The yearning of a 78-year-old Indian to visit Lahore

Published: September 6, 2015

“Can it show the picture of my village Uche Ladhe in district Lahore?” PHOTO:REUTERS

My uncle, a 78-year-old retired government officer, recently came to visit and stayed with us for a few weeks. One day, while I was working on my computer, he inquisitively asked,

“What sort of things can this machine do?”

I explained to him that one can write documents, make presentations, seek information on any topic, watch movies and listen to music, and view different places (including our own residence) amongst a zillion other functions. After a brief pause, with an innocent look on his face, he asked,

“Can it show the picture of my village Uche Ladhe in district Lahore?”

Touched by his question and his desire to see the place where he grew up, I searched the location on Google Earth and found his village, Ladheke. His face radiated excitement and it seemed as if a child within him had awakened.  We tried to locate his primary school where his generous headmaster by the name of Faizuluddin (from what uncle could remember) tirelessly taught him and many other notorious boys. His eyes sparkled when he narrated stories of the hullabaloo that him and his friends created while the teachers went for their namaz break.

He later asked me to show him the adjoining village, Ladekee Neewain. He explained that between these two villages was a mazar where an annual fair in the month of Poh (mid-December to mid-January) took place every year which he loved and enjoyed dearly. Even with his fading eyes, he tried to find the location of the fair and reminiscence about the jalebis and laddoos he shared with his siblings and friends. He went to tell stories of a similar fair that would take place in the month of March or April in Pandoke, a village just a few kilometres away from Ladekee Neewain.

He vividly remembers the opening of a warehouse named Pursram (now Mustafabad) on the canal bank on the Lahore to Kasur road, the adjoining area with a police chowki (station) and a Gurdwara. He was amazed at how he could actually spot the Punjab Highway patrolling police chowki at the same place where it used to be, near Nehar Wali Masjid, and even point at his grandmother’s village, Lalyani.

He went to narrate that after living in the village for years, he moved to Raiwind with his family. He still has vivid memories of his primary school teacher, Mr Sher Mohamad who would help students secure scholarships in Raiwind, and his middle school English teacher’s angry rants. He explained to me that during his school days, one had the option of either joining a missionary school in Raiwind or a government high school in Kasur, after finishing middle school. Despite his age, he still keeps a check on his area of residence, Raiwind, knowing that the current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif owns a huge residence there.

I was amazed at not only his memory but the attachment he felt even after so many years, considering the fact that he migrated from India at the mere age of 10. He was greatly distressed by the British Raj’s decision to divide the subcontinent, which not only divided the country but also the hearts of millions, resulting in immense suffering. Having no hope of being able to visit his birthplace again, he was grateful for Google Earth, for it helped him take a journey back to his childhood. I could see his wrinkled face radiating and his fragile body emanating immense joy, enjoying the village fair which he has left physically but not emotionally.

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