Displaced by partition, she visited Pakistan house after 75 years | India-Pakistan Partition Information

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Lucknow, India – Final month, 90-year-old Reena Chhibber Varma, undeterred by her age and illnesses, launched into a journey that many thought was unattainable. She travelled to Pakistan to see her erstwhile house for the primary time in 75 years.

Because the colonial British left the Indian subcontinent, they divided it into two nations on spiritual strains – Hindu-majority India and largely Muslim Pakistan, which included Bangladesh, then often called East Pakistan.

The partition, because it got here to be recognized, compelled greater than 15 million folks to maneuver to the opposite facet in what was the world’s largest compelled migration. Practically two million folks have been killed within the riots throughout the exodus and the bloody historical past of partition continues to have an effect on relations between the 2 nations.


The historic tensions between the 2 South Asian nuclear powers have largely closed the borders, leaving many individuals longing to go to their kin and even their houses on the opposite facet of the border.

Amongst them was Varma, who was 15 when her household fled Rawalpindi in 1947 and is at the moment primarily based within the western Indian metropolis of Pune. Since then, she had been longing to revisit her ancestral house in an “enemy” nation.

“My eyes welled up. I couldn’t imagine I used to be house once more. It felt like I used to be dwelling there simply yesterday,” she instructed Al Jazeera over the phone.

Varma confused that the governments on either side ought to enable folks to fulfill effortlessly and simply. “As a result of it’s true that they wish to,” she mentioned.

Varma remembers the day they needed to flee Rawalpindi “as clear because the day”. Her dad and mom and siblings – two sisters and as many brothers – reached India to begin a brand new life. All of them handed away earlier than they may flip 75, mentioned Varma.

“We first went to Solan considering we’ll return house at some point. We didn’t see it coming. India and Pakistan have been divided and a number of bloodshed occurred,” she mentioned, referring to a hill city in Himachal Pradesh state in northern India.

Though her household didn’t undergo any violence, they heard and skim many tales of what occurred, of individuals they knew being killed on the trains.

“We noticed our dad and mom cry rather a lot. For 2 years, they may not settle for that they received’t return to their house,” Varma mentioned.

Reena Varma
Varma at her ancestral house in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi [Courtesy of India Pakistan Heritage Club]

Previously 75 years, Varma made a number of plans for a visit to Rawalpindi however they didn’t materialise, although she did journey to Lahore as soon as as a teenager.

“I all the time wished to see my home once more. I obtained my passport made in 1965 however the individual I used to be alleged to journey with couldn’t come and the plan was cancelled,” she mentioned.

She renewed her passport in 2020 however the coronavirus pandemic disrupted her plans once more. In the meantime, she discovered the Fb web page of a gaggle known as India Pakistan Heritage Membership, which provided to assist Varma in travelling to Rawalpindi.

For a go to to Pakistan, an Indian citizen should have a number household within the nation. Two Pakistani males, co-founders of the group, stepped up for that function.

Varma left for her daughter’s place in New Delhi final month. From there, she went to Wagah, the border transit terminal between India and Pakistan, within the western Indian state of Punjab.

“The second I noticed the massive India and Pakistan signboards up at Wagah, I broke down. It felt unreal that this was only one entire place for us however now there’s a line and we can’t cross it after we need,” Varma instructed Al Jazeera.

Reena Varma
Varma mentioned the governments on either side of the border ought to enable folks to fulfill simply [Courtesy of India Pakistan Heritage Club]

As she crossed the frontier, Zahir and Imran welcomed her on the Pakistani facet and took her to Lahore the place she spent three days.

“I’ve a particular reference to Lahore as nicely. Earlier than the partition, we visited Lahore yearly, my in-laws hail from there too,” Varma mentioned.

On July 20, she left for Rawalpindi and was greeted by folks within the neighbourhood amid the beating of conventional Punjabi dhol, or drums.

“I’ll all the time bear in mind the nice and cozy welcome I acquired after I reached my ancestral home. There was drum beating by the locals. I by no means anticipated that,” Varma mentioned.

A video of the welcome Varma obtained additionally went viral on social media as folks in India and Pakistan exchanged messages of peace and love.

Muzammil Hussain, who now lives in Varma’s erstwhile home, modified its identify to Prem Niwas (Love Abode) in her honour. The lane by which the home stood was renamed ‘Prem Gully’ (Love Road).

Hussain’s household even added a nameplate to one of many rooms she lived in. It mentioned: “Reena’s home”.

“I’m the one one amongst my members of the family who might see that home once more and I’m not exaggerating that after I was in there, I might see my household roaming round, strolling and sitting in the home once more. I noticed them in each nook,” Varma instructed Al Jazeera.

“My dream got here true. Wherever my household is as we speak, they should be wanting down and should be joyful and proud,” she mentioned.

Describing the home, she mentioned the rooms had not modified a lot. She didn’t discover something in the home that belonged to her and which she might have returned with as a memento.

However she did discover a number of issues.

“The flooring within the bedrooms was gotten carried out by my father and so they have been the identical. Within the sitting room, which we known as ‘baithak’, there’s a hearth the place my father had gotten tiles made with particular designs. They’re nonetheless intact,” she mentioned.

Varma mentioned their home was one of many poshest within the neighbourhood. The principle highway close to the home had modified significantly, she mentioned. The homes reverse her home had been substituted with retailers. However not less than 5 homes in her lane, together with hers, weren’t a lot altered.

Varma’s face turns pensive as she recollects her childhood spent on this Pakistan house.

“What occurred again then was very unlucky and mustn’t have occurred. Sure, it was painful however we can’t bear in mind all of it our lives,” she mentioned.

“We must always transfer on. Individuals in India and Pakistan, our cultures, garments, considering – all of it is rather comparable. There may be love on either side.”

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