In a personal email, my friend AC wrote these lines. I was quite moved by the tenor of the text and the exceptionally sensitive understanding of our past from a second generation post,-partition Punjabi. This post makes an important point as we have been discussing issues of history as well as the senseless point-scoring that goes on in the blogosphere by avid nation-state-ists. Raza Rumi.
Comments on India-Pakistan-related blogs all to quickly devolve into “Hindus this” and “Muslims that.” It’s just so useless. We should be enjoying and rejoicing in each other’s existence rather than incessantly lamenting past wrongs, real and perceived. An Indian on your blog is asking why Hindu Bengalis didn’t exterminate Muslims as effectively as the Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis did; a Pakistani is claiming that the Congress actively sought to wipe out the Muslim population across all of India.
My family saw some real hell in partition, but I have to tell you, that generation has always shown a keener interest in stories of my travels to Pakistan than their children or grandchildren. My grandparents’ generation experienced the catastrophe of partition firsthand, lost much wealth, and lost many years of their lives to rebuilding. But they were schooled in Urdu and left homes and friends behind, so I assume there was a feeling of affiliation as well. They saw humans at their worst yet at the same time held in their hearts memories of what was best in the people they knew — stories of courage, generosity, and affectionate friendships. So it is their kids who seem to bear the most personal grudges against Pakistanis. Easy to dehumanize people you have never known, I suppose.
Also, it seems everyone’s story is different. I recently heard the family accounts of a Pakistani friend from Islamabad whose family migrated from Delhi; he said that his grandparents had no real recollection of living amongst or knowing any Hindus. (That would make sense; Shahjahanabad and its environs were an overwhelmingly Muslim place pre-1947.) In that sense, perhaps Punjab was different… more social intermingling, more religious and cultural ferment over the centuries thanks to the colliding influences. That Punjab is lost forever…