Purana Qila Refugee Camp, September 1947.
My mother had taught me how to sew, I told them, so they would accept me in the sewing group. Well, the honest truth is I was too little and I used to watch her use the *Charkha and spin khaddar and then color it and embroider upon it with silken pat. She wanted me to learn and become the best embroiderer in our *Pind. All this until that tranquil, simple life was shorn away to bits by these politicians. The Radcliffe Line does not determine where my village started and where it ended – it will not, it cannot…ever! Who was this Radcliffe guy anyway? Did he really understand who we were? Or, if we couldn’t co-exist peacefully as Hindu, Sikh and Muslim like we had for centuries? My questions, I am told, are empty rhetoric. This is it. This refugee camp, this tin-shelter is my home now. This Phulkari group is my home now. We sew our tears away; we (try to) sing together – well, some of us just cry silent tears. So many stories inside those eyes, lives lost, the meaning of the terms “*ghar, *pind, *mulk” lost – forever. We try to bring together the *Trinjan but we know the spirit and soul of those songs will need nurturing for a long, long time! For now we sew, with every darning stitch, with every flower sewn (or sown), with every sequin strung into the hand spun cotton – I try to stitch together pieces of my life, try to heal wounds and try to look into a future when one day I might have a home again and a family to call my own. For now, I take a walk every evening to the top of the *Qila, feel the breeze in my hair and pretend I am the *Shehzaadi of Dilli – my Phulkari scarf is my tiara…its sequins glimmering in the moonlight.
*Charkha: Spinning Wheel; *Pind: Village; *Ghar: Home; *Mulk: Country; *Trinjan: A group of women would get together to do Phulkari & sing folksongs. Trinjans were very negatively impacted by the riots that ensued post the Partition of India *Qila: Fort; *Shehzaadi: Princess