See Zack’s note about this series. It also has an index of this series.
Our neighbour and his brother were Colonels in Maharaja’s army. They were on the border but their families were at home. Same day it came to be known that their families had planned to shift to some safer place. Our guardians requested them to take six minor children of our family with them: 3 cousins, my 2 older sisters and me.
During the next night, we were asked to quietly move to a military truck parked on the road keeping our heads low. We took with us some rice, flour, lentils, one liter tin of olive oil, one single-sized quilt and some money. We reached Jammu Cantonment, Satowari, and stayed in a military residence protected by 4 military men who did not stand around the house but lived in a room about 20 meters away from the house. Only one of them had a gun while armed rioters used to come in fifties. We lived there under fear of being murdered. Sometimes, after the sunset, we used to hear “Jai Hind” and “Sat Siri Akal”. Those nights particularly we used to pass under great fear, praying to Allah for help and security. Six of us used to sleep on a Namda (felt) 6 ft x 4 ft and one single size quilt over us not covering my head and feet, others were taller than me. Nights in those days were cold. Allah protected us otherwise we should have died of Pneumonia.
I and a cousin used to go for collecting fire wood. Till we returned our sisters used to stand behind the outer door and prayed for our safe return. I used to break and collect wood and he used to pull the bundle. Normally, we got dried cactus. My palms were full of thorn pricks.
The edibles and water being available in small quantity, each one of us used to eat one small piece of bread or a little rice with lentils. When olive oil was finished, we used to eat boiled rice with boiled lentils (no salt or pepper). When lentils were finished, we ate only boiled rice. Rice was about to finish and we were worried but Allah was kind. When I and my cousin went out looking for firewood, a burqa clad lady came near me and whispered, “Where are you living ?” She knew us. She followed us keeping a distance and entered some minutes after us. Having come to know of the food problem, she promised to arrange something. Her residence was half a mile away and an easy route. Two days later, I went to her residence with money and she gave me some lentils and rice.
In the end of October, the houselady informed us that Muslims in Poonchh, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad had started fighting on 24th October, 1947 for freeing the state and that fierce battle was going on between them and the state army.
During those days, the tap water was hardly sufficient for drinking in Jammu city as well as in the cantonment. So, we could not take bath for about one month. On 6th November 1947 (about noon), five of us boys went to take bath in the nearby Canal. We saw many clots of blood floating in the canal water. We got scared and rushed back. When we informed the people in the house about that, we were advised not to go out and not to open the outer door.
That afternoon, somebody knocked at the outer door hysterically. I was standing in the courtyard near the outer door. The lady of the house asked all the female members to go to the rear room, send the boys out and lock the room door from inside. She directed the boys to give me cover and signaled me to open the door. As I opened the door, a tall young man in his early 20s, wearing a sleeping suit rushed in, shouted, “Sab mur gayay” [everyone died], fell on his face and fainted. I closed the outer door immediately. The other boys rushed to the young man, turned him over and two of them screamed, “what happened?” Somebody sprinkled water on his face. He got up, shouted and fainted again. Then he was lifted and taken to the room and all children were ordered to leave the room. Only wives of the two colonels and the oldest boy remained inside. In the evening, we came to know that he was son of our neighbor’s elder brother who lived in Pthanan da mohallah. They had started for Pakistan in a caravan 6th November. All family except him was killed. He knew the way to our residence and had come hiding and running. He informed that a caravan had also gone on the previous day. This made us think that all our relations in Jammu were dead. So, we all started weeping and there was no one to console. We kept crying and did not eat anything. On evening of the next day, the two ladies, still sobbing, consoled us and gave us rice to eat.
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