It was the first thought that came to her when she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.
1928 was an era which marked the most striving period in Indian history dominated by the British rule & Indian quest of achieving freedom. While on one hand leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were staging their struggle for independence with the non-violence principles, there were patriots like Subhash Chandra Bose & Bhagat Singh who were determined to pursue the same dream with their diverse ideologies. The nation had its own share of turmoil with absolute mayhem which seemed eternal at that moment. But as it’s said, the sweetest stories sometimes blossom from the depth of most bitter origins. Amidst the distressing reign of an extremely turbulent India, there thrived a ‘Bharat’ which had no analogy with its Indian counterpart. This story is about this ‘Bharat’ which was a land of diverse groups of caste, creed & religion with the deepest faith in each other. This ‘Bharat’ flourished on the values of oneness & resilient bonding devoid of any political or communal influence.
Shazia Khan & Mohan Das Shastri were born in Shahidabad, a small village of this Bharat, now a part of Pakistan, in 2 different families united by the feeling of brotherhood more than just neighbours. The Khan & Shastri families not only shared the walls of their homes but they also shared their emotions & unconditional love for each other. Their association epitomized the foundation of a dream India. Shazia & Mohan were those two infants who were imparted the same values by their parents. No wonder that they both became the best of allies as they grew up. Not just games, but studies & even food habits seemed similar. Their parents showered the same love and care for both.
The Khan & Shastri families weren’t from the influential strata of the society. But their profound ideals made them richer from most of them.
While the struggle of independence heightened at the national level, there was another tale which was gaining momentum gradually. The tale of Shazia & Mohan, who had now turned vibrant youths. With the old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, their relationship had also budded to another level. After the camaraderie they had shared all these years, love was nothing but imminent for both of them. And it did overpower eventually. The essence of adoration wasn’t new to them, just it just changed its expressions from childhood to adolescence to youth. For both of them, their togetherness was the only world they had seen. Fortunately, the exacting realities of the world hadn’t trespassed in their lives so far. With sheer dedication towards each other, they had somewhat hand-written their own future. Even happier were their parents who were overwhelmed with their decision to be together.
“Shastri Bhai, I think you already know what I’m going to say,” said Shazia’s father with a jovial smile. “Do we even need to discuss what’s already decided by God?”
Mohan’s father smiled and hugged him warmly. “I want to welcome my daughter home this Diwali.” he said.
This sealed the fate of two love birds who couldn’t have asked for more. Their future was all prepared to live the life they always wanted, the dreams they always wanted to be fulfilled and the moments they always wanted to share. It was as if the entire world was desperate to celebrate their happiness. Their fairy-tale story was on its way to be felicitated with perpetual moments of ecstasy. Their happiness was perhaps even fonder than the big news which was supposed to bring an unprecedented aura of bliss across the entire nation.
15th August, 1947 – India got its long awaited independence from the clutches of British Rule. The nation had just taken a fresh lease of life with the countless aspirations of a nascent India. A nation which had undergone the cruelest of agonies and sacrifices to witness this auspicious day. It seemed as if a new era of hope had awakened with this dawn. The free nation which had seen the hardships of numerous freedom-fighters, revolutionaries & patriots invested in this freedom was looked upon by everyone to offer them a sense of pride which every Indian had waited for since long.
Every so often, accomplishments come along with a hefty price. A price you never wished to pay but are inevitable and so did our freedom that came with the price called “Partition”. When history called it partition of people primarily based on religion, it was however the partition of humanity & togetherness. The gruesome phase of mass slaughter & carnage that followed after the cherished moment of freedom simply took away all those joyful moments of free India. Instead what transpired were the obnoxious nightmares that had encircled the nation from all corners of the country.
Sometimes, the consequential invisible is superseded by the inconsequential visible. That day, the entire world saw the change in global map. Regrettably, none but only the victims felt the pains and scars of that ominous day. While none could escape from the deadly trauma of communal hatred, the adversaries opened their evil eye on the untainted ‘Bharat’ as well. As the galore of carnage breached the borders of India & ‘Bharat’, the difference of humanity was decimated into pieces. The rustic beauty of ‘Bharat’ had been painted ugly as well and the land was no longer ‘Bharat’ but ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’.
People of other religions were victimized in both India & Pakistan with no room for any mercy. No worse can it be for any country when people decide the fate of other people. It happened no different at that time. People wrote the fate of those they never knew. Rightly so, whenever people have turned Gods on this planet, they have evoked violence and fear. Today, the half-grown mango tree which once stood robust like a rock had bowed down as if it was in the same league of victims. The hibiscus was red today for a different reason altogether.
Shazia & Mohan were drawn mercilessly into this frenzy. Like in India, the extremists in the newly-created Pakistan had marked an open slaughter against the ”Kafirs” which engulfed families of many Shastris living in those areas. The devils of that horrifying night broke into the house of Mohan shouting slogans which he had never heard before. The assault inflicted on them was not just excruciating but demeaning as well.
“Please, I beg you. Don’t kill me,” pleaded Mohan’s father.
“Please, I beg you. Don’t kill him,” this time the request was from Shazia’s father who was held along with his family by the extremists.
With a poignant tone, both the families pleaded for Mohan and his parents’ life. Little did they know, the devils of this massacre had no space for emotions. Mohan’s parents were ruined to death in no time, putting an woeful end to the tale of the Khan-Shastri friendship. After the bloodshed, they turned towards Mohan. Mohan tried to escape by fleeing to Shazia’s home and locked himself in the bedroom. He gave all he had to save himself from the extremists who followed him with swords painted in crimson red. But the lethal sword waved in the air and butchered the young man mercilessly, killing more than just a single life. After their communal hatred claimed more innocent lives, the demons of destruction disappeared in the darkness leaving behind even darker stories to haunt for lifetime.
While Shazia’s parents broke down in tears, it was Shazia who was stunned by the series of events before she fell unconscious on the ground. It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up after a while. He was gone. Soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. Blank and hopeless.
He was right in front of him. But today they wouldn’t smile at each other like they always did. She had never imagined that her fate could be so hostile even in her wildest dreams. Life came to a standstill; everything tumbled like a heap of dry leaves. That moment, it was not just Mohan who was killed, but also Shazia who had turned lifeless. The fundamental dilemma for her was to understand – why was Mohan killed? What evil did he do to those people? Why were his parents killed? Will she now have to live without him for entire life? The daunting questions kept attacking her raw persona. From a bride-to-be to an unmarried widow, her fate had played the nastiest joke with her life.
On the national level though, her tale was a mere reflection of the many Shazias who had lost their Mohans in the curse of partition. That unfortunate era witnessed the rues of countless Shazias weeping at every nook and corner of both the countries. The reasons of this tragedy were unquestionably apparent. Some wanted India, some Pakistan – unfortunately, none wanted humanity, friendship, love.
As it has always been, history will once again be captured in the most callous archives. The archives that will narrate to the world about the political changes of two countries, advertently skipping the eerie tales of those who suffered those changes and their agony that will never be alleviated.
What did the Gods think of this? That’s question that would never be answered!