Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
Pictures by Margaret Bourke-White

My last read was chilling, sobering, illuminating and perspective setting. It really puts ‪#‎firstworldproblems‬ into context.

The images… oh boy, the images.

Before I write about the book, let me give you some personal context. I wanted to read the book out of general interest but also to get a better insight of what happened to my parents’ generation. My father personally experienced the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

What is this “Partition”?

In a nutshell (as this is not a history lesson or a political discourse but a book review with context) it was the British authorities’ decision to split the British Indian Empire into the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (which later split into Pakistan and Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). Broadly, the partition was to divide colonial India into a state for the Hindus (India) and a state for the Muslims (Pakistan). But that is a very broad simplification. It affected Sikhs, Bengalis and even the small dialect group of the Sindhis in different degrees.

My family are Sindhis from the Hindu stock (I have since adopted Christianity as my religion and that is another story). My dad came from a wealthy family in Karachi (now in Pakistan). As Hindu Sindhis, the family had to leave *everything* as refugees and make their way across to India.

Most of Sindh’s prosperous middle class at the time of Partition of India and Pakistan were Hindu. There were an estimated 1,400,000 Hindu Sindhis, most of them concentrated in the cities of Hyderabad, Karachi, Shikarpur, and Sukkur.

According to the 1951 census of India, nearly 776,000 Sindhi Hindus (more than half) fled to India.

Initially it seemed that the Hindu Sindhis could stay and live peacefully with their Muslim brothers. However, the Hindu Sindhis were forced to leave their homes and everything they owned behind because of communal rioting and a threat to their lives. Most anti-Hindu violence in Sindh was precipitated by the arrival of Muslim refugees from India. The local Muslims, who had lived peacefully with the Sindhis did not support the violence.

But the Hindu Sindhis had to leave or potentially face death. As a result, The Hindu Sindhis left as penniless refugees to cross barren lands into India in search of rehabitation.

It’s no wonder the Sindhis are now found successfully surviving, and in many cases, thriving, all over the world. Forced into diaspora, but unlike the Jews, the Sindhis have no real “homeland” to return to.

Context done. Back to the book.

Train to Pakistan is a historical fiction that attempts to humanise the anguish of the people who experienced the Partition. The book is set in Mano Majra, the fictional village on the border of Pakistan and India.

Although the major change was political due to Britain’s splitting of India into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, the author did not write this to be a political narrative. Rather, it takes a fictitious small village and paints the picture of the realities of the Partition to everyday people.

The human effects of the political change were very real. In the book, Singh shows how religious groups who had lived peacefully with one another rearranged loyalties and clashed violently (and often fatally). The author does not take sides and makes it clear that many personalities played a part in the chaos of partition and many were equally worthy of blame. He stays away, and rightly so in my view, from blaming any particular group.

The book is chillingly juxtaposed against real life photos taken during the partition by Margaret Bourke-White.

Here are some of the images (PG Guidance advised).

Dead being transported.

Vultures picking on dead bodies.

Dead in the river.

(All images from the book)

Be thankful for what we have.

Is it worth a read? Yep.

 

 

Advertisements

Adorable. A little girl gets to play in the rain for the very first time. If we can, we should all create such moments – for others and for ourselves. Go.

EpicIf you’re given one chance, even if it comes at you from out of the blue, grab it with both hands and make it count like your life depended on it.

This guy did.

I don’t like using the word “epic” a lot. But I’m giving this guy the honour.

Delicious? Divine? What are the other adjectives?

Candy Crush Saga in Real Life

This is heartbreaking. I’m not a father but I’m sure most fathers that I know will do the same. Still, it’s heartbreaking. The girl will survive but without her natural parents.

I pray that she has good guardians to shepherd her through life.

Original Article:

TOKYO: A father froze to death while sheltering his nine-year-old daughter from severe weekend blizzards that swept northern Japan, two years after her mother died, reports said Monday.

Mikio Okada died as he tried to protect his only child Natsune against winds of up to 109 kilometres per hour, as temperatures plunged to minus 6 Celsius.

Okada was one of at least nine people killed in a spate of snow-related incidents as blizzards swept across Hokkaido island, police said Monday.

The latest confirmed victim was Kuniko Jingi, 76, who was found lying on the street late Saturday. As with many others, she appeared to have perished after leaving her stranded car, a local police officer said.

Okada’s body was uncovered by rescuers looking for the pair after relatives raised the alarm. Natsune was wearing her father’s jacket and was wrapped in his arms, newspapers and broadcasters said.

The pair had last been heard from at 4pm on Saturday, after fisherman Okada picked his daughter up from a school where she was being looked after while he was at work.

Okada called his relatives to say his truck had become stranded in the driving snow, which was several metres deep in places. He told them he and Natsune would walk the remaining kilometre, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The two were found just 300 metres from the truck at 7am on Sunday.

Okada was hunched over his daughter, cradling her in his arms and apparently using his body and a warehouse wall to provide shelter, the Yomiuri said.

He had taken his jacket off to give to the child, a broadcaster said.

Rescuers said she was weeping weakly in his arms, the paper said.

The young girl was taken to hospital where she was found to have no serious injuries. Her father was officially pronounced dead by doctors at the same institution near their home at Yubetsu on Hokkaido.

The Yomiuri said Natsune’s mother had died two years earlier from an unspecified illness.

The paper quoted neighbours as saying Okada had been a doting father who would often delay the start of his working day to enjoy breakfast with his daughter.

His death came as families all over Japan celebrated Girls’ Day, a festival in which they gather at home and decorate houses with dolls.

“He reserved a cake for his only daughter and was looking forward to celebrating Dolls’ Festival together,” a neighbour told the Yomiuri.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1257772/1/.html

Yeah, 1860. I enjoy reading about the history and heritage of Singapore and in fact have written 3 books related to Singapore’s heritage and I am now working on the 4th.

Image

View of Singapore River from Fort Canning, 1860 (Source: http://singaporesojourn.blogspot.sg/)

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore 1819 – 1867 by Charles Burton Buckley, which I am reading now:

Most Westerners led an unhurried but physically active life, going to bed early, rising at dawn, and walking or riding for an hour or two before breakfast. Offices opened about 1030am, and there was a break for a light luncheon, and for reading the newspapers which came out about midday. After gossipping at the Exchange, everyone returned for a couple of hours’ work before repairing to the cricket ground about 430pm. 

I can deal with that. Of course, this is the colonialist’s point of view. I would have loved to hear a parallel account from the locals. But I don’t think the coolies and dhobywallas ever wrote and published a book.

And it was never Youtubed. And I’m glad for that. I can exercise my imagination.

When I do something for my niece whom I love that makes her happy and I see her smile, I feel like a million dollars.

When I do something for friends whom I love and they smile, I feel like a million dollars.

I had a wonderful time last night with some friends whom I love. I felt like a million dollars.

Last Sunday, I saw a cute kid who gave me a wonderful smile. I felt like a million dollars.

I told her parents that their kid was beautiful. They beamed. I felt like a million dollars.

Last month, I wrote something that made people smile. I felt like a million dollars.

My only aim in life is to be a millionaire.