HOW AN 84 YEAR OLD GRANDFATHER BECAME A TOP REVIEWER AND BLOGGER –  by Sheri Allain 

It is beautiful every direction

BADEN BADEN – THE BEAUTIFUL

HOW AN 84 YEAR OLD GRANDFATHER BECAME A TOP REVIEWER AND BLOGGER

Most seniors aren’t comfortable with technology and social media. But then, Sabir Shakeel isn’t most seniors. His personal story would make for an incredible movie:

As an only-child in Pakistan, he narrowly escaped death when forced to flee Kasauli in the India/Pakistan Partition war (Aug. 1947) with his father and his uncle. Years later, his brilliant mathematical mind earned him a scholarship to the Athens Technological Institute, Athens, Greece followed by further study in the United States (Univ. of Chicago and Univ. of California at Berkeley) where he met his wife, a similarly brilliant scholar who had also fled her war-torn home of Palestine. They re-located to Canada 50 years ago, where Mr. Shakeel had a 22-year career as a Research Specialist (Provincial Gov. of Ontario) and welcomed three sons and 8 grandchildren.

But long after his retirement and at the ripe old age of 79, Mr. Shakeel taught himself how to blog and to use social media. Today, as a newly-minted 84 (now 86) year old, his achievements over the past 5 years include:
205,000 (now 310,000) global readers on TripAdvisor (aka “the world’s largest travel site”)
Top Ranked ‘Level 6’ TripAdvisor Contributor based on reviews of 35 cities. He’s a ‘TRIPLE EXPERT’ with reviews on Hotels (40 now 53), Restaurants (73 now 89) & Attractions (88 now 102)
17,752+ Reviews on his personal blog focused on senior travel, 80steps.WordPress.com
90,049 Reviews on About.me/gs32ca

As a digital marketer myself, I know how incredibly hard it is to succeed as a blogger and online influencer. Despite Mr. Shakeel’s age and lack of experience with digital media, some important lessons emerge from his personal achievements:

1) Don’t Be Afraid To Create Your Voice:

As Mr. Shakeel said: Since I had never written anything before, I took a challenge to “re-invent myself” from a Research Specialist for 22 years in the Government service to a “Reviewer, Blogger”.

After he wrote a few reviews, it was the encouragement of daughter-in-law #3, Asra, that convinced him to continue. She said that: “I write from my heart felt view, reaction or opinion” of things and places. I took her sincere assessment seriously and promised to keep going if I could.”

2) Share Your Passion on the Right Sites

Mr. Shakeel’s long-held love for photography is perfectly combined with his passion for travel. As he re-tells it:

After my retirement in August 1997 from the Government of Ontario, I was assessing how to keep
myself busy, besides travelling around that included countries (now over 55), cities (585 to date) and places of interest such as historical places (e.g. Wonders of the World), resorts etc. Travelling became a permanent undertaking that also fuelled my photographic interest which started way back when I was a teen, with a small camera (Kodak Baby Brownie). Since 1949 to date, I have had over a dozen cameras. Taking pictures became an obsession.

By combining his dual passions – photography and travel – on a social platform like TripAdvisor that is specifically designed for both, Mr. Shakeel has been able to amplify his exposure and his audience.

3) Be Consistent and Committed
As his readership continued to grow, it inspired Mr. Shakeel to keep going. At last count, he had TripAdvisor readers from 77 countries and 19,000+ WordPress blog posts.

His contributions are only limited by his ability to travel or TripAdvisor regulations on review frequency. In his own words: “If I am travelling, I take full advantage of new places to cover in reviews”. This typically means daily and weekly posts, including dozens of photo shares.

4) Share Because You Care
When asked whether he’s received any personal benefits as a result of being a Top Rated blogger and reviewer on TripAdvisor, the answer is a resounding “no”. Nor does he have advertising on his personal sites — something that many bloggers advocate doing.

His personal satisfaction comes from reaching readers around the world, seeing his reviews translated into multiple languages and receiving comments of gratitude from his readers.

His final words:
“BE HONEST IN YOUR REVIEWS, NO PREJUDICE, NO MALICE. Sheer response is the most rewarding REWARD.”

View SABIR SHAKEEL on about.me, your personal page with a purpose.
SABIR SHAKEEL uses about.me to show people what matters most to them.

about.me| SABIR SHAKEELHOW AN 84 YEAR OLD GRANDFATHER BECAME A TOP REVIEWER AND BLOGGER

PHOTOS by: SabirShakeel I Photography


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It is beautiful every direction

BADEN BADEN – THE BEAUTIFUL

This is the way to Friedrichsbad Spa

BADEN BADEN the way to Friedrichs

Either you the stairs up and then down or go right >>>

BADEN BADEN stairs up to discover more

Kurhaus complex, another statue playing

BADEN BADEN Kurhaus complex, another statue playing

Young musicians in midst of boutiques in Goetheplatz

BADEN BADEN Young musicians in midst of boutiques in Goetheplatz

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PRADISSUS CANCUN

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RIU GUANACASTE Costa Rica

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2014-06-15 Izmir-Bursa & Istanbul, Turkey19

WOW Gumbet-Bodrum, Turkey - Collage 2015-737

WOW Gumbet-Bodrum, Turkey – Collage 2015-737

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TORONTO MUSIC GARDENS – my favorite picture of “serenity”

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Sugar Beach area up to Brown College

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Toronto Music Gardens on the Queens Quay West and the Toronto Yacht Club

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Toronto Music Gardens on the Queens Quay West

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Looking East past Spadina Ave.

 

 

 

MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE 3 – SAFE PASSAGE DEADLOCKED

BEAS RAILWAY STATION Photo credit: Beas Railway Station

BEAS RAILWAY STATION
Photo credit: Beas Railway Station

BEAS (RIVER) RAILWAY STATION – SAFE PASSAGE DEADLOCKED

In the last part of My Journey of Fear and Hope, we were almost ready to leave Kalka Railway Station, after we had dis-possessed ourselves of our worldly possessions that we thought were precious to us when leaving Kasauli, after all we were not the owners of our places of residence. I am not sure, if there were some residents of Kasauli who owned their properties. Needless to say, I grew up knowing that my uncle was the richest man in Muslim community of Kasauli. Our luggage had the most expensive items packed in a few baggage hold-alls with and folded securely in top quality expensive carpets. I had prepared them so that no one could un-pack them. Nothing helped, I saw them piled up with other luggage on the platform.

The platform with a mountain of surrendered personal luggage of Kasauli Muslims made everyone to shed tears for the last time when the train was continuously whistling to move any moment. I was very sad to see
everything left behind on the Platform, including a small carry-on suitcase filled with Qurans (Holy Books).

Us and all other refugees who joined us in the Kalka camp, were empty handed with nothing to claim that they were the nationals of India by birth, being shipped against their will to a new country with uncertain future, if any. Also, we had a complete trust on the British Officer-in-Charge that he will obtain Safe Passage for us until we have reached the new country called Pakistan.

The train left slowly the Kalka Railway Station, while Kalka was under curfew, around noon I remember. From Kalka the newly created border between India and Pakistan, which we had to cross, was about 250 km. No idea how long it will take.

Along the train route from Kalka to the border, were other important Railway Stations that I remembered well, including Ludhiana, Jalandhar City (previously called Jullundur City, Punjab), my hometown where my mother was residing at that time. Other towns, Adampur (in Haryana District) I remember very well, as I had visited it with my parents. It was the birthplace of my uncle Rehman’s wife. My uncle was in Singapore at that time, had only one son, Ashraf, adopted by my mother. My uncle died in Singapore in 1980 and is buried there (He kept his Pakistani citizenship until his death) . His son, Ashraf, also died in 2012 and buried in Singapore. (Photo below)

MY COUSIN ASHRAF with HIS GRANDDAUGHTER KINZA

MY COUSIN ASHRAF with
HIS GRANDDAUGHTER KINZA

Ashraf left a big family in Singapore (Ausman who died in 2005), Zohra Khatoon, Zarina Khatoon, Faridha Khatoon, Akhtar Khan and Rahat Bano – all have Singapore Citizenship).

MY COUSIN ASRAF's FAMILY IN SINGAPRE

MY COUSIN ASRAF’s FAMILY IN SINGAPRE

Also, from Adampur came my uncle Sharif’s father. My Uncle Sharif had two daughters (Mussart who lived and died in Germany, and Farhat Jabeen, now living in Saudi Arabia) and five sons (Tariq, Khalid, Nasir, Asif and Arif, all have Pakistani/British Citizenships) who are still in touch with me until to day. Here is an old picture of my uncle Sharif’s family:

UNCLE SHARIF'S FAMILY PICTURE TAKEN IN 1959

UNCLE SHARIF’S FAMILY PICTURE TAKEN IN 1959

Amritsar was another City on the route which I remembered visiting twice. First time when my aunt got married to a gentleman (Ibrahim, father of Asghar, Akbar and Afzal) from Amritsar, and second time in the early fifties when I visited Amritsar City after I had settled in Lahore (Pakistan), on a trip with other colleagues from our workplace. I remember visiting The Golden Temple there, a place I fondly remembered thereafter, how polite were the caretakers to welcome us (me and my friends).

Our train, when promised to be accorded safe passage, is like a foreign embassy, to be protected by the national government where it is located. So we had reason to believe that we are in a British Embassy, to be entitled full protection from our enemies, if any. Indians were not our enemies, we ourselves were Indians, except that our national birthrights were transferred to a new country – Pakistan, against and without consent.

The train from Kalka Railway Station was a high speed train, very fast according to the Indian standard. It made the distance to shrink and in two hours, we were in BEAs Railway Station, just close to Amritsar.

Why BEAS, I don’t know, except what I think now, the BEAS was an isolated Railway Station, need of the time was to WELCOME Hindus coming from Pakistan, displaced by the Partition and also, BEAS was well located to say a GOODBY to Muslims leaving India under the exchange of population, involving 10 millions: 6 millions Muslims and 3 millions Hindus and one million lost their lives.

By 2:00 pm , on Sep. 9, 1947, we were at the BEAS Railway Station. Not excited by any means, we were quite exhausted by the hardships we had already endured. In the train, we were packed like animals, not enough place to move or give break to tired limbs. We were tightly seated and still there were others sitting on the floor of the train, between our feet. By this time, there were four deaths, natural. Their bodies were taken out of the carriages and placed on empty rail track next our train. One of these four dead was leaning on my legs. NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE TRAIN.

By the sight of BEAS Railway Station and its security guards all around on the roofs and high grounds, we felt insecure and indeed very intimidated, sending shivers in our spine. No body was willing to share with us, the 1,500 to 2,000 passengers, what is going on, why are we stopped here. Time was the essence of our survival. How long are we to stay, NO BODY KNEW.

We waited and waited, no word from anyone, no one was allowed to de-board the train, no body was on the platform (as it was under curfew) and no one could step on the platform from the train – time was ticking and western lights were changing color and everyone was thinking of the worst. From 2:00 to 5:00 pm, we were tormented with a feeling that all the guns on the roof of the BEAS Railway Station and nearby high areas were in fact aimed at us, only told around 5:00 pm, NOT TO PROTECT US BUT TO SHOOT AT US. The British Officer-in-Charge was hurrying around from platform to Station Master’s Office, calling and calling to whom, I wouldn’t know. I was more concerned from which side sharp shooter will kill me and my father. I was ducking without know the end. Feeling sorry for my father, sitting next to me, I could not share my uneasiness. To collected myself, I asked my father if he was hungry, thinking we all are to die soon, he should eat something. I got off the train, not on the platform side, where I had seen one villager form Haryana, from our own train, was sitting on the empty tracks, next to our train, and cooking something. I begged her to give something for my father, she was not responsive. I was getting uneasy, because we were not allowed to be out of the train. I told her that I will pay Rs. 10 for handful of uncooked rice and also reminding her that if we are all killed, nothing will help her or to us all. She felt mercy for my plea and gave me handful of uncooked rice (try how much rice your hand can hold). I got back to my seat and offered my father if he could chew.

Time was the essence for our survival as we learnt our whole train will be a graveyard of dead bodies. It so happened that a train coming from Pakistan that entered BEAS Railway Station a day earlier came with not a single human being alive. All its passenger were cut into pieces, such a brutality from the extremists from Pakistan. Therefore, AS A REVENGE WE HAVE TO PAY THE PRICE OF THAT BRUTALITY.

The British Officer-in-Charge was getting the picture clearly that if he fails to obtain permission to take the train out of BEAS Railway Station, and I saw him getting more and more nervous and angry, there will be a slaughter in no time. From inside the train, my eyes were glued on his movement when he shouted on those who were outside the train, saying: GET IN, GET IN. As we later learnt, he got 10 minutes to move out of the BEAS Railway Station as it was getting dark. We heard the whistling of the train and felt slow movement of the train, yet not sure we can make it. Not if were out of danger. NEVER CAME SO CLOSE TO DEATH IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Once out of the BEAS Railway Station, the train picked up speed and we were not very far, may be 30 minutes away from the border of India and Pakistan. Once we crossed AMRITSAR Railway Station, without stopping, next came the Indian Border Post and train continued to other side – the WAHGA Border of Pakistan. WE MADE IT.

There is no way I can describe the reaction, at that moment, in the loudest voices everyone saying ALLAH O AKBAR, ALLAH O AKBAR, PAKISTAN ZINDABAD, PAKISTAN ZINDABAD all crying with happiness that they made it alive.

OURS WAS THE FIRST TRAIN THAT ENTERED LAHORE ON SEP. 9, 1947, WITHOUT BLOODSHED AND HUMAN LOSS, EXCEPT OF FOUR NATURAL DEATHS, I mentioned earlier.

IT WAS MY STORY OF SURVIVAL AND ENTERING A COUNTRY THAT I HAD NEVER KNOWN, AGAIN AND AGAIN NEW FEARS STARTED COMING TO MY MIND. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN THAT WE HAVE GOT A NEW COUNTRY. TO START ALL OVER AGAIN, ANOTHER LIFE OF UNCERTAINTIES ???

POSTSCRIPT: IN MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE, Part 1 and 2, many of the people mentioned have passed away but their memories are alive. To mention a few and dedicate this blog to their memory:

1- My uncle Yacoub, mentioned in the Background of Part 1, died in 1961 in Faisalabad, where he was visiting his old friends from India, had settled. His body was brought to Karachi (I was grief stricken by the site of him come in a coffin) and he was buried in Karachi, Pakistan.

MY UNCLE YACOUB ON THE RIGHT AND HIS BROTHER HUSSAIN ON THE LEFT

MY UNCLE YACOUB ON THE RIGHT AND HIS BROTHER HUSSAIN ON THE LEFT WITH THEIR WIVES STANDING BEHIND THEM

2- My cousin Bashir who held my hand all the way from Kasauli to Kalka via the 33 km walk on the mountain road, died in Sheikhupura, Punjab, Pakistan, where he is buried. (Photo below)

MY COUSIN BASHER & HIS WIFE. BOTH WERE WITH ME ON THE JOURNEY

MY COUSIN BASHER & HIS WIFE. BOTH WERE WITH ME ON THE JOURNEY

3- My cousin Ameen and his wife died in Karachi, Pakistan and buried there. (Photo below)

MY COUSIN AMIN AND HIS WIFE WHO WERE ALSO WITH ME ON THE  JOURNEY

MY COUSIN AMIN AND HIS WIFE WHO WERE ALSO WITH ME ON THE JOURNEY

4- My cousin Ameen’s only child (3 years old) at that time of Partition, mentioned in the Blog Part 1, Najma Parveen is in her 70s, living in Lahore and have a family of 3 sons: Asad, Yasir, Saad and a daughter: Amna. All these four are Canadian citizen, Yasir is in Dubai, Saad is in Saudi Arabia and others are in Canada. (Photo below)

NAJMA PARVEEN (was 3 years old at the time of Partition) NOW IN HER 70s. WITH HER SON SAAD

NAJMA PARVEEN (was 3 years old at the time of Partition) NOW IN HER 70s. WITH HER SON SAAD

NAJMA PARVEEN WITH HER HUSBAND (LUQMAN) AND HER SON ASSAD & HIS WIFE AND HER DAUGHTER AMNA WITH HER HUSBAND AND THEIR BABY

NAJMA PARVEEN WITH HER HUSBAND (Luqman) AND THEIR SON ASSAD, HIS WIFE (Seema Shahjahan) WITH THEIR NEWLY BORN DAUGHTER, AND THEIR DAUGHTER AMNA WITH HER NEWLY BORN SON

MY GRAND FATHER AND MY ELDEST AUNT – LEFT IN INDIA

My grandfather (Ghulam Nabi) died in the early 1940s, in Basti Sheikh Dervaish, Jullundur City,India and is buried in the same town, in our family graveyard. Another person buried in the same graveyard is my aunt (Karim Bibi), eldest sister of my mother, whose funeral and burial I still remember vividly. I am not sure if the picture below I took or someone else. However, my grandfather and grandmother in the picture are at the burial of my eldest aunt (Kareem Bibi), mother of Allah Ditta who is living in Karachi, Pakistan in his 70s now.

MY GRANDPARENTS - MY GRANDFATHER (Ghulam Nabi) AND GRANDMOTHER (Sultan Bibi)

MY GRANDPARENTS – MY GRANDFATHER (Ghulam Nabi) AND GRANDMOTHER (Sultan Bibi)


>>>>>
RELATIVES WHO PASSED AWAY AFTER ARRIVAL IN PAKISTAN

5- My grand mother (Sultan Bibi) died on Jul. 14, 1961 and buried in Nazimabad Graveyard, Karachi, Pakistan.
6- My mother (Azizah Begum) died on Oct. 1, 1969 in Karachi and she is buried their in Nazimabad Graveyard, Karachi, Pakistan, next to my Grand Mother.

MY MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER ARE BURRIED SIDE-BY-SIDE IN KARACHI

MY MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER ARE BURRIED SIDE-BY-SIDE IN KARACHI

7- My father died on Aug. 18, 1978 at the age of 93, in Munianwala, Chak 198 RB, Faisalabad District, Pakistan
and he is buried in his ancestral village (Munianwala) where his eldest and two younger brothers are also buried. My father’s eldest brother died at the age of 108.

MY PARENTS BEFORE MY LEAVING TO GREECE

MY PARENTS BEFORE MY LEAVING TO GREECE

MY FATHER'S PICTURE WHEN MY PARENTS LIVED IN NNAZIMABAD DURING MY STUDIES IN GREECE

MY FATHER’S PICTURE WHEN MY PARENTS LIVED IN NNAZIMABAD DURING MY STUDIES IN GREECE

MY MOTHER'S LAST PICTURE THAT I TOOK, IN KARACHI. SHE WAS VERY SICK AND I HAD TO LEAVE FOR MY TEACHING APPOINTMENT IN USA. SHE ASKED ME TAKE HER PICTURE BECAUSE I WOULD'T SEE  HER AGAIN. SHE DIED WITHIN A MONTH.

MY MOTHER’S LAST PICTURE THAT I TOOK, IN KARACHI.
SHE WAS VERY SICK AND I HAD TO LEAVE FOR MY TEACHING APPOINTMENT IN USA. SHE ASKED ME TAKE HER PICTURE BECAUSE I WOULD’T SEE HER AGAIN. SHE DIED WITHIN A MONTH.

MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE (MENTIONED ABOVE) WHO ARE NOT WITH US TO DAY. My cousin, Anwar is living in Catonville, Maryland (USA), in his 80s (older than me by 6 months only) in good health.

REVIEWS:

FIRST REVIEW OF MY BLOG by SHERI ALLAIN

FIRST REVIEW OF MY BLOG by SHERI ALLAIN

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

LEENA WROTE

LEENA WROTE

HIBA SHA'ATH WROTE

HIBA SHA’ATH WROTE

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

BEAS RAILWAY STATION Photo credit: The Tribune of India

BEAS RAILWAY STATION
Photo credit: The Tribune of India

MILLIONS ON THE MOVE

MILLIONS ON THE MOVE

PAKISTAN BORDER ONLY HALF AN HOUR AWAY, YET TOO FAR Photo credit: Salman Tahir

PAKISTAN BORDER ONLY HALF AN HOUR AWAY, YET TOO FAR
Photo credit: Salman Tahir

MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE 2 KALKA RAILWAY PLATFORM

PLATPERSONAL JOURNEY OF FEAR & HOPE - Part 2 Photo credit: Google Maps & Panoramio mehrab 15262

KALKA RAILWAY STATION – THE PLATFORM OF DESPAIR
DEPARTING EMPTY HANDS

After a tiring and exhausting stay in a military compound (I called it a “Refugee Camp”), bare of any tree except one, wet and cold (due to rains) during all our stay of about 10 days, hungry most of the time due shortage of food and nothing to cook (wet twigs or wet leaves wouldn’t light the fire) and barbed wire fence enclosing our ground (as if we were some sort of animals). I still question “how we survived”. I, for one, did escape without thinking of my fate, slipping from under the barbed fence, not thinking what if I don’t make it back. I was so desperate to eat something if I am not shot dead, if apprehended as a Muslim. I did buy some “samosas and pakoras” ( vegetable fritters) from a Hindu shop owner, for myself, my father and cousins, as we always had done in our good days. On my return, I managed to make an excuse and apologised from the guard at the Camp entrance, who let me in back, may be having soft heart under the circumstances. Thereafter, I never even dared to take a chance.

In spite of all this, I admire the efforts of British Officer-in-Charge responsible for our evacuation. His commitment and his own life was also online. Remember, the four Muslim Cadets under training who provided us security all the way from Kasauli to Kalka via 33km walk on foot, taking the mountain path, all the way downhill.

Finally the day came when the British Officer-in-Charge announced that we have to move out of the Camp on Sep. 9, 1947 and will head to Pakistan by train. All our luggage was loaded in military trucks and we were ordered to march to the Kalka Railway Station, in orderly manner, escorted by soldiers.

On arrival at the Kalka Railway Station, we were lead to a Platform where our luggage was piled up high. We were ordered to pick up our luggage from the pile and transfer it to the train compartment of our choice, which we did. However, depair was smilingn on our fate, when after loading the luggage, more than half of the people were outside the train without any seating. Came an order from the British Officer-in-Charge to take all the luggage out of the train compartments, which we did, though exhausted for doing so. Next order came,now settle down in the compartments. Voila, every body was in. Announcement was clearly heard: NO LUGGAGE WILL BE ALLOWED TO GO. THIS MEANT, LEAVING EMPTY HANDS OF EVERY POSESSION WE EVER HAD IN OUR LIFE TIME IN INDIA.

BEING SHOCKED, NO ONE TALKING, JUST SULKING AND TEARS ROLLING DOWN TO UNCERTAIN FUTURE ….

REVIEWS:

LEENA MALIK'S REVIEW OF MY BLOG

LEENA MALIK’S REVIEW OF MY BLOG

MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE – PARTITION OF INDIA, AUG. 14, 1947

PARTITION OF INDIA, AUG. 14, 1947

>>>IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FROM LAYLA (OUR GRANDDAUGHTER)

The above map is an exact mountain dirt path from Kasauli to Kalka, that we followed to escape. Thanks to the latest GPS Apps (Apple and Google Maps) that has helped me in mapping and to relive what I went through.

CURRENT VIEW OF KASAULI Photo credit: Google Maps

CURRENT VIEW OF KASAULI
Photo credit: Google Maps

1 – KASAULI TO KALKA IN INDIA
MOUNTAIN ROAD ESCAPE ROUTE

Background: I was with my uncle Yaqub and is family in Kasauli Hill (a hill resort) in Himachal Pradesh, India, where my uncle had a well established shop: French Wear House, alternating between, Simla Hill (Summer Capital of India in British time) , Kasauli Hill and New Delhi, all in India. My uncle’s family in Kasauli, included his three sons (Bashir, Amin and Anwar) and the wives of two married ones, plus a youngest member named Najma Parveen (b. Apr. 27, 1944, living in Lahore). While my father was also in Kasauli, living in my uncle’s place (a huge Villa with 4-5 bedrooms), my mother was back in Jullundur city, from where she migrated to Pakistan with her own ordeal, a separate story. Suffice to say, my uncle had a very big house in Kasmiri Mohallah, in Kasauli, and he was well respected in Kasauli for his philanthropy to Hindu Temples and Indian Arts and Music. I myself enjoyed several of Temple festivals of dance and music whenever I accompanied with him or family members.

In August 1947, soon after the declaration of Partition of India into Bharat and Pakistan, we, the residents of Kasauli were told (via local Radio Broadcast, I am not sure though) that we will be evacuated from Kasauli to Pakistan and safe passage will be provided. In early Sep. we were notified that we should assemble on the grounds of Anglican Church of Kasauli, built in 1853, from where we will be evacuated to safety. Once we assembled, with our limited but valuable luggage, at the appointed place, the British Commander-In-Charge of our evacuation addressed us and laid out the ‘evacuation strategy’, meaning, that those who are able to walk will go by mountain road, accompanied by 4 Cadets Trainees as security guards, all the way to Kalka Railway Station, 24 km away downhill. The remaining ones, that included women, older men, and children, will follow the following day in trucks, via regular paved road from Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) to Kalka Railway Station (Harayana).

ANGLICAN CHURCH OF KASAULI

ANGLICAN CHURCH OF KASAULI

“Christ’s Church is situated on the busiest street of the town, the Mall Road. Constructed during the British era in Gothic style architecture, the grand church is amongst famous tourist attractions of the town. It is one of the prominent churches of the hill station. Dedicated to St. Francis and St. Barnabas, the Anglican Church was constructed in the year 1884. Church is constructed in the shape of a cross, built by the British families that laid the foundation of Kasauli town in year 1842.The heritage church features a clock tower and a sundial in the front. There is a cemetery along with the church with graves dating back to 1850s and earlier.
The Anglican Church was previously managed by the Church of England till the year 1970, when Churches of North India (CNI) took over the management. The church is situated on the Lower Mall, which is at a walking distance from the main bus stand.” (Photo and text credit: Wikipedia)

About 200-250 (approximately) of us started our march from the Anglican Church compound, before noon, I remember, following our guides, four Muslim Cadets who were the Trainees at the British Cadets Training Academy in Kasauli, who divided themselves into two: two up front of 250+ of us and two at the back of the long line, winding along the mountain dirt road, close to the crest. Being in the front 10 lines with my cousin, I don’t remember if I saw the end of our entire group, skirting around the mountain and winding road. I It was 33 km walk downhill all the way, stopping for security reasons. The 4 Cadets put their lives on line to make it sure that we make it to our destination safely in Kalka. It took us 10 hours in all to enter Kalka where we faced our first attack by the Hindu extremists.

Kalka was put under curfew so that we could pass through safely to a military camp ground outside the town. I (just turned 15 years old – 5 days after the announcement of the Partition, at that time, and the only child of my parents) was holding hand of my first cousin Bashir, when we heard an ear piercing sound and saw thick smoke, that set us apart with fear and a break in our 4 men file formation. There was awful smell from the thick smoke. It turned out that a grenade was hurled from inside the side street (though under curfew around 10:00 pm) which hit the huge tree at the corner of the street, missing the target, i.e., us. We kept walking, though terrified and apprehensive, after that incidence until our destination, the camp ground.

On reaching our destination in Kalka, the camp ground, we were ordered to relax at that place until next day when our dear ones, who were left behind to follow us by trucks, join us. This so called camp ground, had 3 ft. high grass all over, due to recent rains in the valley. Being dead tired, the minute we lied down, we were completely covered by the grass. Moreover, there was cold mountain water running under our backs and yet we slept like dead, so tired we were. Only next morning we saw the scene where we spent the night.

Following day, we had nothing to eat or drink. However, some of us had food brought with us in Tiffin carriers for our families to survive until we get ration of some sort wherever we are stationed.

Another tragedy struck us when we learnt that our dear ones, who were evacuated via road, were also attacked by the Hindu extremists, when they learnt that evacuation of Muslims is under way. There was no loss of life but one truck full of luggage was destroyed by the attackers. British Commander-in-Charge had anticipated all that, that is why the luggage trucks were placed at the front, to avoid loss of life.

Saddest news hit us on the third day when we learnt that all four Cadets who had safely evacuated us, were shot dead back in Kasauli by the angry Hindu extremists. It was sad to see yesterday’s friends turning to strangers over night. It was on both sides I suppose.

We stayed about 10 days in the Kalka Camp, until the Muslims were evacuated from the surrounding villages in Harayana District. During our stay (10 days) in the barbed open field camp at the foot of the mountains was not a place to be, feeling as a cattle yard, guarded by soldiers, no structure within sight, rain every day, no facilities to cook or even make a cup of tea, worst of all, with tree branches and wet leaves none of us could make fire to prepare anything. Besides, the British Commander-in-Charge was doing his best to protect everyone’s life but his hands were tied and situation was turning bad to worse by the day, no evacuation in sight.

REVIEWS:

FIRST REVIEW OF MY BLOG by SHERI ALLAIN

FIRST REVIEW OF MY BLOG by SHERI ALLAIN

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

REVIEW BY SEEMA SHAHJAHAN

KALKA RAILWAY STATION Photo credit: Google Maps

KALKA RAILWAY STATION
Photo credit: Google Maps

KALKA RAILWAY STATION PLATFORM Photo credit: Google Earth and Panoramio

KALKA RAILWAY STATION
PLATFORM
Photo credit: Google Earth and Panoramio

SCENE OF REFUGEES TRAINS AT BEAS RAILWAY STATION Photo credit: Tribune, India

SCENE OF REFUGEE TRAINS AT BEAS RAILWAY STATION
Photo credit: Tribune, India

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