A Special Story

Zila Shekhpura,
Station: Mehta-Sujja,
Punjab, Pakistan.
22 August, 1947. 

It was amidst the scary sound of raindrops on the roof, that Dwarka heard the Sarpanch’s voice on the loudspeaker – “Safety has become an issue, and we have decided that all Hindus must leave this place by tomorrow. Their early departure will make this area more safe, and also ensure the safety of Hindu ladies and children”. As his beeji and papaji collected all jewelery, money and foodstuff at one place, the 13-year-old Dwarka packed his schoolbag with the hope that he would come back home and attend school whenever the situation improved.

That was never to happen. In the kafila that traveled from Meerowal to Ajnala, his mom and dad were hit by a barcha (a long wooden stick, with a pointed iron tip at the end) on their heads. Master Mangal Singh, the best teacher in school, was killed by a Muslim bandook. He had been Dwarka’s favorite teacher. Overcome with anger and frustration, Dwarka told his elder brother – who was 18 years old – that he could no longer keep walking.

As the kafila came to a halt near the Ravi river, Dwarka looked at the wild currents of water, occasionally hitting strong rocks and then dying out. His elder brother threw the gathri (the knot of cotton cloth which they had been carrying) in to the river. It had all the jewelery of their mother, and 10 rupees which their father had given them. “Better to throw it here than let it go in to the hands of Muslims.” Many other people threw their gathris, gold-coins, and sometimes, even food.


When he reached Amritsar, Dwarka barely had a pair of clothes left. Penniless and hungry, he found temporary respite at the langar in Khalsa College.

Life was to quickly take a new turn. He searched vacated Muslim homes for utencils and stole fruits from Skathri Bagh, which he would later sell in streets – an anna for each item. There were days when no one would buy, and those when he’d have to do mazdoori for 10 hours to earn two rupees. He pulled a rickshaw for Seth Bhagwan Dass, who would pay 8 rupees for a ride of 20 kms. He saved money to rent a rehdi, and eventually bought a fruit-shop of his own. He educated 6 children, all of whom are decently settled in life now. And today, at the age of 73, he goes daily to the local mandi to earn a living, simply because he loves doing it. He’s someone whom I greatly admire. He is a hero. He is my grandfather.

Meet Dwarka Nath Madaan, the most cheerful man I have ever known in my life. Even with just 10 rupees in his pocket, he is the kind of person who feels like the king of the world. His grandchildren call him paaji (Punjabi for ‘elder brother’), and he is younger at heart than most people you will ever meet.

His is the story of hundreds of thousands of people who had to leave their homes, and start all over again in a new place. And yet, I have never heard him complain about any misgivings that life may have dealt him with. In his evergreen smile and youthful energy, he reminds me of words from Rudyard Kipling’s If:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;

His is the story that shows how happiness can come shooting out even from black holes of despair. His is the story that is ordinary, like transparent air, and yet so extra-ordinarily powerful like a tornado. His is the story that I cannot capture in a 3-hour-long phone-call to India, nor in one blog post here …


9 thoughts on “A Special Story

  1. :)good u wrote.sometimes…all u have to offer is a subdued silence…of respect, awe n admiration…and a silent wondering of the suffering untold

  2. It was very inspiring ..good u wrote about ur grandad..The same is the story of all Kashmiri Pandit’s who had to leave their home, job..to again start a new life in a diff place all over again. It needs courage to do that..my salute to ur grandad and to all the other’s who did not give up in life even in difficult circumstances..:)..

  3. @dhaarini: yes, sometimes silence helps when words cannot fathom the depth of expression.@dimple: the story of Kashmiri pandits is again tragic, yet very inspiring. A lot of injustice has happened… and these stories still teach us that one should keep walking with courage, even in the darkest of times. thanks for your comments…

  4. really nice…a time forgotten by all except those who lived through it..really inspiring that after going through so much your gradpa did not turn into an embittered soul!!!really respect him…nd u rightly quoted kipling”If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breath a word about your loss;”:-)

  5. @ankita: thanks. yes, the fact that he did not allow bitterness to ruin the spirit of life is a wonderful approach! @dreamer: thanks!

  6. Hi Saurabh, All of your posts are wonderful.esp This one is truly inspiring, your grandparents are fantastic people. When you are going through one of the toughest and most devastating periods of your life . Reading this kind of real life experiences helps to fuel the fire that has always burned inside, even in these periods of frustration and self-doubt. That fire is called: NEVER QUIT, WORK HARD.Nothing is impossible ..you can make your way to the top .starting from the ground zero by HARD WORD<.Thanks for sharing it with us.Keep writing!Best wishes,Karan

  7. Hey,My father and his family were from Mehta Sujja. They had to leave their house during partition too and never went back. My dad as ten years old at that time and he tells me a lot about that time and his home there.

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