I was born in Lahore inside the walled part of the city. The city lived within these walls during the British Raj. In Mughal times before the British Raj, access to the city was through its thirteen gates which were constantly guarded against strangers and spies. Security necessitated that The Gates were closed during the night and opened only after ascertaining that the people who wanted to come in were not the enemy or enemy agents. And, when the enemy from outside raided or attacked, most people retreated within the four walls to wait and see how things would shape up. If things became worse, women and children sought shelter in the Lahore Fort which was considered to be a safe haven and invincible.

In times of crisis and invasions, the city moved back into a shell. Every home had a store room with wheat, sugar and 'ghee' ( Clarified butter milk ) to last several days. Every Mohalla had a well for water and some homes had their private wells too. Mohallas or street gates were barred and people guarded them twenty four hours a day to stop strangers. People kept pots of boiling oil or water to pour on the intruders – if they ventured to cross the city walls. They resorted to similar practices during communal riots in the era of the British Raj to protect them from attackers from the 'enemy' community.

The people living in the countryside were generally not affected unless they fell directly in the way of the invaders. If a Fort was taken, then the area surrounding the Fort automatically came into the hands of the new rulers. They looted the produce of the farmers and extracted taxes. History is witness to these developments. The Arabs, the Pathans, the Lodhis, the Mughals and the Persians all came and conquered parts of India. Some did go back. More stayed on, settled, married and had their own children and became part and parcel of the Indian caste system. Islam did not believe in caste system but those who converted to Islam seldom forgot their castes or sub castes and retained their place in society even though there was more flexibility in moving up the economic ladder among them.

Unplanned, narrow streets, lanes and by-lanes were the hall-mark of the city. There were not many open spaces except the market areas. The city houses were small but with several floors. Not much natural light came into city homes due to the height of the buildings. Most of the ground area was covered. Houses appeared to have been constructed with no sanctioned plans and very much at the whims of the masons and carpenters and perhaps the people who were supposed to live there. White-washing, painting or repairs of the houses were exceptions rather than the norm. Some of the houses were made of tiny red bricks taken from crumbling centuries’ old structures.

There was minimal space left for pedestrian movements between the houses. Streets were no wider than two yards. Neighbours could easily peep into or even jump into the adjoining houses with ease. Mercifully, there were no cars to be parked at that time. If someone had space outside his house, he used this for his cows and buffaloes to get fresh milk both times of the day. Some streets looked like cattle sheds.

The Mohallas or localities were fortified with steel doors and night chowkidars keeping a watch. These were unavoidable during the earlier Mughal and Sikh Raj when there was little law and order. However, they also became useful during the dying days of the British Raj when communal riots were common and frequent specially in Punjab.

Lahore, no doubt, was an ancient city. Legend has it that it was founded by Lav, the elder son of Lord Rama, and was originally called Lavpur. There are references to Lavpur in ancient Hindu books. In the Mahabharat, Punjab is referred to as 'Panchal' and Draupadi (wife of Arjun) was called 'Panchali' the daughter of Punjab. Not many remains of the Hindu period have survived in Lahore.

Babar, the Mughal king took Lahore in 1524. The Mughal period was the golden era of Lahore when it became the 'royal residence'. Akbar held his court in Lahore from 1584 to 1598. Pakistani historian Mahammad Bakir in his book, ‘Lahore, Past and Present’ and Mohammad Latif in his book, ‘Lahore- Its history, Architectural Remains and Gates’ have quoted excerpts from several past travellers about the opulence and grandeur of Lahore. In 1641, a Spanish Monk, Fray Sabastian Manrique recorded his impressions in the following words,

“The city of Lahore is beautifully situated, commanding the agreeable view, on one side of the river with crystal waters which descend from the mountains of Kashmir ... Lahore is ornamented with fine palaces and gardens, also tanks and fountains.... As to the abundances of provisions ... the riches of the principal street (known as the Bazaar del Choco) if shown to advantage, will equal the richest European mart.”

In l611, William Finch, an agent of East India Company described it as one of the greatest cities of the East. Another Englishman Thomas Coryat was more effusive in l614,

“The godly city of Lahore in India is one of the largest cities of the whole universe for it contayneth at least sixteen miles in compasse and exceeded Constantinople itself in greatness.”

Both Finch and Coryat visted Lahore during the the reign of Emperor Jehangir.

Jean Baptiste Tavernier refers to the availability of wine and women in the city of Lahore in l641.

An Italian adventurer Niccolao Manucci who set up medical practice in the city describes “ the lofty houses in Lahore some as high as eight stories.”

As to the number of people living in the city, the Kotwal( Police Chief) told him that he collected taxes from 6000 houses of ill fame.

Apparently. the number of residents ran into lakhs, he concluded.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century specially during Maharaja Ranjit Singh ‘s reign Lahore had deteriorated and it was in ruins. J. H. Johan, an English Army officer wrote-

“ I visited the ruins of Lahore which afforded a melancholy picture of the fallen splendour………Time had taken a toll of magnificent buildings in the city imperceptibly”

With the fall of the Mughal Empire, the importance of Lahore declined. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler (1780-1839), was busy fighting wars to subdue the Afghans to have time to build new palaces and forts. He resided within the Lahore fort during his lifetime.

Besides Punjab, he controlled the entire undivided territories of the states of Jammu and Kashmir and extended his rule into major part of Afghanistan. In the past, Punjab had been attacked by Afghans, Iranians, Mughals and others from time to time. For the first time in the recorded history of India, he reversed the roles and not only stemmed the tide of invasions from the north-west but also ruled over most of Afghanistan.

After the Mughal rule, Lahore became a city of magnificent ruins. It regained its reputation when it became the British seat of power in Punjab towards the end of the 1830s. The two brothers Henry and John Lawrence ruled it with a firm hand under the East India Company Administration. After 1857, the British Government took the administration in their own hands. By the turn of the twentieth century, Lahore enjoyed some kind of renaissance. Railways played a major role to connect Lahore with other parts of India. It became a thriving commercial city with many schools, colleges and other educational institutions opening up and attracting students, businessmen and traders from all parts of North West India. It also became Punjab's principal literary and cultural centre with several daily newspapers and magazines coming out regularly. Book publishing was also a thriving industry of Lahore especially in the Urdu language. Two English newspapers were published from Lahore, Civil and Military Gazette, a newspaper run by the British and the Tribune- an independent newspaper supporting the national movement.

When I lived in Lahore, it was the capital of the undivided Punjab Province. The Punjab Province extended from Attock in the North-West Frontier Province to the border of Delhi. It included West Punjab (now in Pakistan), East Punjab (now a state of India) and also what are now the states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The Punjab Province was called the 'sword arm' of the British Empire as it provided the most manpower for the British Indian Army which protected British interests in India and overseas. Other parts of India which went to Pakistan were the Province of Sind, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balauchistan. The British described the residents of these areas as martial races who protected India from the Indians and from the greedy eyes of the rival European land-grabbers.

During much of the British Raj, peace prevailed in the city and the countryside. Under the British, the law was generally applied without discrimination. However, the general perception was that people with wealth and affluence could get away with murder. On the surface, Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony in the same city though often in segregated Mohallas. Hindus usually wanted to live in Hindu Mohallas and the Muslims with their own co-religionists. If a brawl took place between a Hindu and a Muslim, it had all the potential of taking a communal and violent turn. Suddenly, the shops would close, people would run for cover in ‘ safe ‘ areas and the street doors would close.

Rumour mills were rife and curfew could be imposed at any time. People were afraid of their own shadows. People of neighbouring localities professing different religions did not trust each other and stories of 'war preparations' in the other camp were told with highly exaggerated details. Punjabis tend to exaggerate anything and when it came to 'communal preparations' there were no upper limits. As a child, I often heard these details with stunned fear whenever there was a communal flare up in the city.

If a crime was committed, witnesses were hard to come by. People either did not take sides or refused to give evidence for fear of their caste, religion, community, and the neighbourhood. Police had to take recourse to 'professional' witnesses who were always ready to give any evidence at the request of the police in return for some favours from the authorities. These professional witnesses were always on the 'site' of the crime whenever requested by the police, especially in communal brawls. Punishing innocent people to prove a police case was not uncommon during the British Raj.

The British rulers seemed to encourage tensions between the two major communities. My memory is of them often taking the side of the Muslims in Punjab because they considered most Hindus as 'rebels' for demanding freedom from foreign rule. Also in Punjab, the policemen were predominantly Muslim. Again, Punjab was the only province of India where the majority community, the Muslims, were given reservations in services as part of the British official reservation policy. Elsewhere only the minorities had reservations for government jobs. There were several ways they openly showed their partiality towards Muslims- increasing reservations for Muslims and later Sikhs in services or rejecting Hindu candidates for police services on health and height grounds.

Special favours were bestowed on people who toed the rulers' right to rule over India. The British Government awarded titles and honours such as knighthoods as well as titles like Rai Bahadurs, Rai Sahibs, and Khan Sahibs. Most of these titled gentlemen worked as informers or spies providing intelligence against the country's independence movement - often exaggerated reports on what was planned by the movement to curry favour with the rulers. The favour-seekers were always there on the Christmas days at the bungalows of the British officers with large, decorated fruit baskets and other gifts. Though the British officers were not known for open bribery, some of them worked through touts. A British High Court judge in those days was known to favour litigants in return for sexual favours from beautiful Indian women.

Before Mahatma Gandhi appeared on the scene in the early twenties of the twentieth century, there was lot of respect or loyalty for the Sahibs (Englishmen) who brought about peace and introduced laws which worked. People still remembered the anarchy and lawlessness during the Sikh and the Mughal rule. There were no codified laws under which justice could be dispensed with - thus the ‘justice’ dispensed was usually in favour of the rich and the powerful. Older people told us the stories of the times when the British replaced the Sikh rulers around 1850s. The Sikhs peasantry described them as 'Topiwale Sikhs' (Sikhs with hats). The British enjoyed an image of fairness!

People felt honoured or elevated in their status if the British guests attended a wedding or other such parties at their invitation. I recall the wedding of my sister where three of the bridegroom's senior officers (of a British company he worked for) attended his wedding reception with their wives. We made special arrangements for the white guests on an elevated platform like a stage with special tables and chairs with cutlery and crockery. Our Indian guests had their dinner sitting on the floor as was the common practice at that time. The event became the talk of our neighbourhood - even uninvited neighbours came to see how the white men looked, ate and behaved.

However, with the introduction of the English language, new schools and colleges and the emerging Indian professional and middle classes, democratic ideas seeped in. People started questioning the British rulers and foreign rule - especially the isolation of the British in their separate clubs. Some clubs carried rude warnings like, “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. It was very humiliating to the growing number of educated Indians.

In India's history, many invaders came from the North-West. Most of them stayed back, married and became part of the Indian mainstream. During the Hindu era, they even positioned themselves in the caste hierarchy. However the British were different. The British ruling class were not allowed to marry local Indian women. Those who did were sent back home. This attitude of the British isolated them from the Indian masses who became increasingly hostile.

The people of Lahore and Punjab got actively involved in the independence movement primarily after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy in Amritsar in 1919 where hundreds of unarmed men, women and children of the city were gunned down in a closed Park , by the British General Dyer. Their subdued anger resurfaced as Mahatma Gandhi gave it a voice and a platform. However, when he advocated non-violence and non-cooperation, most people did not understand his strategy. Educated Indians had not known or heard of any freedom movement succeeding without armed resistance and massive violence in world history. Many cited the example of the French Revolution and of how the slogan of Liberty, equality and fraternity united the people of France against their monarch, leading to his overthrow after a violent struggle. Another example cited was of the American War of Independence in the eighteenth century. The American people threw the British out after a savage and long war. And the latest in the series was the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia which promised total economic equality1.

When I was in College studying Political Science, the young students from all communities were influenced by the Communist ideology of Karl Marx and Lenin and most of us had leftist leanings. We loved Gandhi for taking up the cause of India's independence but not his method to achieve the goal. To be honest, we were not sure he would ever succeed.

Gandhi set an example to the people – he became the symbol of the poor – the poorest of the poor Indians. He kept the minimum clothes needed on his person and decided to live like the poorest of the land in a hut, drank goat's milk and ate very little. He started his struggle with the army of one – himself. People followed him in the millions, leaving their homes. The British could not kill millions of Indians who followed him. They could kill or maim only a few while other Indians always seemed ready to take their place. The foundations of the Empire were beginning to shake under the pressure of the Indian non-cooperation and non- violence movement. We began to see a ray of hope in Gandhi's struggle for independence through 'Satyagrah' – the Movement of Truth.

It was a new form of struggle. The casualties were minimal but the impact was countrywide. Whether it was Gandhi giving a call to boycott foreign goods, making bonfires of imported cloth or illegally making salt on the Gujarat sea shore to sell it without paying taxes, his methods had far-reaching effects on the psyche of the nation. It hurt the British authority in India. It hurt the British economic interests most and the hurt was felt in the factories of Lancashire and resultant job losses. The British industrial revolution had survived on the demand of the Indian people for cloth made in the Lancashire mills and other goods of mass consumption. Gandhi's call was to boycott foreign clothes and goods, pay no taxes, leave government schools and colleges and extend no cooperation to the British Administration. For the first time, the British felt insecure in India.

His periodic crusades shook the British Empire where the 'sun never set'. People lost their fear of the police and the British authorities. Most of the police force was Indian and there was an inherent sympathy for the freedom fighters among them. There was no home in India where Gandhi Baba's glory was not talked about. As children in those days, we formed the army of Hanuman – the Monkey Army. India's late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the chief of such an 'Army' as a child, in her native town of Allahabad, while her parents were in jail.

The atmosphere was conducive for the freedom struggle. Students left colleges, national Colleges were opened, professors and teachers quit their jobs as did some government servants. The British could no longer rely on the loyalty of their Indian officials. But Gandhi had a tendency to call off his movement when it showed even a little evidence of violence. These suspensions of movements gave the British a breathing space. At times, the masses felt betrayed but Gandhi stuck to his 'inner voice'. However, these were relatively short interruptions as he would restart another movement with an increased momentum.

By the time of partition, Lahore was a leading commercial and educational centre. It was the home of Punjab University, one of the leading universities of the country which acted as a hub of economic and political activities. That is why, the future of Lahore was intensely debated amongst the people of the Punjab. Although in terms of population, the Muslims had a slight edge over Hindus and Sikhs in the city, the Hindus and Sikhs owned around 75% of the real estate in Lahore. The majority of the educational institutions were run by Hindus and Sikhs and they were in full control of business and commerce. A Boundary Commission was set up by the British Government to determine the boundaries for the two countries. An eminent Hindu lawyer Bakshi Sir Tek Chand, who represented the Hindu and Sikh view point before the Boundary Commission, confidently claimed that 'Lahore was in my pocket.' The Hindu / Sikh claim seemed so overwhelming.

When the Boundary Commission headed by Lord Radcliff favoured Pakistan in allocating Lahore to Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs got a rude shock. Many of its Hindu residents had not moved hoping that it will fall within India and they could continue to live their lives in Lahore. They had to run away after the burning of the entire Shah Alami Gate area in Lahore and the bloodshed that followed this announcement. Immediately after the formation of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah announced in a broadcast that Hindus and Sikhs had nothing to fear and that they will be treated as equal citizens, but this declaration did not stem the tide. Most Hindus and Sikhs except those who opted to convert to Islam left their homes and were not allowed to return. Their houses and properties were looted or occupied forcibly. The fact that they had a lot more property and wealth fuelled the zeal of Islamic zealots to loot and plunder.

During the partition turmoil, I was firmly planning to continue to live in Lahore as long as it was possible. I had just passed my Masters in Political Science topping the list of successful candidates with a First Class – a rare distinction in our family, where no one had so far got past the B.A. Degree. I had a full-time job in a Hindi daily newspaper called ‘Vishwa Bandhu’. It was a subsidiary of more popular and profitable Urdu newspaper called ‘Vir Bharat’ and run by a Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha headed by a respected Hindu saint, Goswami Ganesh Dutt.

Goswami Ganesh Dutt propounded no new sect but focused on traditional ancient Hindu beliefs including idol worship and rituals as opposed to the more modern and reformist Arya Samaj Movement pioneered by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, a Gujarat-born scholar. The Arya Samaj Movement had an electrifying effect amongst the Hindus of Punjab and revived interest in ancient Vedic glory. It focussed on belief in one God (more suited the psyche of the Punjabis who had to co-exist with Islam) and did not support idol worship and rituals. Arya Samaj believed also in “Shudhi” - a movement to re-convert Hindus and Christians who had changed their faith due to allurements of money or marriages. Hindus also began to get over their reluctance to take back their brethren who had converted to other faiths.

The reformist Arya Samaj with its belief in reconversion annoyed Muslim clergy but it did create among the Hindus a new awareness and pride in their Vedic traditions. Arya Samaj also adopted aggressive slogans like “Make the whole world Aryans (Hindus)”. In Sanskrit, Arya literally means a superior or fine human. In ancient India, people of the sub-continent were all called Aryans and the land was described as ‘Aryavrta’ – the land of the Aryans. Wives addressed heir husbands not by their first names but respectfully called them – Arya (a superior human). Hindu was the name given to the people of the country by the invaders from the West. All those who lived beyond the Sindhu, the Indus river, were termed as Hindus and this subsequently came to be associated with the Hindu religion – the principal religious faith of the people of the sub-continent.

So far, Islam and Christianity have had an easy march in the Indian sub-continent. The Sanatan Dharam and Arya Samaj, Brahmo-Samaj and Ramkrishan Mission changed this trend. Hindus became more assertive and proud of their faith and convictions. The Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) an organization believing in Hindu solidarity and nationalism had sprung up in all cities of Punjab attracting young Hindu men. They could be seen exercising in parks every morning after dawn. RSS volunteers had won the hearts of Hindus. They were the only people who resisted the aggressive Islamic crowds. If the Muslims stabbed Hindus, RSS volunteers answered it with crude bombs in Lahore. Many Muslims decided that their interests would be better served by demanding a separate Islamic country totally dominated by Muslims. The Hindu renaissance was an important reason for Muslim craving for a new country of their own to protect their identity.

I was feeling quite 'safe' in Lahore as I was hired by a Hindu Congress legislator of the Punjab, Lala Bhagwan Das. He was named the representative of the East Punjab Government in Lahore for the interim period till the two Punjab States could settle down. He took me on as his Private Secretary (my newspaper having suspended publication due to riots) which was more of a Political Secretary’s role. He was a millionaire businessman of Lahore dealing in imported crockery with a massive showroom in Anarkali, as large as today's supermarkets. Lalaji, as we respectfully called him, was provided security by the government in Lahore – at least two constables at a time. He was not highly educated and could not easily converse in English and deputed me as his representative to talk things over with government officials and, at times, politicians on his behalf.

It was my duty to co-ordinate his activities with the new government in West Punjab. I got an excellent opportunity to meet, interact and work with the Ministers, MLAs and other powerful people including the then Chief Minister of West Punjab, Choudhary Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana as well as the designated new Chief Minister of East Punjab Dr. Gopi Chand Bhargava.

This gave me a unique confidence and I moved freely in a car escorted by the two policemen with guns all the time – one Hindu and the other Muslim. Now, whenever a call for help came from aggrieved Hindus and Sikhs, our car was on the spot trying to help the victims. Hindus needing police help approached us and we tried to contact the Army and Police. I had already abandoned my home deep in the walled city, Shah Alami Gate, and had moved to Lalaji's office to attend to such calls. Not that we could do much – the looters had already done their jobs and fled and if anyone needed medical help we assisted. We also tried to get an Army escort if some party needed to reach the refugee camp or a safe place. I occasionally visited my house in the walled city to make sure everything was safe and our house had not been 'looted' so far.

Fortunately, I had moved my parents and my brothers' families plus my sister's family to Haridwar, with an introduction from Goswami Ganesh Dutt (who owned the Hindi newspaper I had worked for earlier). Haridwar was the most sought after refuge of the fleeing Hindus of Punjab. It was seen as a place of safety as well as a place for meditation and prayers. We had obtained three rooms for my family members in a Dharamshala there.

Although safe in Haridwar, I knew they were anxious about their future in the new dispensation. Where will they get the next meal? What will their children do for a living if they were not allowed to go back to what was once their home in Lahore? Soon, after my parents moved to Haridwar, the Shah Alami area where we lived was burnt to ashes by rioting mobs of Muslims. However our new house, not far from the main bazaar, escaped the fire, isolated as it was in a corner lane. It was miraculously saved.

As soon as the fires subsided in Shah Alami Gate area, I revisited the locality escorted by police but was not able to reach our house due to the simmering fire and was not sure whether it was still intact. I could see, from a distance, some dead bodies burning and the smell of their flesh created terror in me. The death toll in Shah Alami fire was not terribly high as many residents had already moved apprehending trouble. The victims were those who were too old to move, or too attached to their property or had nowhere else to go. Those who surrendered to security forces were escorted to the Refugee Camps near the City.

Those were pathetic times. I saw many people slaughtered and stabbed, their bloodied bodies scattered here and there. Life had become so cheap that death had no real meaning. Among those stabbed dead, I recognized some known faces amongst them . No one could help them – no one was there to help them. One of them was a very trusted friend of my elder brother and a neighbour. I had spent many, many hours in his company as a child and he gave me a lot of love and affection. He used to call me a 'Professor' even when I was a boy of 15 as I used to tell him a lot of things from my books which he had not heard, which pleased him. He predicted that one day I would be a Professor which proved true. When I saw him dead, I cried. I touched his feet with tears in my eyes and then left as if he had never existed!

After this massive killing of non-Muslims, some miscreants in Lahore danced with joy and the 'murderers' were treated as heroes – and were rewarded by some Muslim elders with money. I could not imagine man could be so brutal and heartless.

Although I was determined to stay and give company to my boss as long as he wanted, destiny had more sensible plans in store for me. Lalaji had sent his immediate family to a safer havens. However, he had retained one of his khadi wearing young nephews to keep him company. The nephew, it seemed, had booked his plane ticket to Delhi to attend the Independence Day celebrations in the Indian capital on August 14, 1947, with good intentions of coming back to Lahore after the celebrations on August fifteen – India's first Independence Day. When Lalaji came to know of this, he had a fit and cried – everybody wants to leave me to die in this city. He was inconsolable till the nephew relented and agreed not to go.

On my return to the office, the nephew offered me his air ticket leaving Lahore on August l4th afternoon. He pleaded with me to go as otherwise the ticket would be wasted as it could not be returned. I accepted his offer and paid him the price of the ticket which I believe was not more than one hundred rupees those days. Anyhow, I had never flown in an aeroplane before and I wanted to experience this excitement.

Soon, I took the car back with the police escort and headed in Kucha Patnian in an area called Jaure Mori within the Shah Alami Gate walls. Strange and forgotten names still sound not so strange to me. Our new house had replaced an old Haveli (big house)which was in ruins. It had modern furnishings and cemented floorings and decorations. This new and spacious house was the talk of our neighbourhood with people coming to look and admire. My parents were very proud of their residence as it was the only new house among the hundred other dilapidated old buildings around. Naturally, they cried when they left what they fondly used to call them 'Haveli' compared to the normal houses where other mortals of the locality lived!

One of my elder brothers, whose business was in forward transactions of gold and silver had 'stocked' some 50 kilograms of silver in the house expecting prices to rise. I looked at this 'booty' contemptuously and left it for the Muslim raiders. I collected half a dozen useful clothes to wear, put them in a little suitcase and said goodbye to my parents’ new ‘Haveli’.

On hearing my voice and the farewell visits I made to some neighbours, a few people who had been left behind in the street came out to ask what was happening. They were terribly disappointed when they heard that I too was 'flying' to Delhi leaving them to their fate. “Take us along”, one of them yelled. But, how could I? I felt sad and helpless. “I will send an Army truck to take those who wish to go to the Refugee Camp. Keep ready with only two bags each.“ I promised them that and I did make those arrangements before leaving. If anyone left, I am not so sure. One of them was a very fat and obese businessman with an equally obese wife. Tears came to his eyes as he asked me, “What will happen to us?”. I had no answer. I could not take him and his family along. I offered to leave him at the railway station, if he wanted. But, he was worried about his property!

Later in life on the other side of the divide, I never saw or heard of the other people in the Mohalla whom I left behind. Perhaps they fell victims to the hatred and rage of the raiders. Most of them were old who could not easily move. I can still recall the face of the old and fat neighbour with a fatter wife – and his sad face on my departure.

The driver took me to the airport and I boarded a noisy Dakota, the old war horse of the Americans, sold as junk by the departing Americans after World Wear II.

The Lahore airport itself was a new experience. It was an open area with a lonely building standing in isolation. There were no security checks for the baggage or of the person. I showed the ticket at the reception. Sadly, there were no beautiful hostesses either at that time. We had just a hefty and rugged uniformed young man on the flight. No soft drinks or candy. A few passengers were already seated in the plane. I was the last one to board and was given some cotton to put into my ears. The cotton was essential as the noise made by the roaring Dakota plane those days was unbearable and could affect the eardrums.

I had seen planes flying in the sky and heard their roar. When the the noise was so far away, we, as children, would still close our ears. But, now when the plane rose from the ground with me sitting inside it, the roar was unbearable causing pain in my ears. The air journey that I longed to enjoy became hell. It was not what I had imagined. I prayed for safe landing all through the three hour long flight to the capital of India. The planes in the late forties seldom flew at a speed more than 100 miles an hour. I had pain in my ears due to change in air pressure after take off which continued for three days or more after landing. Never again by air, I vowed!

But my destiny had decided otherwise and I was to become one of the most travelled Indians of my generation after my entry in international tourism, as you will read in subsequent chapters.

  • 1It is a different thing that it did not work and a million people perished during the revolution!