Mufti Irfan Miyan's family lineage is well-documented, and goes back many generations. Their ancestral home, Farangi Mahal, is located in Lucknow and was closely tied to the community.
Growing up, his family sometimes went with little food, and depended on the generosity of the community. Even while a student Mr. Miyan supported the family with a variety of jobs, including tutoring students in Hindi, English, Farsi, and Arabic. His primary schooling was all done in his household madrasa.
His earliest memories of the time surrounding independence are of the figures who passed through the Farangi Mahal: Abdul Bari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and Mahatma Gandhi.
The split of the entire extended family, he remembers, began from the moment of Partition, when his uncle tried to convince them to move to Pakistan.
Mr. Miyan was 11 years old. Because this uncle was the eldest brother, he won the acceptance of their grandmother and a few other elders. This side of the family moved to Dhaka, where two decades later, they would face yet another partition in 1971.
Mr. Miyan’s father did not agree to the move, and remained in Lucknow with his family. They did not experience any discrimination or violence, yet the thought of “Do we still belong here?” hung in their minds, he remembers.
Gradually, relatives in Farangi Mahal began migrating to Pakistan, his father each time pleading with them not to leave.
As their fortunes declined after 1947, Mr. Miyan began to feel that he needed to begin a career and leave the mahal, yet he wished to stay true to the family tradition.
As had been the case for his ancestors, he kept education the centerpiece of his life. He completed a combined Bachelor’s degree in Urdu, English, and Education at Lucknow University. This is where he met his first friends outside of Farangi Mahal. He went on to earn a Master’s degree at Islamia University.
Mr. Miyan still resides at Farangi Mahal, and is continuing his family’s work and traditions. Miyan expressed that differences between people during the partition were emphasized by politicians for their own ends, which drove once-diverse communities apart.
We are all the same. We are all eating the same dal chawal (lentils and rice)—everything else is just spices or chutney.”
This interview was conducted by Zain Alam, who has recorded over 80 eyewitness stories of Partition.