Heena In The Wonderland

Dadima & her Pakistan Memories: Consequences of Partition of India

A granddaughter hugging her desi grandma ~ Dadima.

In the warm embrace of a grandma (dadima), the world becomes a safer place almost instantly. If you know, you know. 🙂

Like many others, my dadima also came to India from Pakistan during the partition. In one of the conversations that I had with her, she described Pakistan with so much love that I would want to visit that country at least once. To know what that conversation was, here’s the experience that I have wrapped in a story.

Dadima: Her Memories of Pakistan & Choice of Home

“Happy B’day, Dadima,” I sing, gifting her the tightest of the hugs my arms can afford.

Hugging her has always made me feel closer to virtue. Her flabby arms around my body and the infinite blessings of her hand upon my head cure the myriad nameless things within me. Perhaps that’s how charismatic certain people are, and blessed are people like me who get to experience such charisma.

“Do you know how old you are now, pretty lady?”

“I don’t quite remember,” she giggles, adding that she isn’t even sure if today is her birthday.

While matching my giggles with that of hers, I assure her that it is. I tell her how gracefully she’s turned 82. (89 now, touchwood. I wrote this 7 years back.)

She smiles and questions my being home on a weekday.

“Preparatory holidays, Dadima. Exams soon,” I answer.

“You did tell me before, didn’t you?” she asked. Guilt was evident in her voice for repeatedly forgetting things.

I shoo the matter by expressing how happy I am to be at home after days of extra classes.

Home Is Love, Dadima

“Home is love, Dadima. It is where you shell watermelon seeds and use them in the homemade pudding; where you shape seviyan out of the dough so intricately that bambino vermicelli fails; where you make aam panna once a year but its taste lingers till the next; where you, your love, and your lovely dishes are, Dadima. What magic do you and your hands hold?” I ask.

“It is the magic of Multan; the magic of my birthplace Muzafarpur Janubi.” Her eyes turn dreamy and her words dreamier.

Muzafarpur Janubi Memories

Moving on to narrate her life in Pakistan, which she often does, she says, “Right from golgappas to jalebis, from battering chillis to making imli ki chutney, from doli ki roti to tandoori roti, we used to make it all by ourselves. We had no maids to work for us, you know,” she explains with pride gleaming in her eyes.

The reminiscences of her early days in Pakistan almost always leave me in awe for over the past few years she’s been forgetting things a lot but this is one topic she has never failed to miss a single point about. The fine details that she provides possess the terrific power of turning ears into eyes as yet.

“And the people, you say, were helpful too,” I say to hear her repeat what she’s been telling me for years because every time she does, peace and calmness flow into me just like sunshine flows into trees.

Just Some Old-Soul Things

“Absolutely. Together, we used to weave sweaters and stories of our experiences. The cots lying in the verandah were big, our hearts bigger; to accommodate more people, more stories, and more love. The atmosphere exuded unity. It was there that I tasted the goodness of my Muslim neighbours, you know,” she continues, strings of her mind still hooked to the memories of her hometown, “We used to be happy. Truly. Remarkably. Abundantly. We never cared to bolt our doors at night even before going to the rooftop for a sound sleep. The fear of getting robbed even after loading ourselves with jewels never occurred. We were carefree souls who rejoiced in the prosperity of mere one anna,” she says, smiling a rare smile, the smile only Pakistan has the power to lend her.

Consequences of Partition of India

Unobservant if she has more in store on that subject, I almost instantly ask, “Dadima, tell me if it was any better than India?”

“Better or not, I don’t know,” she says, “But that place was home,” and the way she says it makes volcanoes erupt on the surface of my skin.

I know home is where tiny bubbles of rhapsodies fly, but why is this home, not her home?

This question feeds on my skin and I finally ask with a pounding heart, “Given a chance would you want to go back there, Dadima?”

“If I had a chance at my service, I wouldn’t have been here in the first place,” she says.

“This isn’t home,” she adds.

With my arms crossed over my chest, I give her a sullen look.

She understands and laughs.

“Just like you consider this to be your home because here your Dadima is, my heartfelt home is where my Dadima was. Fair enough, no?” she teases.

Acid backs up my throat and for a moment my vocal cords refuse to comply with the words that so desperately want to come out.

So I shake my head no while hugging her tight.



Today, a day later, having put my brain cells at work for one entire night, I finally realise that people can be separated from homes, as was done during partition, but homes can never be separated from people. Never.

So, I nodded my head yes while grasping what I earlier couldn’t.

~ FIN ~

I gifted this story to my dadima on her 82nd b’day. (Yes, I believe in gifting words to my loved ones. I even wrote a story on “Gift of Words”. Link soon.) But this story is really a gift to me. She has been a gift to me.

And I don’t know what else to say. My dadima doesn’t keep well now and I don’t meet her often because she doesn’t talk anymore and it just hurts to see good people suffer.

And…ya. That’s pretty much it. I’d just like to abruptly end this here because that’s how life is. Life is abrupt. Beautiful nonetheless. But abrupt.

Beautifully abrupt. Maybe.


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(Giving my thank you speech already kyunki ‘kal ho na koand truly.)

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