Saturday, April 13, 2002

Where is my Ahmed chacha?

B. Grover

IN 1947, I was a small boy of five who lived with his parents at Faridkot. The street I lived in was dominated by Jain families but had some Muslim families also. Two such families I still remember. One was of an old widow named Niamat (whom we called Niamo dadi). She lived with her son (a weaver),his wife and many children who often played with me. Niamo used to give me one glass of her cow's milk every morning and evening and would charge nothing. My mother told me that she had been doing so since my birth. So Niamo was like my second mother. The other family was Ahmedís. He used to sell fruit in front of my father's shop in the main bazaar. I called him Ahmed chacha. He loved me so much that every evening he would visit our house to give some or the other kind of fruit. He would ask me to sit on my cot, close my eyes and pray to Lord Krishna for the fruit that I desired. The innocent child in me obeyed him and Ahmed would then drop grapes or mango or any other type of fruit that I wished for.

Then came Partition. I was stunned to see the two families leaving for good. I insisted on going with Ahmed chacha and Niamo dadi but how could I! I was too small to understand what made them leave us. While departing, Niamo gave us her cow. It was with great difficulty that my parents thurst twenty rupees into her hands.


In 1959, I was a college-going student. My father got a letter from Ahmed chacha, mentioning that his daughter Ayesha had passed her tenth class examination and her marriage had been settled. He wanted to see us at Hussainiwala border adjoining Ferozepore on a particular date. I was overjoyed at the idea. On the fixed date, we reached the border. It was now that I could understand how a three-inch broad white line between two gates, guarded by strong and smart sentinels on both sides, divided the mother earth into two areas known as India and Pakistan. Ahmed chacha recognised me and my father and wanted to hug both of us but, alas, for the dividing line that came in between! It was with great difficulty that my father was allowed to offer a silver coin as shagun and Ahmed chacha gave us a small box containing dry fruit. I wished the tears on both sides could wash away the white line staring at us.

Time passed and I became a college lecturer. One day I was discussing the Indian festivals as a topic for essay writing. Talking about Id, I was suddenly reminded of Ahmed chacha who used to send home sevian. With a heavy heart, I shared my sentiments with my class. After many days, the door bell of my house rang in the morning. When I opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Muslim student of mine accompanied by her grandfather. Stretching her hands, she said, " Sir, today is Id and we have brought sevian for you." Words failed to express my feelings as old memories flashed before my inward eyes. I saw my Ahmed chacha standing in front of me.

Today on the verge of my retirement, I miss my Ahmed chacha much. I wish he could accompany me to Godhra to see the train in flames. I wish I could accompany him to Ahmedabad and Ayodhya to see the devil dance of violence. Perhaps he could find some solution. But where is my Ahmed chacha? Can anybody tell?