She left India for Pakistan, but was her sacrifice worth it?
“People didn’t even bother locking their doors; we knew that we could never come back. It wasn’t easy for us, leaving everything behind, and it seems like another life now, as if we left a part of ourselves back in India. Plenty of people lost their lives, it’s still hard to believe what the partition did to all of us,” told 86-year-old Raffat Jehan.
She says that she never regretted coming to Pakistan; she believes the Partition was originally a good idea.
“My father’s non-Muslim friends told him that they couldn’t protect us anymore, as painful as it was for us, we had to leave India,” she adds.
She understood how the Partition was necessary and further spoke about how life for Muslims in India was too difficult to bear, and even though they were deeply attached to their non-Muslim neighbours and friends, they had to leave it all behind. She spoke about how only Muslims who made the journey know the amount of sacrifices that were made by each and every person. The amount of pain in her eyes made me realise that we cannot even begin to understand how much seeing Pakistan suffer hurts her.
When I asked her what she missed the most about India or newly-made Pakistan, at first she ignored my question and went on narrating a story about her childhood in India.
“I was about eight-years-old when my uncle gave my mother her jewellery which she had kept with him. This exchange happened in front of me and being the mischievous child that I was, I swiped it just as they both were engaged in conversation.”
She laughed while remembering her childhood.
“I swung the pull string pouch, which contained my mother’s gold, playfully all around the neighbourhood, stopping to show the jewellery to each passing person, even the cleaners on the street. Everyone looked, politely smiled at me and moved on, until I went to show my aunt, who took it from me and returned it to my mother the following day,” she exclaimed.
At first, I thought to repeat my question about what she missed the most, but then I realised that she just gave her answer. The fact that nobody stopped to ask her where she got it from, or just simply take it from her was what she missed. People during that time had the same problems as us; poverty was an issue then as it is now.
I wonder what changed that, when did people become this unhappy and why did they turn to crime?
I asked her these questions, upon which she answered,
“I don’t know. I still think about it sometimes, and get lost in thought for quite a while but don’t have a straight answer to give you,” she paused for a brief moment. “ I guess people just became more greedy and unhappy, everyone in my neighbourhood was friendly back then, despite the religious differences or the problems our government was facing, even though in many other areas it was quite the opposite, hence the partition,” she adds.
I was silent for a while seeing tears in her eyes, recalling her past. I know now that she was not recalling her past, but was thinking about what the country had become. Muslims of the time had fought so hard for this nation. She knew Partition was important at the time, but I felt this was injustice. To the founding leaders, to her, to all the people who died trying to reach Pakistan alive, and to those who are alive and forced to helplessly witness their country being taken away from them bit by bit.
Like many others of her age, she spoke to me about how this is not Jinnah’s view of Pakistan. She claimed that this is not what he wanted, he wanted to give Muslims a place where they could live in peace, yet the people of Pakistan have received anything but that. She explained how Jinnah achieved the impossible, and offered Muslims all that he could, still wanting to give more. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to provide his country with all that he had hoped for.
“My journey to Pakistan was not nearly as bad as what many other people had to endure. I left late in October along with my family by train from Delhi to Lahore. When we got here, others told us of their experiences and I couldn’t believe what they said at first, they told me that new born babies were snatched from their mothers, young girls kidnapped and…” she trailed off, not being able to go on about the sacrifices the people had to make and the amount of pain they had to go through.
Her stories made me think that if people heard about the sacrifices that were made, would they act any differently?
I doubt that they would be as careless or ruthless, but then again, I guess they need a conscience for that, which I really don’t think some of them have.
“It saddens me that people give up thinking one person can’t make a difference; they can if they just try hard enough, it always starts with one person,” she added.
I asked her who she thought was at fault,
“The government is not only at fault, if the people just think to forget their differences in race and culture, don’t see themselves as people belonging to a certain province and as Pakistanis instead, there can be a great difference,” she said, seeming hopeful.
“We just need to be more united and care about one another, if we do that, we can achieve greatness. I know it’s a small step and you might not think it’s as important as many other things that can be done, but in my opinion, it is the first step and the most important one we can take right now,” she adds.
It really surprised me that she didn’t blame the government or anyone specifically; she was just hopeful that we could bring a change for ourselves in the near future.
Raffat misses her life back in India, but she knew Pakistan was an important step for Muslims and hopes it achieves all that it was meant to.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.