In the hustle and bustle of the railway station where a war was about to begin, a war between life and death there sat an eighteen year old girl tightly grasping her three year old son who hid in her sari pallu scared of the deadly hullabaloo around him. Sitting at the corner she gaped at the sunset from the trains window, getting lost in the heavy gist of golden aura she closed her eyes and went into deep thoughts. It was the period of India and Pakistan separation and Lajwanti was travelling from Lahore to India. She was the second wife of her husband Bahadur who died a couple of weeks ago due to a cardiac arrest after his business collapsed, after his death Bahadur’s first wife’s sons refused to accept Lajwanti as their step mother. So to protect herself and her son, Lajwanti decided to leave Pakistan and move to India in the search of safeguard. The thoughts of how she will survive all alone and look after her son without a single penny in this dreadful world made a shiver pass through her spine. “maa I’m hungry”, whispered her son in a shrill voice to her. Holding back her thoughts back she comforted her son and said “I’ll feed you chapatis as soon as we get off this train”. She wasn’t willing to feed her son at the train, it was because of the occasional theft occurring at the two countries border so she hid some of her savings and gold in the chapatis and wrapped them in an old cloth.
Just like the moon and the sun and the splashing tides, Lajwanti decided to rise, she knew that being widowed she will have to face a lot of dislike and Oh! lets not forget about the assault on women which was crime quiet common during those time.
After a long journey of about twenty-four hours Lajwanti arrived at Haryana. She was lucky enough to travel in a big group of migrants. From there all the migrants were sent to different parts of India for livelihood purposes. Many of them were selected by their calibre, like most of the young lads were ushered in the army, while women were expected to do less masculine tasks like cleaning, stitching uniforms, supplying medicines to the army and other domestic jobs. In Haryana Lajwanti travelled to Rewari a small town and started working there as a tailor who stitched uniforms for soldiers. She received quiet a low income of about one rupee per month by her job, even though it was not as small amount as an amount we see today, but still she barely made it by the end of the month.
Lajwanti’s life was still not on tracks the wage she earned on monthly basis was not enough to afford a room to rent, so she stayed in the backyard of a rich landlord and of-course that wasn't free, apart from regular uniform stitching job, Lajwanti had to work in the landlord’s farmhouse as a payback and the people living there were most delighted to provide her with loads of work. But not all things were going off track, Lajwanti’s three year old son Arjun who was now four got admitted into a government school which was free of cost. It was definitely a relief for her as her son was one of the biggest reason she was taking all the risk.
Her day begin at the brink of dawn, with the semi-closed eyes fluttering at the moment of the rising sun with the ‘aazaan’ which can be heard clearly from a nearby mosque, its overlapped with the 6 am bustling of people wrangling to live their daily lives, copper bells on a loudspeaker take over at the mosque facing temple following accompanied by reverbing morning shlokas, then there’s a three metre lane ruled by carts selling things out of their vain and out on the streets lives lives that continue to survive. She lived in a buzzing neighbourhood, we all do live in a noisy world, but the situations were not as up to the par as it should be. It seemed like leaving the world behind India lived in the times of apparently many miles, they lived in The Hindustan Times, the fear of British times, the banned times, the survival times where they made flashy news out of nationalism, rationalism, capitalism, patriotism, they even made news out of the deadly scenarios and whether she liked it or not she knew she had to fight.
On a fine night where she sat under the terrace of herbage doing her daily chores, her son Arjun approached her and said “ maa I am having a severe headache since morning, I am unable to sleep”.Lajwanti frowned at her son in a pensive way and placed a hand over over his forehead to check the temperature, “your temperature seems to be normal” said Lajwanti in consoling tone “come here and lay your head, I will give you a nice massage and you will feel better”. Arjun came to Lajwanti and laid his weak head on her laps, Lajwanti gave him a massage until he passed out into sweet dreams and Lajwanti continued with her usual work.
Next day after the same hectic schedule at the work Lajwanti sat in her old crib in the landlord’s backyard doing her usual household chores. It was about seven in the evening when her son Arjun started complaining her about the headache again. But this time the situation was different, Lajwanti knew that it was not some normal headache she placed her palm on Arjun’s forehead, it was as hot as some boiling copper vessel. She got tensed, she knew that she hadn't had enough money to take Arjun to the doctor. The consultancy fee at the clinic was one rupee which was her monthly wage, she also had no savings with her. Lajwanti went to the landlord’s house and knocked the door “ hello! Sorry to disturb you at late evening hours, but I urgently needed some help!” Lajwanti said in a low yet firm tone. a lady in her early thirties stood at the entrance of the door wearing a richly embroidered pale blue sari, she was the wife of the landlord. In an irritated tone she said “aargh! Whatever brings you here just be quick with it”. Lajwanti nodded in agreement and said “you see, my son Arjun, he hasn't been doing well since past couple of days”, “so what do you want me to do?!” said the landlord’s wife with an annoyed face. “I was hoping that if you could help me out with some money…I need to take my son to the doctor right away!” said Lajwanti with hope in her eyes, to which the lady smirked and said “you are here to beg for money?!” “NO!” replied Lajwanti in a contradictory tone, “I’ll return the money back, I will do every possible thing to payback”. The lady made a sharp laughter and said “there is no way I am giving you a single penny! You barely make it to the month end, how would you repay ?” and she slammed the door at Lajwanti’s face. Lajwanti stood their in shock and gazed at the slammed door, she thought to herself of how could a person be so insensitive and mean. Daunted by the bizarre circumstances she walked back to her crib and saw Arjun lying on a mattress in pain. “I won’t give up at any cost” Whispered Lajwanti to herself, it was something she would hang for. So, she picked Arjun in her arms, covered him in a sheet and left for the doctors clinic. As Lajwanti reached the clinic she didn’t enter, instead she waited for about thirty minutes standing outside the clinic at some distance. The clinic usually closed at around eight in the evening. Around quarter past eight she sae the doctor depart from the clinic, she rushed towards him “doctor please have a look at my son! He hasn’t been doing well since a couple of days!”, said Lajwanti in a heavy voice. “but the clinic is closed, why don’t you come tomorrow.”, said the doctor in a gentle tone “pardon me for the inconvenience! But it would be very kind of you if you gave a quick check up to my son.” Lajwanti said in a pleading tone, after a bit hesitation the doctor agreed and starting examining Arjun’s illness. After a couple of minutes the doctor exclaimed “no need to worry! It’s just common cold”,a sight of relief passed through Lajwanti. The doctor was also kind enough to give some pills free of cost to which Lajwanti thanked the doctor with tears in her eyes.
“Mom! Your dadi is a role model!” I said said to my mom in a heavy voice who sat besides me staring at the moon in nostalgia. “She indeed is!”, “and it’s because of her that we are all here! Its because of her that you can get a good education!”. it was already half past eleven and my mom was already feeling drowsy so she went to bed “come soon, don’t be up till three am!” said my mom to me while retiring to bed and as usual I didn’t payed a heed. Standing under the silver of the moon light I was lingering over the parapet and cool breeze was brushing through my face. I have known my mom’s ‘dadi’ for quiet a little time before she passed away when I was about nine. I can never imagine that the lady who used to walk with a walker and had wrinkles even on her nose could have been such a strong lady. She was a role model and she was a mess, she hung loosely of her own image. She was the one who made her son or say my grandpa such a capable person that he was able to work in a prestigious company like “BHEL”. no doubt that it was because of her sacrifice and keen adherence that a whole generation of our family was affluent enough to have wherewithal for all the need and wants we have or ever had.
The times during Hind-Pak separation was a difficult one for everyone. We know about many heroes and sheroes that have struggled a lot during those times and came up as prestigious people in our country. But there are many like my ‘dadi’ whose success stories remains untold. There might have been many unsung heroes from our family we would have never heard of, so take some time and appreciate the good impact they have on your lives.