Friday, January 15, 2021

47. 84. 2020.

Walking through the tractor-trolley townships at Tikri and Singhu, one finds posters saying ‘Santali (47) Dekhi, Chaurasi (84) Dekhi. 2020 Dikhawange.’ Most of the youngsters who carry these posters on their tractors, trolleys and tents have only seen 47 and 84 through stories. But stories are powerful. We live in stories and stories live in us. However, there are some here, who define these posters.

Sardar Nachattar Singh Garewal was 13 years old at the time of partition. He remembers going with fellow villagers to walk Muslims from his village to the safety of camp Raikot. He remembers with much more clarity and detail his days in Nagpur during the pogrom of 84. He used to drive a truck and was on road when the killings started. He remembers parking his truck on roadside, removing a tyre, putting a jack and creating an impression of a broken vehicle. He remembers cutting his hair and beard. He remembers hiding in a Gurudwara and then hiding in cotton fields for days.

He isn’t hiding anymore. 84 Dekhi. 2020 Dikhawange. He stands tall, with his unions flag held high. He walks all day long chanting Inquilab Zindabad. As you approach and greet him, he breaks into a radiant smile and gives you hug, full of affection and kindness. And if you spend a few minutes with him, he makes you part of his story, he makes his story part of yours. And if you ask for a photo, he raises his flag and his arms, and his voice rings out Inquilab Zindabad. And when you say goodbyes, he embraces you in a hug again, a hug of brotherhood, a hug of blessing, a hug of memories, a hug for centuries, a hug for humanity.




No comments:


Sukhdev Singh is milking a buffalo when I call him. We are speaking after a long gap. His voice carries the same cheerful energy I remember....