My dad was a quiet unassuming man, never the kind to talk about himself easily. Whatever stories we heard about his early years were triggered by incidents and usually narrated by others, with him piping in to add a detail here and there and to laugh. Whenever I heard these stories, I remember feeling he belonged to a different world, a simpler better world than ours.
Many years ago, perhaps in 2003, we asked daddy to write down what he remembered of his childhood. He, as always, surprised us by taking our request seriously and plodded on the computer (single finger typing and losing data because he forgot to save it) for several days to write his memories in two or three emails. Before that, he had never used the computer or sent emails, and so you can imagine how happy I was to receive these from him and how precious they are to me. I present them in three installments.
I will start from Sialkot where I was born in 1930. It is in that part of Punjab now in Pakistan located close to Jammu. I don’t remember any thing of this city as I was too young. Baoji was in postal service and would get frequently transferred in the northern zone Punjab + J&K. We moved to Gujarat and I don’t recollect any thing of that city as well.
1n 1934, we moved to Gujranwala about 40 miles from Lahore. Baoji made a beautiful house in Gujranwala costing RS 5000 WHICH WAS A LOT MONEY THOSE Days. He got loan from his office and all the gold we had. In this house we always kept a buffalo and there was lot of milk butter and other products. Every morning, Bhabhi or my grandmother would churn it to take out butter. Baoji had a green fodder field and he would cut and load fodder on his cycle to bring it home where it was cut and mixed with dry feed. All of us were sick of so much of milk and its products.
Another thing I remember is that we had a big dog ...tiger and also a few hens and a big cock. Once the dog tried to scare the hens. Our mighty cock gave hard peck to the dog ...from then our tiger never ever dared to go near the flock of hens.
Baoji bought a radio- it was a great novelty those days .The second world war in full swing....1935...36. All the residents of mohalla would gather in our house to listen to the news. I used to wonder what they are up to. Chacha Jagan Nath (do you remember him? He died only last year) used to live in Karbla near Lodhi Road ...he was Baoji’s cousin. When we made the house at Gujranwala, he also made one. Chachaji‘s son was killed in a truck accident. It was big shock for them.
I studied from class 1 to 4 at Gujranwala. The school was one mile from our house. We had to walk daily up and down. Our school had rows of TAT to sit and we had wooden pattis to write on. Every week our teacher would give us home work. We had to write 10 pages. These were never checked- instead were sold to buy peanuts. We were very happy with this arrangement as we never got any punishment...we were punished if we did not give the work sheets. Our dress was a shirt and a long kachha.
When I finished class 4, Baoji was posted to Loyalpur. It was a new city planned and raised in a modern fashion. Because of canal irrigation, this area became very fertile and rich. The land was given to the loyal subjects by British rulers- that is why the name Loyalpur. Now the name has been changed to Faisalabad after king Faisal of Saudi Arabia. I studied at Loyalpur from class 5 to 10. Our house was just in front of the school, so as soon as the bell would ring we would run to school. Baoji would cook meat every Sunday on hard coal fire. It would be great feast for all of us. Baoji had been promoted as inspector post offices- he had to tour in all areas inspecting rural post offices. He would go every where on his cycle. He would go out for days to earn money through TA and DA.
Mohan was in a junior class. We had mastered many magic tricks and would regularly perform on stage- it used to be a big attraction of our annual day functions. The most popular magic trick we would perform was mesmerism where Mohan would go in trance on my command I would ask audience to show any thing and Mohan would tell them the name of the object. We had mastered a code system and tell him the name of the object. Many times we got cash prizes as well. Details of the code I will tell you when we meet.