Yesterday, I had an opportunity to sit with a 94 year old engineer who had, against all odds, saved his family from the massacre during the partition of India in 1947, resulting in the present day India and Pakistan. He was able to save himself and his family from being counted in the 500,000 or so people that perished during this time.
The partition of India caused a mass migration of people from one country to the other; the largest movement of people in recorded history.
Bauji (means father or grandfather), as I will call him now, was a young 29 year old with a wife, 4 year old son and a newborn daughter. He lived in the province of Jhang, which now falls in Pakistan. His young family and he were forced to flee from their home to India with nothing but the clothes on their back and some jewelry that they hid under their clothes. His newborn daughter was 4 days old when they started their journey, during which they cheated death twice, got separated and then reunited. He vividly remembers seeing bodies of people lying in trucks and the panic, fear and mistrust among people.
His story made me realize that there must have been thousands of such heart-wrenching stories. Of the millions of people that migrated from one country to the other, many must have lost loved ones, left behind family members who didn’t want to leave their homes and others became homeless. Their stories have gotten lost in trying to make a life for themselves in their new homes.
Bauji and Mataji (grandmother) went on to raise a family of well-educated and successful children. They now live here in Canada and are respected members of the South Asian community. I feel blessed that they shared their story with me.