Having originated from a city like Jhang, where the immigrants of upper Punjab settled after the 1947 partition, and
experiencing the different ethnicities and dialects of Punjabi, awareness about Partition came to me inevitably as an
adolescent. I spent my childhood among the remains of Sikh and Hindu houses with peculiar name plaques, Hindu temples, PTV, and Zia-ul-Haque, having little knowledge of what these structures symbolized until the day my brother managed to smuggle an Indian movie Giriftar into the house. We waited for my father to leave, padlocked the house from the outside for fear of a raid, jumped back in and tentatively watched the movie. The newspaper that came the following day read “Giriftar film daikhtay aik kunba giriftar”. It wasn’t ours, but this was my introduction to the Indian culture, and it was then that I understood the abandoned structures in my city. In such circumstances perhaps, my inclination towards the 1947 Partition was probable.
Amongst all other historical events 1947 was a frequently discussed subject between my father and me. My father was an educationist, writer and poet. He was 11 when his family migrated from Amritsar to Jhang. He would often recall losing his father and how they found him later in Pakistan. Of taking care of his mother with a newborn baby (his brother) who died on the way, drinking mixture of water and blood from sanitary lines, and the triumph he felt when he managed the ‘Rashan’ bundle from an Army refuge camp. In his works one can find two distinct dialects of Punjabi, one of Amritsar and the other of Jhang. One can call this richness, confusion, or a state of being divided. After he died, I craved for his stories so I resorted to Saadat Hassan Manto, Ismat Chughtai and Krishan Chunddar. Their narratives influenced me such that they made their way into my practice.
My past practice has pertained to the subject of Partition because of the heavy influence of Manto’s writing on me. Divisions such as those of class, culture, sects and borders, and their effects on relationships, have also been frequent subjects of my works. This residency has conceptually contributed to my practice as it offered a platform for research, observation and discussion.
Since I’ve lived most my life in Punjab and my knowledge was very 1947 centric, I knew little of the partition of 1971. It was when I moved to Karachi that I came across words like “mohajir” and “makkur”. In Punjab, we have no mohajirs; we are all Punjabis. But the situation here was quite contradictory. My grandfather-in-law was the one who opened me to the 1971 partition. During our music sessions, we would listen to Bengali music and he would reveal his sentiments about the happenings of the war. Being a Behari, he had a very different perspective to offer. His empirical knowledge, put together with the research I had done at CAP and the discussions I had with Yasmeen Jahan went on to shape my perspective. I took Yasmeen to meet him, and witnessed him speak Bengali after 40 years. He had accepted and adopted the language and culture of the land whose people had not accepted him. And today, after 40 years he was confronted by the same language.
Observing his and my father’s life, seeing maps of balkanizing Pakistan being published, and people immigrating to other countries, the attachment or detachment of patriotic ties towards any piece of land has become very questionable to me.
Experiencing this, I have come to the conclusion that we have little control of our pasts, presents or futures. We are perhaps just goats being shepherded from one place to another.
- Ahsan Jamal, ( karachi, Pakistan )
- Ayub Wali, (Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan)
- Yasmin Jahan, (Dhaka, Bangladesh)
- Ammad Tahir
- Exhibition Catalogue
- Paula Sengupta, (Calcutta, India)
- Zahra Malkani
- Zambeel Dramatic Readings
- The Journey from 1947 to 1971 Retraced
(by Peerzada Salman)
- War and Roses
- (by Peerzada Salman)