This is a work of fiction, inspired by the events which happened during Partition.
She had been told to collect her stuff from her room, and there she was sitting in her room doing nothing. She wanted to do what her mother had told her, but somehow she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had already gathered all the necessary things and her clothes. But they were all lying there on her bed. There was a strange calmness in her house, despite what had been going on. She had not been feeling well for almost a week now. She prayed and hoped that nothing bad would happen, but it was not to be so.
Lost in thought, she stood up and walked towards the dressing table. She looked at the mirror. Her long, shiny, braided hair looked perfect. Her dark brown eyes looked sad; her face reflected her emotional state. She didn’t want to go, but the decision had been made. Murmurs, and late night discussions had been taking place in the Vaswani Mansion for days now, but the 19-year-old Rekha had been trying not to think too much. All that came to an end last night when her father gathered the entire family in the hall. A lot of things were said, mainly by his father, Rupchand Vaswani. She couldn’t understand a lot of it, but she knew what was going to happen: they were going to leave. Leave the house where she had lived since her birth. Her father was still unsure about their destination, and the future. He was concerned about the safety of his family. He explained some other things, and her mother was instructed to start gathering the necessary things, and keep it as light as possible.
Rekha still couldn’t come in terms with the reality. She was unwilling to believe that they were all leaving her beloved Hyderabad. She hadn’t seen much of Sindh, but Hyderabad was her birthplace. Would she ever see this place again? Would she ever be happy again? What about her friends Nandini, Dharam and Janki? There had been no news whether they would leave with them or after. Or if they would leave at all. Questions… so many of them.
She still couldn’t understand what had happened all of a sudden. It all happened in August. She was told that she was in a different country now. She remained confused for a while, and then got excited. But the excitement lasted only for a few days. Things started happening that she could never have imagined. Riots started happening in Karachi. Her father’s friend had a narrow escape. He told her father about what had happened, and left for Gujarat, soon after. But things didn’t stop there. While going to school one day, she was insulted by some boys standing nearby. Because of that, she guessed, her father had stopped her from going to school.
“Rekha! You silly girl! You haven’t packed yet!” her mother’s voice brought her back from her thoughts. She wanted to say something but she couldn’t. “Forget it; I am taking all the stuff to my room. I will pack it myself. Gather whatever is left and put it in this bag.” Her mother placed a bag on the floor. She then started picking up her clothes. She left some of them on the bed, as she had enough in her arms. “Put the remaining clothes in the bag there, along with the rest of the stuff. Your father will be back soon and you know he’ll be in a hurry. We leave in the afternoon.” And she rushed out of the room. Rekha sighed, and sat on the bed again. She approached one of the windows and looked outside. The street looked deserted. She could see the wall of the old fort. The thought of never seeing all of this again was devastating her.
Why were they leaving? This question kept coming up in her mind. Her grandfather built this house, and her father had lived his entire life here. This was where she was born and had grown up. Why would they want to leave? This made no sense in Rekha’s mind. Nothing did.
The entire luggage was now lying in the veranda. She was standing in a corner, holding her small bag. Her mother was standing by the door, crying. Her father was doing last-minute checks. Her siblings, a younger brother and older sister were standing near the main gate. While her brother looked confused, her sister was crying. Her father went inside the house and came back in a few moments. She noticed her eyes: blood red. She wanted to cry too, but she couldn’t. She wondered why. Her mother was still sobbing. She walked towards a corner of the courtyard and touched the floor. She repeated the same with the rest of the corners. Her father said it was time. Rekha started walking towards the gate. Her mother was still standing in the middle of the courtyard, sobbing. Rekha saw her father touch her mother’s shoulder. Her mother turned towards her father and embraced her. It was at that moment that her father started crying too.
As she moved through the buildings she grew up seeing she couldn’t think of anything. She had been crying the moment she stepped out of the house and looked at it for one last time, until it had disappeared out of sight behind all the other buildings. She wondered what exactly happened which changed so much. Why had the things changed all of a sudden? She lifted her hand and waved at the city, as tears dripped from her eyes.
By Syed Zeeshan Ahmed