My father and mother both come from Pakistan. My father did not have to migrate (based in Lyallpur) but my mother’s family did. My maternal grandparents are Kashmiris and lived in Amritsar. During the time of Partition, they actually were in Kashmir. Upon hearing that the “halaat” (situation/ongoings) had degraded, they never returned to Amritsar.
My grandparents lost a major bus business of which my great grandmother initially started by becoming a share holder. Instead, they crossed through the mountains and arrived in Rawalpindi. From there they went to Lahore and later settled in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad).
I sometimes wonder how anyone could just leave their homes like that. What type of situation were those times? It’s hard to believe (the closest I see are the homes of Palestinians being bulldozed and watch them being displaced from their land, a horrific experience).
I had the opportunity some years back to perform a symbolic walk that mimicked (albeit to no remotely close degree) that of my grandparents. It was the only thing I could think of and it felt powerful, yet dangerous all at the same time. On a visit to India for a friend’s Sikh wedding, at the end the trip, his family decided to literally drop me off in Pakistan. We drove from Delhi all the way through Punjab and to the Wagah border. Along the way, I noticed many Arabic names for localities. We finally got to Wagah, and then I walked that stretch, right into Pakistan. It felt surreal and I remembered my grandparents.
Moreover, this idea of being Canadian and Pakistani has been interesting. Sometimes you feel like you aren’t from here (Canada). Over there (in Pakistan), everyone say’s you’re “from outside” so you aren’t one of them either. Alas, this is who I am and I need to make sense of it. Wherever I can, I try to connect to the culture that raised me. I’ve featured my parents in my work, including My Skin: Brown, a story about growing up as a Pakistani-Canadian.
This excerpt is from JAWAB DO! A new project that explores The Partition of India.