Mr. Arora wouldn’t mince words when reminded of his childhood days.
“Yeh poora Nehru pariwaar kameeno se bhara hain…”
He was born months after Partition and could relive those days like yesterday. And every time Mrs. Arora would listen like never before. She must’ve heard this story a hundred times yet wouldn’t fail to take her place on the sofa when her husband would recount those instances all over again.
This time, Mr. Arora was narrating the story to his newly moved in South-Indian neighbor, Mr. Swamy. This was a Sunday morning and they’d invited the Swamys for a breakfast. Ms. Arora’s culinary skills were legendary. The last time she’d invited her relatives for dinner, food kept flying into the plates till 2 in the morning.
Nevertheless, to return to Mr. Arora's story, he was born in September, 1947. And at the height of the rioting in Noakhali and Punjab, his father was trying to get in touch with his mother. His father owned a flourishing cycle business. Flourishing, because the British actually bought and paid for these cycles. Mr. Arora’s father wouldn’t have been able to take care of his wife and hence sent her to Gujranwala to her relatives during her pregnancy, thinking that at the time of her delivery he’ll call her back to Delhi.
She was said to deliver in September and all throughout August, her husband tried in every manner possible to get his wife back to India. He sent her air tickets and got it announced on AIR. Back there in Gujranwala, Ms. Arora was shielded by a close set of relatives. They would massacre her if those goons on the streets found out she was a Hindu. Mr. Arora’s father sent a trusted aide on train to Gujranwala to bring his wife back. He never returned. He was a Hindu.
“Forget the fact that she was pregnant, it was getting suicidal by the minute to stay back in Pakistan for any Hindu”, Mr. Arora recounted with pride.
“All this because of Nehru, that bastard…” Mr. Arora roared. “He wouldn’t let Jinnah become the PM and because Gandhiji trusted Nehru blindly, he could get away with it.”
“Jinnah was fine with Patel becoming the PM as well but Nehru would have none of it. Being the Congress President himself at that time, Nehru did command considerable clout. The country was plunged into the agony of partition, all because of him. While my mother was trying to save her and my life, that bastard celebrated his post of Prime Ministership sipping a glass of champagne with the Mountbattens. Countless, such stories lie untold… ”, Mr. Arora paused for a while.
“Finally, on a train that had men and women perched everywhere from the toilet to the roof, she came with her brother to New Delhi on 21st August, 1947. It was a Thursday. The train was late and my father had slept off on the platform waiting for her. He woke up with the commotion at the station. It was impossible to sight her amidst a sea of humanity. My father’s residence was also burnt down so unless he met my mother she wouldn’t know where to meet my father. Those were the days without pagers and mobile phones…”, he said this with a smile.
“They kept looking for each other for quite some time and couldn’t find each other. Utter chaos held sway over the platform. It must’ve been difficult. They called Dad a number of times from the station too but no one picked up. How could anyone? My Dad was also on the station naa…”
“My uncle suggested to my Mom, that they leave for Bhiwani, another relative’s place. It was important that my Mom went to a place devoid of riots. Delhi just didn’t seem right. And my uncle said they would call Dad later and ask him also to come to Bhiwani.
Mr. Swamy was listening with rapt attention.
“So my uncle took my mother to Bhiwani. And thankfully this time around, things went to plan. My Dad joined us a few days and I was born finally. The troubles my Dad and Mom went over, for my birth. And to think of it, countless, such stories lie untold. At least, my Dad was rich and we had caring relatives. What about others…?”
Mr. Swamy nodded and looked around the house. He didn’t quite know how to respond. He saw a picture on the wall, that of a young lady.
He asked Mr. Arora, “Is that your daughter?”
Mr. Arora replied softly, “She was. In ’84, on the streets of Karol Bagh, she was burnt alive by cronies of that bastard family because she was seen with a group of her Sikh friends.
His voice choked.
“Saala poora Nehru pariwaar kameeno se bhara hain…”