Old Delhi – the night of August 15, 1947.
“My mother was in the middle of cooking dinner when my uncle arrived home unexpectedly, drenched in blood, badly injured, confirming ominous news that the insurgents were on their way to our neighborhood and that we must leave immediately. My mother looked at my father, who had his gun out already and we all watched him run out of the house. We never saw him again”. I was only 10 then.
I am 80 now. Sometimes I still dream of our house in *Nizamuddin; my cozy little room that I shared with my baby sister. I remember my mother’s sewing machine and a little chest where she kept her gorgeous Phulkari. “I am going to gift this to your future wife but these others are for your sister’s wedding”, she would say pointing towards a Phulkari with red and gold threads – flowers so beautiful and so real. My hand reaches out and the dream ends… far too soon. I pray to God to extend it a few seconds more just so I can touch my mother’s hand.
My mother rushed to pick up her jewelry and one Phulkari which her mother had gifted her for her wedding, grabbed my sister and I in her arms and joined the nearest *Kafila. We had walked several days and several nights. Food and water were scarce and my mother had a fever that refused to relent. One dusty hot morning, I woke up to find my baby sister crying over my mother’s body. I remember covering my mother with her favorite shawl – now badly torn – part of me wanted to take it with me but I left it there thinking my grandma was her guardian angel and would keep her safe…! I picked up my sister and kept walking amidst the endless mass of humanity – all of us lost, directionless, empty.
*Nizamuddin: a region in Old Delhi, North-Western India; *Kafila: Caravan