https://www.facebook.com/amarchitrakatha?fref=photoThe Amar Chitra Katha Studio
August 21 · Edited
The next entry in the Top Ten of our Independence Day Contest is by Pooja Tiwari, another member of VIDYA‘s Youth Programme. She retells the moving story of 73-year-old Ram Charan Das.
Here’s what she said about her experience: I was very glad of the opportunity to have interviewed someone who was a part of our very first Independence Day as I came to know a lot about the real struggle that many people went through.
Art by Ritoparna Hazra
August 22, 2014
My name is Ram Charan Das. I am 73 years old now but on 15th August, 1947 I was 6 years old. During that time, the atmosphere was dangerous and difficult. I was in Pakistan.
We were told that all Hindus had to leave Pakistan. There were thefts and robberies happening everywhere. When we were leaving for India, my mother had to hide all the jewellery underground. My mother took some money with her and we went to the police station to ask for help.
We asked for help so that we could reach the station safely. But we were attacked by people who robbed us and took away all our things. When we reached the station, we realised that the trains were too crowded but we somehow managed to board it. Immediately after boarding the train, we also lost all the little belongings that we had. My parents kept me hidden inside the bathroom so that I could be safe.
We reached Kasur station where we were told to empty the train. People were panicking and rushing around for safety. Suddenly Pakistanis started firing and one bullet hit me, injuring my hand. It was very painful but I tried to control my tears. We spent the entire night in the waiting room and my uncle noticed that I was injured.
Next morning, we boarded a train and went to Firojpur. Over there, RSS people helped us a lot and provided us with food and water. We felt better and when the train came, we got ready to board it but it was too crowded and my grandparents and brothers were not able to board it.
We somehow reached India and became a part of the refugee camp. At the camp, we would get bread and ration everyday, but it was not enough for my mother. She was extremely sad and kept crying saying that if she didn’t meet her kids, she would die. She was ill with grief. After sometime, my father took special permission and went to Pakistan. He returned with the rest of my family and also brought back all the jewellery.
After that we came to Jalandhar. The Punjab government announced that the house that we broke into could become our permanent residence. We did just that. I would like to say now the time is better compared to that time.
Two Sides of a Story
August 19, 2014
In the second story that made it to our top ten, Abhiroop De recounts the emotional story of his grandparents on 15th August, 1947.
My grandfather tells me of a very interesting story about the 15th of August that he experienced. On the morning of 15th, the whole locality in Howrah (a suburban town near Kolkata) was in the festive spirit. My grandfather had just passed out of school and was working as an accounts officer in a private company in India. They had spent the entire night of the 14th tuning in to their radio listening to the famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech by Nehru which he had delivered while unfurling the national flag at midnight in Delhi.
My grandfather, along with his brothers and sisters, got decked up in new clothes (dhoti and saree, of course. The dress code that day was strictly desi!) and crossed the Howrah bridge on foot and went to Kolkata to participate in the celebrations. The streets were decked with streamers and there was a sea of humanity on the roads, all in new clothes, some waving the National Flag (then donning the charkha and not the chakra) and many others carrying photos of Gandhi or Bose. It should not be forgotten, that even though India got her independence that day, Kolkata was still torn with communal violence. Refugees from East Pakistan had already started teeming through the borders, and by 15th August, many of them could be seen huddling on the footpaths of the prominent streets. My grandfather tells me that Kolkata, on that day, was a study in contrast. On one hand, there was joy and inexplicable satisfaction on being free and on the other hand, the sight of the skeletal refugees on the streets presented a reality check for the newly born democracy.
My grandmother, on the other hand, tells me about exactly the same day in a completely different perspective. She belonged to a zamindar family in East Bengal which, on the 14th of August, became East Pakistan. On the 15th, she, along with her family, was still in her native place in Kumarkhali (in present day Khulna, Bangladesh). There was no celebration, no revelry. The minorities were still in a condition of shock and uncertainty about the Partition. A greater length of the Independence Day was spent with the adults discussing whether they should move to the West or stay back to face their fate. News of riots both in Hindu and Muslim localities were floating by, and the atmosphere was very tense. My grandmother did remember tuning into the Indian radio along with her siblings and listening to the first news of Independent India.
Thus, I would like to conclude in pointing the vast difference and diversity of the experiences of two young people (who happen to be a happy and grand old couple now) in two areas of the same province. Independence meant different things for different people, for some it was liberation, and for others, it meant suddenly becoming a foreigner in their own land with the stroke of a pen.