting and crying. Finally, she got into a train with her family, which was later known as the Third Train because its coaches were bespattered with inhumanity and terror. “When the train stopped at Pakpattan” recalls Sharma, “We started wondering why is it taking such a long halt? All we could hear was the shouts and cries of people sitting on the top of the train and other coaches. On inquiring from a Muslim soldier about what was happening, the soldier only said to close the doors and switch off the lights. We later came to know that the whole train was butchered! Laden with a pool of blood and remaining dead bodies which weren’t thrown out of the train, it arrived at Kasoor station. I can never forget that nightmarish sight of bloodshed and gory that I saw through my innocent eyes of a six-year-old child.”
“The memories are too painful. It revives the feeling of remorse, immense pain, loss and hatred. Perhaps reviving something which is so bad will only affect the stability of the present.”
At Kasoor railway station, all the taps and water tanks were defaced and blocked by Muslim rioters. There was no water to drink in the scorching summer of that time. Recalling a specific incident, Sharma says, “I remember I was crying out of thirst and hot weather. Because there were no taps intact or working, my mother anyhow soaked her dupatta and placed it on my lips so that I get some relief.”
The rioters, like a blindfolded child, were killing everyone sitting at the platform. Sharma and her family spent the whole night at the station, waiting for the next train, with the terror that the sword or bullets might anytime kill them. When the next train arrived, everyone at the station rushed to get inside. Within a second, the train was all crowded and suffocating. Without any option left, she and her family had to board that train! To save a life, even impossibility becomes the only possibility. She recalls that the train was so crowded that she got separated from her family in some other coach but later her father managed to find her coach.
“Even if we were fortunate in some cases, our misfortune hit us later. When we arrived in Firozpur, the place was hit by the flood. There was water all around and we had to walk on the overflowing roads. My grandmother was too old to walk and exert herself. Exhausted and disheartened, she sat down in the water and started forcing us to go, leaving her there. My father stuck to her, pressed her legs until she could walk again. Luckily my grandmother had some money tied in her dupatta. With that money, we got into a truck to Moga and left the flooded area. Until then, I never knew that my mother was carrying my brother in her womb. I cannot believe how she went through all that in the most sensitive and weak period in a woman’s life. She carried me in her lap while crossing the flooded streets. But she did, things slowly and gradually found an order and finally settled.” reminisced Sharma about her memories as a woman of partition.
“All I could see was that Hindus and Muslims were separated who lived together earlier. Partition was done to have peace between the religions, but have we achieved it yet?”
On being asked about her idea of partition, Sharma said, “Partition was all political policies that we had no idea of. We never realised how it happened, who did it and why? All I could see was that Hindus and Muslims were separated who lived together earlier. Partition was done to have peace between the religions, but have we achieved it yet? Aren’t the situations same, aren’t Hindus and Muslims fighting till today? The partition should not have happened, it took away many lives and dislocated many people and achieved almost nothing.”
The 73rd Independence was celebrated at the Red Fort, as a proud, free and independent woman of India she said, “I am happy that India is free today, I live in a free country. Independence has been gained after a series of deaths and loss. It should be respected and preserved.”
Sharma, however, said that talking specifically about women in the partition is difficult because it was the worst situation to be in, everyone was fighting and doing everything to save lives, no one had the sanity or time to think who was more affected or deprived. If you have your life, that is it. No one had any such impression that women suffered more or not. Everyone was being killed and everyone wanted to save their lives.
Her book Batware ka Dard is an explicit picture of the whole Partition trauma she saw through her own eyes. Though a child, the impression is so strong and painful, that she still remembers everything vividly enough to write a book about it. On being asked whether the writing of partition stories and narrating them justify that partition memories need to be retold, recalled and understood, Sharma said, “The memories are too painful. It revives the feeling of remorse, immense pain, loss and hatred. Perhaps reviving something which is so bad will only affect the stability of the present. Partition was bad, but the loss has been done and a long time ago. Retelling is a means of reviving the irreparable wound, a past that one is somewhere trying to forget. Besides, recalling Partition will mean reviving the religious hatred that was deeply rooted in it. It will worsen the relationships and situations maintained today. Perhaps reviving good memories would be better for everyone.”
“I am happy that India is free today, I live in a free country. Independence has been gained after a series of deaths and loss. It should be respected and preserved.”
Seventy-three years have passed since the arbitrary and invisible line was drawn on the same land, reducing one’s own home into the streets of another country. Anuradha Sharma is happy that she lives in a free country where she has achieved a wonderful life, but she still wishes to once visit her house and life she left on the other side.
Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV