In Exile20 mins 9.1K 20 mins 9.1K
Those were the summers of ’47.Probably more intense than usual, in fact such heat had not been
observed earlier.The Sun was at blistering peak as usual but what was unusual that the people
below the Sun were defeating it. It was a competition going on that who could turn the Ravi and
Beas waters blood red.
Dr. Arun khanna was a noble soul in Sheikhpura of Lahore. He joined Lahore Medical College
and obtained an MBBS degree, along with girlfriend Dr. Rachna Agarwal,who soon became Dr.
Rachna Khanna by blessings of both the families.They opened a clinic there and were enjoying
happy personal and professional life. God soon bestowed them with a lovely daughter named
But the temperature was rising.The well respected Doctor couple who saved many life and
provided happiness to neighbours there, were facing it.The number of patients at clinic were
dwindling. Many a times when they opened the clinic at morning, they got broken window glass,
stones, pieces of papers etc, one day a warning was written on a paper “Leave the Pakistan or
leave this world.”
Situation was worsening, now stone and papers were not being hurled but warnings were being
issued by loudspeakers “Listen everyone…… the Kaafirs in Lahore, either you embrace Islam or
just leave from here to your Gandhi’s and Nehru’s Hindustan.” Rachna trembled and said
“something is happening here…daily…..should we leave?….”,she could not complete the
sentence, Dr. Arun interrupted “ You people can think anything…..absurd…....Why we or for
that matter,anybody should leave? We have been living here for 200-300 years, why will we go?
Then he became calm and said “these are bad times, this phase will be over.” He didn’t speak
this firmly as he had seen many stones, broken glass and piece of papers in last few days, but he
had some faith in humanity….
Next day, that was also broken. Some people set afire their clinic last night. When the couple
reached there to open the clinic,they got the shock of their life. Chairs, tables, stretchers,
medicines all were burnt down. Dr. Arun was completely shaken, could not utter a single word
and knelt down. His parents and Rachna, somhow took him to a corner to sit and gave some
water. Some noble persons in the crowd came forward and consoled him and his old parents. The
family returned home and collectively took a decision---to leave the Lahore, their own beloved
city of Lahore.
Chapter 2-- Lallo
Lallo was last village of Lahore bordering Amritsar. Here ,in a small hamlet, sweets were being
distributed because a girl child was born to a widow Nilofer. Nilofer was a women who ironed
the clothes given by the dwellers. Her husband had gone so she was taking care of her family and
animals. Her behavior and work was so good and disciplined that people liked her so much and
thus she generated income enough for her and her 5 year old child Shahid, alongwith a cow and a
Shahid was most lovable child of the hamlet. He was so cute, adorable child with red cheeks,
who helped her mother as he could. He delivered the ironed clothes to the people and people
gave him some food items, used clothes ,sweetmeat along with money, which he showed to her
mother with pride “Ammi…Poonam didi has given this Barfi….” and all. Nilofer burst into
laughter seeing this. Today, this Shahid got her younger sister, and Nilofer named her as Sapna.
At every evening ,in the dim light of lantern, he sat with Sapna in his lap and looked at her for
some minutes “Oh little Sapna, look at me dear……here……I am you Bhaiya……here
Sapna…..” and he snapped fingers to attract the little child. Then asked his mother “why her eyes
are so small?....and her fingers are too small and tender to touch”…..Nilofer replied with a smile
“she is just a small baby, you are a so big and tall....”
The Heat was reaching out to villages from cities. Lallo was although a Hindu dominated village
but simplicity and easy village life was largely remain unaffected by that poison. Villagers were
far away from hustle-bustle of cities and were enjoying Ghee-Gur-Roti-chhachh……..but how
Then the moment came. An early morning, some outsiders came in two trucks to Gurdwara.
Some armed Sikh youths deboarded the trucks and entered into Gurdwara. After few minutes,
they came outside and gestured their friends to unload the cargo.They started and villagers saw
that around 6 large boxes were carried into Gurdwara. Then the youths unloaded some bundles
of Spears and Swords. Villagers had not seen such huge cache of open spears and swords in their
lives, leave the content of the boxes. Then the trucks went towards outside the village and Sikh
youths moved into Gurdwara. The old jatthedar of Gurdwara could only see all the proceeding,
as he had not courage enough to say something.
The villagers had become aware till noon that huge cache of arms had arrived in Gurdwara.
Nilofer was having lunch with Shahid but could not swallow the food. Suddenly they heard an
announcement over loudspeaker “People of Lallo…..your village has been declared as a part of
India and so the muslims of the area must collect their livestock, belongings and essentials items
and just go to your Pakistan.We give you 24 hrs., just leave the Lallo otherwise we will do
exactly same thing to you what you people have done to our people in Lahore.” There were very
few homes of muslims who assembled in local mosque and asked to the old Qazi to talk to
jatthedar of the gurdwara. Qazi went to Gurudwara where old Jatthedar was quiet in a corner
and Sikh youths were ordering the staff. Qazi asked to the Jatthedar “ is there not any other way
out……Pritam singh ji?” A sikh youth interrupted in between and said to Qazi “No, there is no
other way out………we are talking on behalf of jatthedar ji as he is sick and cant talk. And listen
Qazi sahib, you people don’t have any option. Vacate the Lallo.” Qazi requested with folded
hands “Where will we go?......our ancestors……..our homes………….our soil……..our
crops…..all are here……where will we go without them….?” Another youth interrupted loudly
“stop the drama Qazi sahib……..getting me?……..just vacate the lallo.”
People started to collect their livestock, belongings, essential items etc. on their bullock-carts.
Hindus who were in majority, they were looking from their windows, balconies but nobody
uttered a single word.
But the monsters were hungry for blood, they did not follow even their 24 hrs. deadline and
attacked the bullock-carts and houses. Nilofer immediately packed a bottle of milk and kept it
into Shahid’s bag. Shahid was watching all this. Nilofer, after putting her saved money, clothes
into the bag ,handed it over to Shahid along with her little, 2-months old daughter and said
hurriedly to Shahid “Shahid, run away from here with you sister……..just run as fast as you
can…….as long as you can………as far as you can”, and she opened the small back gate of the
house. Meanwhile a powerful blow was heard at the main door of the house along with foul
mouthed abuses. Nilofer cried “Run Shahid…..run……you are ammi and abbu of you sister
now……..run my son. Please don’t leave her alone……..always be with her my son…..she is
your child……your little sister”. Then she forced Shahid toward small back gate. Another
powerful blow was heard at the main door. 5 years old Shahid ran from the spot leaving her
mother behind with her sister in his arms. He could only heard behind that some people had
broken the door.
A 5 years old toddler with a 2-months old infant was just running over the boundaries of fields
in this heat of august. He was not aware of the direction, neither he knew India and Pakistan. In
the evening, Shahid reached at a Dhaaba owned by an old sikh couple who when saw him,
offered some food and place. He found the milk bottle in his bag, opened it and driven by his
small intelligence, he put his two fingers into the milk and then put the milk soaked fingers to the
baby’s lips. She immediately opened her mouth and started to suck the fingers. Then he repeated
it. The sikh couple were smiling watching this. He looked to them and smiled “She is hungry”.
They said “and so are you….have some food”.Then the old man said “Muslims would have done
the damage…..what is your name, where are you from?”…..Shahid knew clearly what was going
on, so he answered “ I am Jeevan, from Lallo” ,”What?.....from Lallo?.....but Lallo is hindu
dominated, how muslims got such power there?”, then old man miffed “o.k.…you are
hindu….hindus are peace-loving people, they are not martial caste like us, so they don’t fight“.
Shahid was quietly sitting there for 2-3 hours. As he wanted to sleep, just then some muslim
groups attacked over the dhaaba. The bullets were raining from both sides, Shahid tied a cloth
loosely around baby’s mouth and again ran away from here with her. During all these ordeal and
running, exactly when he crossed the border and entered into Attari village of Amritsar,India, he
did not know. During whole last night, barring some time at dhaaba, he was just running. As he
reached in front of a school and collapsed on the ground.
When he opened his eyes, he found himself on a wooden bench, encircled by some ladies. Sapna
was sleeping. A needle had been inserted in his wrist which was connected to a pipe and pipe
was attached to an inverted bottle mounted over a cast iron stand. It was actually a primary
school which was converted into a make shift hospital-cum-camp for time being. When he got
proper senses, a lady doctor asked him about both. “I am Jeevan, she is my sister Poonam”,he
Chapter 3-- Attari
In next few weeks, Jeevan and Poonam were most lovable and pampered children in camp.
People were surprised to know that a five-year brother saved her infant sister in this blood
soaked atmosphere by running from Lallo to Attari, and cares her a lot.
One day when Jeevan got up at evening after a nap, he did not find Poonam. He asked other
persons, and got negative, as nobody saw Poonam because they all were sleeping after lunch. He
became tensed as he was searching her in the camp. He started crying. Some people consoled
him but he was very sad as Poonam was not there and the promise he made to his mother was
Whether good or bad, times just goes by. Jeevan, now 16 was a skilled worker at a cycle shop in
Amritsar. He visited every month at that school in Attari to inquire about Poonam but got
nothing. Pappu who was working with him, told him “Why are you here?, you are such an expert
in cycle repairing. You are just wasting here yourself. Go to Ludhiana, the hub of cycle
manufacturing. There you will get much more money in a company.” Jeevan told him about her
sister then Pappu advised him that he should forget Poonam and should focus upon earning.
Jeevan moved to Ludhiana and by his skill and talent got a job in a big firm which manufactured
and supplied cycles to other parts in the country. Slowly Jeevan earned trust of manager and got
promotions with increments in payment too. He was 25 now. One day manager told him “Jeevan
,we have a large consignment of cycles to be delivered at 3 shops in Allahabad. It would be
better that a trusted person should go there along with the team.” Jeevan affirmed.
At one of the pre-designated shops in Allahabad, Jeevan saw that a brand new cycle was being
given extra attention by owner. He joked “Will you deliver it to Queen Victoria?”, owner stared
at him. Jeevan was curious “ Who is she?”, owner said “daughter of Dr. Rachna”.
Dr. Rachna was most famous doctor of Allahabad. She was the first choice of who’s who of the
city in the hour of need, plus she had been doing number of charity activities too. She had a
daughter Archana, who was everything to her. But the doctor was also (in)famous for her highly
disciplined routine and manners, So people scared of her so much.
Shop owner requested Jeevan to come along with him to Dr. Rachna’s home, with Archana’s
new cycle as it would enhance owner’s reputation in eyes of Dr. Rachna. Jeevan affirmed and
went there. Servent gestured them to wait in large, elite class drawing room of a very posh
mansion in Civil lines area. “M’dm is coming” he said.
Dr. Rachna entered into the room. Jeevan saw her and just felt like he had received 440V shock,
but he said nothing. Owner introduced him to Dr. Rachna “He is our manager representative Mr.
Jeevan from Ludhiana”. In all 15-minutes conversation Jeevan said very few things and was
continuously looking at the Doctor.
He returned, had dinner and after that he tried to sleep but he could not. He was troubled. He
came out of the room and boarded a rickshaw for Dr. Rachna’s home, Civil lines
Dr. Rachna came in drawing room after Jeevan’s altercation with servant, and asked strictly
“who is this?”, Jeevan said “m’dm its me, Jeevan…….I came in the evening with Archana m’dm
cycle”, “Yes, yes……speak-up”, “M’dm, do you know Gurmeet m’dm?” Dr. Archna heard this
and felt that somebody had poured molten glass in her ears. But being a strong women she said
convincingly “No,but why?” “M’dm actually about 20 years back, I had an infant sister Poonam,
whom I lost in a camp-cum-hospital in Attari in communal riots during partition. At that camp I
saw a women ,you exactly resemble to her infact, her name was Gurmeet and she was a doctor. I
thought may be you know Gurmeet m’dm, then I will contact her and will again try to find
Poonam”.Doctor said calmly “My name is Rachna and I don’t know any Gurmeet. Infact I have
never visited in any of that area. My limit is Delhi only”. After few minutes, Jeevan thanked her
Dr. Rachna ,after closing door and switching-off the lights of drawing room, went to her
bedroom where Archana was sleeping, but now Rachna was feeling so low, so insecure.She was
looking at Archana.She wanted to die at this very moment. She was thinking………..as it was
Doctor family was leaving Sheikhpura that morning. Arun booked a tonga, put all belongings,
essentials into it and the couple along with Arun’s parents and 2-months-old Archana left
Sheikhpura with heavy hearts, for Lahore railway station. After some time an armed muslim mob
chased the tonga in the way and one of them threw an axe which exactly pierced the Arun’s
neck. Arun was bleeding profusely and collapsed on the road screaming at chauffeur “Don’t stop
tonga……please make them reach at Lahore station”. His old parents jumped from the tonga
seeing their son in pool of blood and cried to chauffer “Don’t stop tonga…….Make both of them
reach at station”. Rachna could not utter a single word when he saw from a racing tonga that
rioters brutally killed her husband and in-laws. She was weeping and crying. A couple of rioters
were chasing the tonga but chauffeur was whipping the horses to make sure that they would
reach station, and it happened too.
Rachna did not have any time to think about. It was massive chaos there. She saw a train full of
passengers at platform. She tried but could not enter, so she looked at the rooftop of the
compartment where thousands of persons were sitting. The train was going to Attari. She lifted
her child and a lady there pulled her. Then she raised her hand and the lady pulled her too, at that
very moment, engine whistled and train moved. Rachna was still weeping, when the lady said
“don’t weep bhabi ji……everyone is weeping here…….everyone has lost someone…….you will
have to fight a long battle”. Just then, an armed mob attacked over slowly moving train. One of
their leader was screeching “what do you think?, you are going to Hindustan and we will let you
go simply? We will gift this unique train to Patel and Nehru….”.Some of them climbed up the
rooftop and started killings. Rachna with her child ,ran from the rooftop of one compartment to
that of another, as people were running for the life, and in this chaos, her 2 months old child got
slipped from her hands and fall down from the rooftop like a small pillow. Rachna got
mad……..she cried many times vehemently but nobody listened. Train was running at full speed
now, the rioters had gone, and Rachna fainted.
Train reached Attari just after noon and Rachna, like a moving dead body, with stony,
emotionless eyes, came out of the station and started to an unknown path on foot, without
listening to anyone. She reached near a Primary school building where food was being
distributed in disposals. She did not even look there and sat down under the shadow of a large
tree just touching the school’s gate. An old women overseeing the distribution saw her and went
there with some food. “Bibi ji….you are looking so tired and extreme sad. What can I say?….
here everyone has some story of pain……..some unimaginable loss and grief……..have some
food Bibi ji………what is you name?” Rachna did not speak, was just looking at the ground. Old
women then said nothing, put the food near Rachna and went.
Around 5 p.m., the staff gathered all empty utensils, broomed and washed-off the place and went
inside the school. The old lady again came to Rachna, who was still sitting there and looking to
the ground. The food was not there and by the shining disposals, old woman guessed that this
lady’s food had been enjoyed by dogs. She again asked her “Bibi ji, what is your name?”,
Rachna raised her face this time, looked around and said in very low voice
Old women brought Gurmeet in school. Another women was crying in pain there due to stomach
ache, all other women were trying but her problem persisted. Watching this, Gurmeet alias Dr.
Rachna with her red bag, went to the woman and picked out some medicines. “just have it now,
you will feel relief after 15 minutes, and then twice a day. With in 2 days, you would be fine.”
After 15 minutes, the women was smiling. The old lady asked Gurmeet “Bibi ji, how do you
know about medicines?”, she replied “I am a doctor”.
In next 2 and half months, Gurmeet befriended with many ladies in the camp who respected and
loved her a lot because of her knowledge, manner and courage. Gurmeet was also trying to cope
up by serving the patients in the camp. One morning some ladies were chatting after breakfast
when they heard a infant cry. They came outside and saw a boy of 5-6 years was lying on the
ground without senses. He was wounded, clothes were dirty and blood-stains were present over
them. A girl child merely of 1 or 2 months old were weeping loudly at the boy’s chest. The
ladies immediately took them in the school and provided necessary first-aid. Then in-charge of
this make shift camp, Dr. Radha, arranged a drip for the boy. After an hour, Boy came into
senses. He opened his eyes slowly and found him surrounded by the ladies. Gurmeet asked him
“What is your name?”, the boy said “I am Jeevan and she is my sister Poonam”.
Next 3 months were quite good. Gurmeet was taking care of children in the camp but she was
very particular about Poonam. She reminded her about Archana. Gurmmet was so much in love
with Poonam that she breastfed her whenever she wept due to hunger. Poor Jeevan did not know
how and why her sister became happy after seeing Gurmeet everytime. She had developed a very
special bonding with Poonam.
One day ,after lunch, the people in camp went to their beds as usual. Jeevan and his sister were
sleeping when Gurmeet was just passing by them. She saw both of them, stopped and sat on their
bed. She was smiling while looking at them. She kissed both on their forehead. Then thoughts
came to her mind “It seems Archana got re-birth as Poonam……what a cute baby she is?.......but
what is her future with this boy, her brother?.....how will he feed her?.....how will he take care of
her?......why not I?........I am breastfeeding her…….I am taking care of her……why I should not
be her mother?......I was a mother but God has taken my daughter…….. now why I should not
consider Poonam as Archana?.......what is wrong in it?......I never harmed anyone, but GOD
harmed me. GOD has taken everything from me……..my husband, my parents, my
Archana……everything. Now I am looking a hope of my life in Poonam…………I believe that I
can live my life for this child…………I will not let her go……she can bring something b’ful in
my life.” And immediately then Dr. Rachna alias Gurmeet took a decision. She lift a sleeping
Poonam in her lap, put her red bag consisted some medicines and her valuable savings, on a
shoulder and ran away from the camp, not even once thought about poor Jeevan.
Chapter 4-- Allahabad
Dr. Rachna went to Attari Railway station, from where She got a Delhi bound train ticket, and
immediately boarded the train. After reaching Delhi early morning, she decided to go further “I
will never let this child go……..I will go to a place where that Jeevan will not reach in his
lifetime.” A train was standing at the platform. Rachna asked a passenger ,sitting near a window
“Where the train is going towards?” ,passenger replied “Allahabad”, Rachna immediately got a
ticket and boarded a train to completely unknown city.
Rachna came to Allahabad where scars of partition and riots were almost absent, and life was
easy going. Rachna got a nurse job in an hospital. Initially there were some hiccups as city,
language, tradition, food habit was unknown to Rachna. She did not have any shelter to survive.
She lived for time being in hospital itself. But when you have money, mind, will power and
determination, these hiccups can’t play any significant role. Nurse Rachna, soon became Dr.
Rachna. As far as last 20 years were concerned, Dr. Rachna was amongst rare,successful woman
of Allahabd and a doting mother.
Next morning, Dr, Rachna sent one of her servant to the cycle owner for a meeting with Jeevan
at her place in that very evening.
Jeevan entered the drawing room with some curiosity “….if Dr. Rachna can tell something about
Gurmeet madam then I wiil meet her and try to search Poonam again”. He was in thoughts, when
Dr. Rachna entered calmly. He asked “M’dm, is everything o.k. with the cycle?.....has Baby
liked it?” “Yes….its fine. I don’t have any issue regarding it” she said in a bit tense mood. “I
want to tell you something important…….listen carefully.” Jeevan became more attentive. Dr.
Rachna stood up and moved near a photograph of her and Archana, saw it for few seconds and
looked up to Jeevan and then said confidently “Yesterday you asked about Gurmeet?”, Jeevan
said “Yes….M’dm.” “Jeevan,…..actually……I am Gurmeet”. Jeevan was shocked to the core
but as this was not enough, he heard next sentence of Dr. Rachna “….and my daughter Archana
is actually your sister Poonam”. Hearing this, Jeevan lost his balance and fall upon the sofa. It
became difficult for him to breathe, he could not utter a single word. Dr. Rachna then consoled
him and offered him water and asked him to be calm.Then she told him “I actually stole your
sister when you and other people were sleeping after lunch that day.” Jeevan was looking to the
floor.Then she said firmly “…..and I don’t think It was wrong.” Jeevan looked at her face and
said angrily “How can you have such courage to say in my face that it was not wrong?” Dr.
Rachna said “yes, it was not wrong because I was in the role of the child’s mother. I breastfed
her…….I was taking care her more than any other……because your Poonam reminded me my
Archana…”. Then Dr. Rachna sobbed for a while, and narrated all the ordeal she had suffered
right from Sheikhpura,to Allahabad.
It was a tense silence in the room for a few minutes.Then Dr. Rachna said “I thought GOD had
taken away Archana from me, but returned her in Poonam, your sister……..at that point, she
became my only hope for life. I could not foresee my life without her……I became such a
selfish, weak and insecure that I did not think about the brother of that child and after coming
from Attari to Delhi, I came to Allahabad just to ensure that you can’t come here”. Jeevan was
Dr. Rachna continued “Jeevan, I am capable, and can provide a good life to your sister, which
you can’t. She studied in best school of Allahabd, then got admission in Allahabad university.
She enjoys best-in-class food and cloths, and I have fixed her marriage in a prestigious family of
Lucknow which is to be held just after 15 days from now.” Hearing this, Jeevan started weeping
and crying. Dr. Rachna was trying to console him. Then she said “Jeevan, I am certainly your
crime, and totally deserve punishment whatever you declare”.
Jeevan, after a few moments, asked her “May I meet Poonam?” Dr. Rachna said “I know I am
wrong again but it is true…….i am highly insecure about You and Archana and I will not allow
you to meet her as her brother. You can formally meet her in my presence only, as I do not want
anybody to meet her and to turn her emotional except me. Sorry Jeevan , but I will not let you
meet her”. Jeevan said “Just once…..before her marriage…” ,Dr. Rachna said “I will invite you
as a special guest for her marriage……..I will arrange your journey and you will stay here. Then
you can meet her under certain conditions.”
Jeevan thought for a while then agreed. He thanked her and came outside the house quickly. He
was weeping ,but happy inside. At some distance, it was a mosque. Shahid of Lallo village of
Pakistan who was now Jeevan, entered into mosque for a special prayer. He thanked almighty
that finally Sapna is safe, happy and will remain so.
After 10 days he received invitation of Sapna’s alias Poonam’s marriage who was now Archana.
He bought new clothes for himself, clothes and gifts for Archana and her husband, and yes…..for
Dr. Rachna too, and came to Allahabad.
Now he is in jovial mood in banquet hall. He is looking for a girl, who does not know he exists,
or the story that has brought him here. He has no reasons to be discreet but still he has to be
careful. He is standing near the doorway and surveying the golden banquet hall, which is filled
with refined bodies in saris and jackets, and beautiful young women with straight hair who never
make facial expressions. But they will, soon. Any moment now.