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enter image description hereI love History but for far too long it has been defined by big events like World Wars, bombings, independence days and for even longer, the people who steal the limelight of these events are the Nehrus, the Gandhis, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis. Not much is said about the cook who made the King’s Feast or the housewife who dropped her children to school in the morning, or the old man out for a walk when the Army came. That’s sad, because that’s who I am. And I’d like to know more about how people like me felt about these big events that changed our lives and countries.

So much is written about India and Pakistan and especially about Partition – little includes testimony from those who saw and felt it for themselves. The dialogue between these two nations has been dominated by their Governments – the only thing that joins them truly are their people but when have they spoken?

From Qissa Khwani Bazaar, a unique series of story-telling sessions being organised by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan from the 20th to 22nd June 2013 in Lahore and Islamabad, I hope to get the chance to live a little of what we don’t have and will lose very soon. It is a chance to hear first-hand about what happened to people during 1947 – when we didn’t know that there was an India or a Pakistan; when we were still finding out.

Partition was painful for both Indians and Pakistanis who experienced it, but neither of them knows this because they became a part of the generation that was full of so much pain about what happened - they never spoke. Hoping for this event to be cathartic might be setting the bar high, but when I hear references of Gujranwala or Civil Lines from a Lahori, I know I will smile and think of what else Dilliwallas have in common with Lahoris. It is precisely this kind of outlook that gives us hope.

I want to be told stories of these people that I don’t know but am connected to and then, I want to grow old telling and re-telling tales of the few days when we sat together in an old bazaar reliving what we had in those tales. Without this sharing, those moments of togetherness will be lost. And then what history will we have? The Historian will have won.

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan pays tribute to Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar through storytelling sessions over the course of 3 days at Kuch Khaas, House 1, Street 1, F-6/3, Islamabad and Faiz Ghar, 126/F, Model Town, Lahore from 20th – 22nd June 2013.

The event covers different aspects of Pakistani history and culture, with the first day dedicated to the theme of Partition and Migration, the second day to early years of PTV and Radio Pakistan and the third day seeking to track the Evolution of Pakistani cities.

Author Image
Devna is currently studying Law at Delhi University and loves candy, politics and Nadal amongst other things. She can quote Alice in Wonderland better than anything else and is obsessive about animated movies. Although she doesn't understand much, she can spend hours listening to someone speak Punjabi - it’s a colorful language she says.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (58) Closed

M K Sufi Jun 20, 2013 08:20pm

It is not a bad idea that the people who witnessed the partition write something about what they went through.

Md Imran Jun 20, 2013 08:22pm

Thanks. My friends from India tell me that Delhi yearns for the splendour and glitz it once had under Mughals. Agra to Hyderabad the blandness due to lack of art or culture is apparently visible. During the sultanate days, those cities reached pinnacle and are now in shambles. I hope someday in future, the mughal splendour can be recreated in the subcontinent..who knows, may be through a new caliphate ?

Razzaque Jun 20, 2013 08:27pm

I would like to know the stories of the people before there was no India and Pakistan.when my parents move from India I was too little to remember. Wish you good luck in complying all the stories.

Jawwad Jun 20, 2013 08:28pm

I can't for one imagine how would you feel if you heard someone speaking "Saraiki"? Though commonly known as an off-shoot of Punjabi but it has the sweetest dialects one can hear in any language around the world. My father tells us he would cross over to Amritsir from Wagah with his friends in early 50's to go eat sweets in the bazaar of Amritsir costing them 1/8 taka and young men from Hindustan as it was called back then would come across from Wagah to watch cricket matches in Minto park.

JP Singh Jun 20, 2013 09:28pm

When there was no India or Pakistan life was good and happy. Thats what my grandfather told me. Being a Sikh from Punjab we also had land in Montgomery Dist in West Punjab. My grand father got it as a land grant for deeds of valour in WW I. In our village in Punjab, we had muslims who were mainly craftsmen of various crafts. They left during the partition except one family of potters who were hidden by my grandmother in our house. Everyone spoke fondly of the muslim brethren who were so much part of there lives for centuries. But then it was a few people with vested intersts who became a voice for millions without their consent. Under the yoke of a foreign power centuries old ties and relationships were broken and a holocaust was set upon a society whose wounds still havent healed. And finally who has gained what?? What has happened to Pakistan today? The dream of those who decided the fate of millions with out consent.

Dr. D. Prithipaul Jun 20, 2013 09:43pm

The Kissa Bazaar should be held under the shadow of the Minar e Pakistan to remind the story tellers of the strict distinction between the two Kaums and the infinite distance which really separates them. Not to be aware of this essential fact is to be self-deluded by superficial sentimentality. To forget the force of separation brought about by what the Minar symbolises is to show indifference, if not ingratitude, to those who perished for the sake of halting the domination which Hindus had exercised over the peaceful Muslims for a thousand years.

Badar Jun 20, 2013 10:13pm

Have a great time in Pakistan. More people to people connections are always great.

Ravi Ingale from University of Pune Jun 20, 2013 11:02pm

Auther like Animated movies, that's why she gave the funny title. Anyway if there would not be Pak-India then there will be Chinese region more bigger than today.

Kamal Jun 20, 2013 11:41pm

You're so right! Wish there were more of you to listen & collect these stories. We've enough of Nehru's & Jinnah's. With all due respect to these great leaders, stories of common people are so much more fascinating! My family has gone through the travesty of partition. We've been directly affected. Yet having traveled in India & USA a lot, I can tell you one thing, the tears & smiles of every common person are the same. They are equally compelling. Skin color or language or religion doesn't make an iota of difference! I know it first hand. I've felt them & cherish them a lot. Thanks a lot for raising the voice above the political noise.

Ashish Gulati Jun 21, 2013 01:38am

While the new story telling sessions are good. The author seems very ignorant about writings on partitions..

First she needs to educate herself by reading a few landmark stories by Munto - like Thanda Gosht or Toba Tek Singh. Two of the best stories ever told on the partition and its trauma on people that were affected by it. Absolute literary master pieces.

And then there is an excellent documentary on you tube by BBC channel 4.

Let truth to be told - Jinnah was a very powerful lawyer whose party got sidelined in the per-independence elections, so he did the next best thing - created fear in his constituents and asked them to separate to create an area where his party could rule un-opposed. As simple as that.

Ashish Jun 21, 2013 02:14am

Oh Really? India never existed before the partition? So what were the Britishers trying to capture some 200 years ago? What brought Alexander to the riches? What was Christopher Columbus trying to get to? How about Vasco Da Game? And what did Hiuen Tsang write about? What did the Mughals try to capture? Where did Nalanda and Taxila come from? Lets be clear. Pakistan came into being in 1947. India is the oldest unbroken civilization known to mankind.

aa Jun 21, 2013 02:21am

If one sits with ones grandparents there are many stories. I was lucky enough to have all 4 grandparents alive til i was 16 and story listening was our best past time and they were always real stories. My nanas memory was excellent he even remembered prices of things in 1940's. It was so much fun we even recorded some of what he told us. He was in the army and world war 2 stories were fascinating. I still remember my siblings and my qs. 1)what were you doing on 14th august 1947. 2)what part did you take in partition. 3)what did you think of atom explosion in japan. 4)what did you think of quid e azam?How did you react when he died? 5)what discussion did you have with your coworkers of different religions about partition. 6) did you feel sad when people got killed in the war.

aa Jun 21, 2013 02:31am

My grandfather also told me about his job as escort for the hindu family towards the border. He told of saving a jewellers family and took them safely to the border. He got a small earing of gold from that family's head as a gift when they said good bye.

umesh bhagwat Jun 21, 2013 03:16am

The masses have always been neglected by historians! They have always highlighted a few individuals at the expense of the proletariat.

Ben Jun 21, 2013 07:27am

Devna Soni, what do you want to say ???

SatB Jun 21, 2013 09:02am

Fab! Will you please be sharing the stories so others like me who are not fortunate enough to be at the Qissa Khwani Bazaar, can still be a little part of the same? Thanks.

jo Jun 21, 2013 09:34am

When there was no India? When/how did that happen? Is the author talking about some prehistoric age? Just curious.

Pappu Jun 21, 2013 09:57am

crap. India was always there. there was no Pakistan. why don't we agree to this basic reality

n s parameswaran Jun 21, 2013 10:07am

the title of the article is wrong. India was always there since time immemorial and will always be there into the future too.

It is pakistan that was not there in the past, is there now, future is unclear. it may exist or collapse - depends on the "pakistani's".

Indian Jun 21, 2013 10:37am

Very good written. I loved your last para.

gaurav Jun 21, 2013 12:47pm

india was always there

Haroon Jamshed Jun 21, 2013 01:30pm

@gaurav: This India was never there under Hindus. It was either under British Raj and the Mughals. India was comprised of over 500 princely states who fought each other all the time.

shuaib Jun 21, 2013 01:48pm

@gaurav: So the Yugoslavia and the Zchecs

farrukh Jun 21, 2013 01:47pm

u r rite we have same stories to tell, and same pain

farrukh Jun 21, 2013 01:55pm

yes u r rite we have same stories to tell, and same agony

PAUL Jun 21, 2013 02:20pm

The DAWN'S opinion is valuable and Thinkable. Truely, both countries People's thinking always same. But between them, all politicians of both countries are breaking the possibilities to their own selfishness. It is really good and it will happen definitely in future. If it happened, we will be the world most super power after America & Russia. But it is not easy one. for this, we have to give huge value to Politician.

Deb; India Jun 21, 2013 02:17pm

@gaurav: You seem to have difficulty in differentiating between a literal truth and a metaphorical truth. You are correct in so far as pre-partition India is concerned. The author is talking about an India that came after partition.

Rai Jun 21, 2013 02:25pm

Partition was a traumatic time, yes. But modern India is much more than what happened in Punjab and Bengal. Nevertheless, I think that many people are still not able to confront and accept recent and medieval history. Let alone partition, many people are yet to come to terms with what happened before that.

Saira Sarfraz Jun 21, 2013 02:26pm

@gaurav: Pakistan is here now... and is here now to stay. Forever!

Jay Jun 21, 2013 02:26pm

If you take a time when India was not there, that will be pretty long and maybe you have no one around to tell these tales. India has been there across millenniums. Too shallow to give such a title.

Jay Jun 21, 2013 02:27pm

India has been there across millenniums. Too shallow to give such a title.

Parvez Jun 21, 2013 02:41pm

As gaurav so nicely and correctly pointed out........India was always there, then came the British with their concept of ' empire ' and much history was made and is still in the process of being made. History is but a story of events passed, told according to the how the teller viewed events. A good example of this is books on the Gulf War written by American / British authors and then I read an excellent one by an Egyptian ( I think ) author ..........the difference was amazing. My guess is you are looking for the lighter side and William Dalrymple is just who should read.

Tenali Jun 21, 2013 03:21pm

@Md Imran: Day dreaming is not good for health :)

makraja Jun 21, 2013 03:23pm

well said The story through the common man needs told because it were the commoners on either side who suffered and still are What is this apocalypse india and pakistan What was wrong in being part of the same country

makraja Jun 21, 2013 03:24pm

@gaurav: dear gaurav agreed but it was british india and the first time it became an entity was 1857 its division into three has not served the interests especially of the muslims

Vijay Jun 21, 2013 03:41pm

@Md Imran: I guess those frineds from Delhi belong to a certain religion cos they yearn for Mughal splendour!! Don't worry not going to happen, Young indians are enjoying and reviving vedic culture we don't need any invasive arab influence.

Linda Jun 21, 2013 03:50pm

@gaurav: No it was not. The Republic of India came in to existance on the 15th of August 1947 and there was never a state in history which exited With these boundries. Before that there was a British colony names British India. Before that there were different kingdoms carved out from the Mughal Sultanate, which again was formed on the ashed of the Delhi Sultanate. All these states existed in what was names Hindustan in the North-Sub Continent and this name ws eventually carred South with the expantion of the Mughal Sultanate. India as a name was given to it by the Europeans while Hindustan, deriving from persian/farsi, was given to the land by Muslims.

Aizaz Moin Jun 21, 2013 03:49pm

@M K Sufi: Indeed MK Sufi, these people are all old now, in their 80's like my mother and uncles who have lived through it. Sadly my father and his father have long since passed on. But I too share your passion. I have some related history from these two people, though.

Manjunath Jun 21, 2013 04:26pm

@Md Imran: Imran - Your views are contradictory to the history of Indian sub-continent and what was it's golden age. The splendor if Indian's sub-continent reached its pinnacle during the day's of Mouryan Empire (ChandraGupta & Ashoka) and the Gupta Empire in 1st Millenium BC and 1st Millenium AD and its empire stretched from the southern tip to North Afghanistan and Iran to Burma. India's decline in splendor and wealth began with the Muslim conquest of India although few nice buildings/mausoleums were built which are part of India's composite culture. Indian's can only smile when Pakistani's try to look back and admire about lost heritage which is not their's anymore.

Rsingh Jun 21, 2013 05:13pm

@Md Imran: Present day Pakistan on average is more much fertile than India and not to forget there is no dearth of sugar daddies which have always been more than willing to offer an helping hand to Pakistan. So with all these resources at yr deposal ,you and yr tribe should first recreate the same wondrous Mughal spendour in present day Pakistan .Then dream of replicating the same in Present Day Bharat.

Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

amar Singh duggal Jun 21, 2013 06:23pm

What needs to be looked in to is: "the real role of executive branch of the British (!!!) that ordered Pakistan to be carved". Jinnah was merely used and was an actor of the story, whose script writers knew, how to dance him on their tunes.. People need to investigate: (1) History of Indus valley (2) Pre Alexander era (3) Reasons for Indians to discriminate one another (4) Reason for no roots for a central system (5) Reasons for a human to be attacked to a religion, specially a new one. (6) Human limitations to wisdom, and to control fear Finally: How to save and India and Pakistan both from further sub divisions. How to develop that constructive, collective brain.

Anon Jun 21, 2013 06:32pm

@Ashish Gulati: It may be your fantasy you can describe it as you wish but who is looking arrogant here while you are passing just your mind oriented remarks here, quite arbitrary. Yes, you proved we really need to learn a lot yet, no wonders.... any more.

Karan Jun 21, 2013 06:31pm

@Dr. D. Prithipaul: Well, seems you are exactly the kind of person who the writer is vilifying. This article is not meant to relive divisive politics that has led us to this place, and which you seem to net let go. Who dominated whom is another debate altogether. Irresponsible generalizations, as made by you, are the root of most problems in our society. As long as there are forces that remind us of our 'kaumi' differences, we can safely assume that there will never be a chance of us getting together and experiencing the most basic human requirement: a conversation.


Salim Akbani Jun 21, 2013 06:58pm

The future of this region should be based on regional economic and cultural exchange rather than political. Open borders, from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh will be a boon for future generations with peace and prosperity as the dividends.

Everyone should work towards this ultimate goal. It will happen. It is a matter of time.

It will also solve the Kashmir problem. Open borders for all.

Salim Akbani Jun 21, 2013 07:00pm

WE do not have the power to change the past. We do have the option and power to change the future. Open borders, trade and peace must be the goal.

Syed Nazim Jun 21, 2013 09:43pm

In spite of great differences in religion, Muslims and Hindus respected each others beliefs and practices and lived peacefully side by side. However for gaining cheap popularity, politicians on both sides started exploiting religion. British Government in order to rule fanned these feelings. In my opinion best country and society is one which live in peace and harmony in spite of vast religious and cultural differences. Earlier we( specially Muslims) learn it, it is better for Pakistan and India. This is a picture of Hindustan before 1935.

Shruti Jun 22, 2013 02:46am

@Md Imran: Caliphate!!! Dont be stupid.Its always going to be a SECULAR democracy. With freedom of speech. And emphasis on science and education, and not religion. If you don't respect your freedom, or haven't tasted freedom, than you'll not know the value of the institutions I am speaking about.

And India is very beautiful. And the cities are becoming a lot more metropolitan. A 1000 times nicer than they were during any foreign rule!

aa Jun 22, 2013 02:50am

I think if people could write something they have heard or happened in the families it would be great to read in comments as well.

Shruti Jun 22, 2013 03:01am

@Rsingh: Forget first Pakistan fixing its cities. Caliphate is never happening in India. As a hindu majority, we never dream of having a hindu state. Why? Because we believe its wrong to impose religion on minorities or even those who are agnostic/aetheist.

Why should then any religion take over the state. Religion is personal, and should remain so.

@ Md. Imran: Respect Islam as a religion. Not for a politico-power hungry intent. Or else you're being a hypocrite in the garb of Islam.

Rahim Jun 22, 2013 10:23am

Indian civilization is one of the most ancient civilizations of the world.The Indian civilization existed before the birth of any other civilization. Egyptian Civilization & Roman Civilization have all vanquished from this world but even today we are here.

India was always there and will dominant again.

Devil Jun 22, 2013 10:29am

@Md Imran: yes, and we can witness the art and culture flourishing in Pak ! What a artistic killings you guys are making !!

Get a calipha for yourself first !!

Shubs Jun 22, 2013 12:17pm

Oh give it a rest! Partition was and always will be the most defining event of Pakistan. But was it so for India? May be for Punjab and (West) Bengal - just TWO states out of 29!!!!!!! For the rest of the country, partition and its accompanying violence are interesting history, nothing more. What does the average 18-year old in Mizoram or Kerela or Andhra or Madhya Pradesh have to do with the legacy of partition? NOTHING. India is much much much bigger that Pakistan-and-Partition obsessed Punjab. About time we realized it, on both sides of the border.

Tenali Jun 22, 2013 12:30pm

@Linda: Indian history did not start with Mughals. Suggest reading pre-muslim history of the sub continent. India in today's form is a derivative of western concept of nation state after British rule. Earlier people were always referred to as 'belonging to Bharat' irrespective of the rulers and the states in today's Pakistan, India & Bangladesh.

Tenali Jun 22, 2013 12:33pm

@Linda: Indian history did not start with Mughals. Suggest reading pre-muslim history of the sub continent. India in today's form is a derivative of western concept of nation state after British rule. Earlier people were always referred to as 'belonging to Bharat' irrespective of the rulers and the states in today's Pakistan, India & Bangladesh.

Gagandeep Jun 22, 2013 08:04pm

Perhaps our governments have manipulated our histories beyond recognition just to grab votes in the name of anti-Pakistan-ism and anti-Indian-ism while hiding their failures on domestic fronts.So we need to constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to delve into the true history between our great nations.

irony Jun 23, 2013 08:42am

@Md Imran:They r not in shambles. Everyone is treated equally including on the basis of their religion unlike in the mughal days. Also here the govt spends tax money on people unlike in the caliphate days. India will never be islamised...but will only be Indianised Just like it has been since 4000 yrs except for a few centuries under mughals and under british. The Indians own India and as long as they remain happy, no one needs thoughts like u do.

Shahid Masud Jun 23, 2013 08:52am

@Salim Akbani: Nothing better can be said

Shahid Masud Jun 23, 2013 09:07am

@makraja: Well said