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Visited India & Pakistan Part - VI: A Journey back to Roots

Los Angeles/May 06, 2024 Singh

While visiting Pakistani Punjab, one can’t help but think about the pre 1947 era when India was one unified country and Punjab was one of its most productive, powerful   and prosperous provinces. Punjab’s five rivers were a matter of great pride for every Punjabi. Unfortunately, the partition in 1947 not only split people and families but also the rivers. While growing up I still remember going to our neighbouring Sutlej River on Vaisakhi Day and swim in it. Similarly, I have passed over River Bias many times while going to pay obeisance at Darbar Sahib in Amritsar or travelling in that direction. However, it was the first time I had the pleasure of crossing over Rivers Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum at the same time while travelling to Islamabad , Rawalpindi. Taxila and Panja sahib. It was a very enjoyable spiritual experience to look at these historic rivers. After visiting various Gurdwaras and other historical places, we would return to Lahore. My  wife Baldev and I were now looking forward to visit Baldev’s ancestral home Chak 106 Pharala in Jarahnwali Tehsil in Faisalabad (formerly Lyallpur) district.

After enjoying our breakfast, we were well on our way to Chak 106 Pharala in early morning. This place is less than two hours drive from Lahore. On the way, we passed through Chak105 Banga the place where Shahid Bhagat was born and raised. The government has preserved this historic monument. Some of the roads around these villages were still unpaved and in rough shape. The crops were still growing in the vast rural area. The overall condition of these villages was not that great. Compared to the Indian Punjab, the overall conditions in Pakistani Punjab in thr rural area  still need a lot of improvement. As soon as we arrived in Chak 106 Pharala, the villagers welcomed us with open arms. They were extremely loving, friendly and respectful. A lot of them stayed with us for nearly three hours we were there. They showed us Baldev’s old house, her haveli, site of the village Gurdwara and few other places.

The village officials -sarpanch/lambardar and others shared their stories with us. Some of them mentioned the experience of their ancestors when they were forced to move from the Indian Punjab to the Pakistani Punjab. One eighty-year-old person told us that he was born in Pharala near Banga in East Punjab but moved as a child with his family to Chak 106 Pharala in West Punjab. It was exactly the opposite to my wife who was born in Chak106 Pharala in West Punjab but had to move to Pharala near Banga in East Punjab as a child with her family in 1947.  These are very tragic stories of the partition. For us, it was a very emotional occasion. We found it very difficult to say good bye to those very kind, loving and friendly villagers.

On our way back, we stopped at couple of places to eat and rest. While returning to Lahore we had to go through couple of toll plazas. This reminded us of the toll plazas in India. As we got closer to Lahore, the traffic jams started to build. At one of the toll plazas a truck had broken down and we had to wait for quite a while before the traffic got moving again. These traffic tie ups, toll plazas and the rural farms reminded us of our own situations here in Canada and those in India. Finally, late in the evening we made it to our hotel  in Lahore .Those pleasant memories as well as the smiling and friendly faces will always stay with us.

Balwant Sanghera
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist. He has just returned from a trip to India and Pakistan)