MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE – Part 4 REMEMBERING LIFE IN INDIA 1932-1947

DISTANCE TO MY MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL BASTI BAWA KHEL

DISTANCE TO MY MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL
BASTI BAWA KHEL (Map credits: Google Maps and Google Earth)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF BASTI SHEIKH DERVEISH

At the time when I was growing up in Basti Sheikh Derveish, I had neither the interest nor the knowledge of historical background of this place. I was too young to bother about such a subject. However, for this Blog, I made special effort to learn from a variety of sources, about the back ground of this Basti and other Bastis in and around.

To make it easier for the reader, let me put it, Basti Sheikh Derveish was established by Sheikh Derveish (or Pir Roshin) in 14th century, of Pashtun background, from the Burki Tribe “the district of Jalandhar is home to well established community of Pashtuns, dating back to at least the 14th century. The Bangash, Burki and Lodhi Tribes were closely connected with the district”.
“Traditions of the Burki tribe point settlement in the district in the 16th century. …After Jalandhar was burnt down by the Gurus of Kartarpur in 1757, Kot Khan Jahan was founded by Khan Jahan. This family was known as the Sadakhel: and other Burki Tribes include the Guz, Aliak and Babakhel. Communities of the Burki, in and around the city of Jalandhar were referred to as the basti”. (Wikipedia)
Further more, “The Babakhel Burki are said to have come from Kaniguram in South Wazirstan in 1617, accompanying Shaikh Darwesh (same as Sheikh Derveish), leader of the Roshaniya* (Pir Roshan) sect of Islam. They founded BASTI SHEIKH, having bought this land from the proprietors of Jalandhar. They also founded the town of BABAKHEL (same as BASTI BABA OR BAWA KHEL).

NOTE: The “Roshaniya” means “light or nlightenment”, as its leader had one focal teaching: “equality of every man and woman, which included the idea that based on birth no one could become a religious leader or King. These titles are to be earned in one’s life through hard work alone.” Pir Roshan had started a spiritual sect which believed in the transmigration of souls and in the representation of God through individuals.

BASTI GUZAN, according the same source (Wikipedia), “was founded in the time of the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, by three sons of Musa Khan of GUZ tribe. The Musa Khan had come with Sheikh Darwesh from Kaniguram, and had settled initially in BASTI SHAIKH. They afterwards bought land from the Lodhis and Sayyids and founded BASTI GUZAN”. (Wikipedia)

Pir Roshan’s movement “Roshaniyat” was a directly opposed to Moghal Emperor Akbar’s Deen-e-Elahi. If you think of views of Taliban of today in Afghanistan, it seems nothing has changed. The followers of Pir Roshan confronted Mughal Emperor Akbar and conflict took lives on both sides for a long time until peace agreement under Mughal Shah Jahan.

Other bastis (villages) included BASTI IBRAHIM KHAN, BASTI PIR DAD KHAN, BASTI SHAH QULI, BASTI DANISHMAND AND BASTI NAU.(Wikipedia)

In this blog, I may refer to only following Bastis: BASTI SHEIKH DERVAISH (DARWESH), BASTI GUZAN, BASTI BABA KHEL (same as BASTI BAWA KHEL). Pir Roshan, mentioned above, is buried in BASTI SHEIKH and I visited his tomb several times in my early teens. If you imagine a huge square (I mean actual square shape open space) in front of the tomb of Pir Roshan with four streets joining it at each corner. It was the place for all social gatherings, celebrations of religious and cultural events, and the gatherings of local Pathan women, I still remember how beautiful they were, well dressed and very fair colour. In the company of my mother, I would be a bit shy if any one tried to pat me or touch me. This Square was in the midst of residential areas all around it. NO MEN WERE ALLOWED IN THESE GATHERINGS.

MY GRANDMOTHER with me and my cousin Asraf

MY GRANDMOTHER
with me and my cousin Asraf

LIFE IN BASTI SHEIKH DURVEISH, JALANDHAR DISTRICT

When I learnt (much to my surprise) that I was born in the ’30s, yes, actually in 1932, but no one ever told me in which month or on what day or date, until I stumbled on a piece of yellow paper, containing family records, long after the death of my both parents, with a scribbling ” 19-08-1932″. I assure you it was not my writing, I mean it, nor it was in my father’s writing, he could not write or read, he never went to any school. The confirmation of the exact date of my birth, I felt so pleased, though after I was already 75+, that someone had the thoughtfulness to put down my date of birth. Now you understand why I was crying soon after my birth. Even my cries didn’t alert my parents to double check if the scriber noted down what he was told or he knew what date that day was. It is useless to worry about this issue now and take it as a fact.

Yes, I must have been born in Basti Sheikh Durveish, because my mother was staying at my grandmother’s place and my dad, I don’t where he was, don’t ask me too many questions. Let me tell you something else, my birth may not have made any difference in the population of India or of the World. No body would have thought what my future will be, do you think anyone could have anticipated that at age 15 I will be pushed out of India, for no fault of mine, leaving my place of birth, with uncertain future in a unknown country (Pakistan).

I really don’t know if there were any celebrations on my birth, there must be, I was the only child of my parents, my older brother had died at birth (that I learnt when I was a teen). I assure you I didn’t hear any other cries or commotion around me. It is so sad, I never met my older brother, no wonder I always felt lonely.

Don’t ask me why my mother gave birth at my grandmother’s place. I can only guess, it might have been a tradition in those days. Also, I don’t think my birth was in a hospital, it must have been with the help of a mid-wife, so commonly used in that part of the world. Besides, there was no hospital or a clinic in that town.

MY EARLY EDUCATION IN BASTI SHEIKH

My Primary or Elemntary schooling was in a local school, where I had four or five very close friends: Aman Ullah, Bazid, Ghani, Kheiratali, Saeed, Zafar and Akram (who became my best friend ever sine and still is, though in his late ’70s). I will talk about my friends as we go along. I got connected with all of them, one by one, after reaching Pakistan and remained in contact for a long time, even after my moving to Canada.

My eldest uncle Yacoub, whom I introduced in the beginning of MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE Part 1, had a magnificent three-storey house, highest in the whole Basti, with fascinating décor and paintings from Singapore where he had his shop. Because of the World War II years, most the paintings were of ships being hit by bombings on the sea or aeroplanes diving over the ships to attack. I always gazed with amazement but had no idea what that means. I had never seen an ocean or a ship or a military plane.

Around my uncle’s house, on two sides, the neighborhood (called Mohalla Talian) was a mixed of oil-pressers and “tonga” (horse driven carriage) drivers. My grandma’s house was two storey high, just a few yards away from my uncle’s house, with a toilet outside. There used to be strong smell of mustered seed oil pressing and its residue making strong nauseating smell as well as the horses (three of them I remember) and few goats producing their own smells and dirt around. I used to close my nose when either going to the toilet or passings through the Mohalla.

My grandfather had a shop, on the same street of my uncle’s house, I don’t know what he was selling but I had a problem to escape his shop in order to go to school. As soon as he would spot me sneaking away from his sight or shop, he would call me and start asking to do this, to do that, with no regard that I have to be at school at a fixed time. So, in order to avoid him catching me, I started going to a neighbor’s (oil pressing family) home, going up on their roof, jumping over next connected roof and another one and finally landing in a third or fourth house’s courtyard. This became a routine later on. Regardless all of this, I finished my Elementary school in Basti Sheikh.

SECONDARY AND HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

Nearest Middle and High school was at least 3 km away, in Basti Baba or Bawa Khel, an hour going and an hour coming back, passing many Bastis (notice the Map 2 above): Busti Guzan, Basti Danishmandan, Basti Nau. All these Bastis had special character, as I vaguely remember, some would be selling more of garments while others dry fruit and or stationary etc. It was a routine to pass through these Bastis as fast as I could in order to reach school on time. No fooling around or wasting time, distracted by commotions or heckling by customers on the shops.

I don’t remember exactly when we finally moved to Jalandhar City where my parents had built a house so that we could finally leave my grandmother’s place for good. Before I forget, there few important and memories to mention and share with you:

DRACULA MAD AND SCARY WOMAN
Whenever I had to got to secondary school, I had to pass a house on the way where an old mad woman was chained (hands and feet) in the middle of the room, chains long enough for her to move around yet not able to reach the door or the window. She would look very scary and shouting most of the time, running around within the room. If she could reach any one of us, I think, she would have killed any one of us. So scary looks, like Dracula. Walking by that house, we would irritate her and she would become so ferocious that we would run away. This would give us shivers seeing her yelling and making horrible faces to scare us.

GRANDMA’S HAUNTED HOUSE
Equally strange was another house, owned by my grandparents, abandoned for the reason that it was a “haunted house” as my grandmother explained to me. I became very curious to find out what that means, although she did explain that things used disappear before her eyes and funny tricks were in play that finally pushed them from that house. But the house remained as grandparents property but never inhabited or used. Curiosity always pushed me to see through the cracks of the old door but remained a bit cautious and scared not knowing what Jin means and what to expect.

THE DARK ALLEY
Just around the corner of my grandma’s house, especially in the evening, municipal worker used to light the oil lamp to lighten the dark street. If the Municipal worker did not light that lamp, the corner would be very dark and scary. I would imagine that someone is hiding there, so I would shiver to think who could be there. Thinking of robbers was a common thinking.

MY GRANDMA’ SNAKE PIT UNDER THE STAIR
I used to be scared of rats running around in the dark room, as if they were playing cricket. I would always lighten an oil lamp for my reading and doing school work, but worried of rats. All old houses in the neighborhood had rats, nothing alarming, just normal.
However, one time when I built a small cage for my buggies (little beautiful birds) and had one to occupy that cage, with the intent that the bird in the cage will call other buggies, either flying over or around my grandma’s place, will be drawn to the cage, once they try to join the bird inside, they get trapped, thus I will have the bird to my collection. In no time, from a single bird I caught several more through the trap of my cage.
One hot and steamy night, the cage was placed hanging on the wall, above my head, as it was usual and safe place for the birds. In the middle of night, there was too much of fluttering of these poor buggies inside the cage that woke me up. To my horror, I found a snake sitting on top of the cage and trying to reach them, while buggies were hitting all around the cage inside. I was so scared, so were my mother and grandmother. However, I suggested that someone should kill the snake, my grandma told us “No Way”, no body is going to kill that snake. It didn’t do any harm to any one. She took that snake carefully rolled around a stick and she let that snake go back to its snake pit, under the staircase where wood for burning was stocked. She knew well that there lives a snake but it has never harmed any one in the family. That is why she would not allow anyone to harm that little snake. My grandma and my mother were the kindest human beings in my life that I ever had.

NOTE: Only now I can imagine how a snake had entered my grandma’s house to start with. There was a drainage going from the kitchen area toward the back of the house, a dark deserted lane, that also used to scare me, a snake may have entered the house and found good place to hide under the stairwell, without any body noticing.

These two situations got logged into the depth my memory leaving deep mark, affecting my later life having nightmares, sometime very scary. DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER SCARY SITUATIONS ANY MORE.