My plane from Lahore landed in New Delhi at the Safdarjung Airport on August 14, 1947 at 4 PM – one day before India was to celebrate its independence from the British Rule. I saw no excitement anywhere – people were moving about glumly.

In Lahore, which I left three hours earlier, it was like a national mourning – at least in all parts where Hindus usually lived were almost deserted. I did not meet many Muslims and if we met, we did not discuss the politics of India-Pakistan. There seemed to be some sort of unwritten ban among the people of Lahore in talking politics to avoid hurting each other's feelings. At personal level, there appeared to be little animosity.

There could have been some kind of excitement in Muslim dominated areas – as some of the more aggressive among them had suddenly become rich by looting Hindu shops and houses. Unfortunately, looters and murderers were admired as 'heroes' in those days on both sides of the divide.

The present capital of Pakistan – Islamabad – was built much later in an open area not far from Rawalpindi. Since East Punjab did not have an existing city in the plains of the new Indian Punjab State worthy of a capital, its administration was shifted to Shimla, which was earlier the summer capital of India as well as that of the unified Punjab. Shimla had the basic infrastructure to house the officials of the new East Punjab government. The idea of building a new capital of Indian Punjab was conceived later and given shape only in 1950 and the Punjab Government started moving its offices from Shimla to Chandigarh only in 1955. Earlier the present state of Himachal Pradesh was a part of the East Punjab State. The Himachal Pradesh as a new state was carved out of Punjab only in 1960.

Though tense, Delhi was not affected by riots in early August 1947. The Indian Prime Minister , Nehru and also Mahatma Gandhi did not want the transfer of population on religious grounds and so they assured the Muslims in India that there was no danger to their safety. Prime Minister even endangered his personal safety in Delhi to stop riots more than once.

August 15, the Independence Day was peaceful and calm. One could see sprinkling of some Muslims in the gatherings that took place to celebrate the great day and actively participating in it though not in very large numbers.

But events were moving out of hands as train-loads of dead and injured Hindus and Sikh refugees stormed into the Indian cities of Punjab and into Delhi. The retaliation, which followed after a few days , was quick and chaos prevailed in some towns in East Punjab. Delhi too could not escape though the administration was firm to save Muslims and tried to persuade them not to leave. Some Muslims opted on their own to move to the safety of refugee camps set up in the city by the bewildered administration.These camps were protected by the Indian Army.

The stories of brutalities on the other side of the divide in what was now Pakistan, could enrage even the most peaceful folks. I recall interviewing a fellow from a small village of Rawalpindi where the Muslim raiders surrounded an entire village of the Hindus and Sikhs from nearby villages threatening to kill all men and old women and abduct young Hindu girls. The men were left with no choice but to resist the raiders till death and die fighting. Women decided to jump into the well!

A 50-year old man whom I met escaped death, sheltered under the body of a dead Sikh.

The village well was filled with dead women, one on top of the other – all dead.

When this gentleman who escaped death reached the village well one woman was still breathing. As she found that the man was one of her fellow Hindu villagers, she called him to deliver message to what she called my brother Nehru Lal – the Prime Minister.

I met him as a reporter. He too was a refugee from Pakistan, heard his story with quiet attention and was convinced that the man was telling the honest truth. He was crying as he was talking to me. He thought Jawaharlal Nehru would be pleased with the sacrifice of his fellow Hindus and Sikhs. He was a simple man.

I could only do one thing – write the story under the title, “Tell my brother, Nehru Lal”. I still preserve the clipping after 60 years.

She told me, “Virji (Brother), if you reach Delhi, tell my brother, Nehru Lal, (Jawaharlal Nehru) we did not let him down in this village. Our men fought till death, the brutes, killing them with swords and daggers. We exhausted all our ammunition and weapons – but did not yield – and nor did we agree to become Muslims. And, his sisters and daughters, jumped into the well to protect the honour of Nehru Lal.”

He was trying for a week to meet Nehru Lal in the capital, to convey but people thought he was mad. No one cared to listen to his story attentively. He was not mad – a simple emotional person who was not aware of the political realities of the country. He was genuinely under the impression that Nehru will be pleased with the sacrifices of his Hindu and Sikh brothers and sisters to protect their religion and honour.

He did not know Nehru’s secularist philosophy-he was an unlettered man. But, I confess that I cried a lot when I listened to him and when I wrote this story for my paper.

I also could not help him to meet Nehru. Nehru was too busy and he had no time to hear these emotional outbursts of the refugees from Pakistan.

The Deputy Commissioner of the capital in Delhi was a well- known Indian Civil Services Officer (ICS), a gentleman, M.S. Randhawa – also later to become a famous writer on Indian arts and culture. Later, he helped build Chandigarh – the new capital of East Punjab and rose to be its first Chief Commissioner. He made sure that Indian capital Delhi remained trouble-free on Independence day celebrations and after. Everything pertaining to the celebrations went through peacefully. But with the massive influx of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and there being no housing arrangement for them, tension was evident, but no communal flare-up till late August, 1947.

My own memories of Independence day on August 15 are vivid – excitement within me and my colleague in the newspaper, Madan Mohan Goswami, was no longer controllable. This was the day we had struggled and worked for all through our student life in Lahore – and today, we could feel that glow – we were the citizens of a free country. We felt like dancing with joy and we did it with the beat of the Bhangra in the gardens of India Gate. Later, in the afternoon when Lord and Lady Mountbatten passed in procession back to the Viceroy's Mansions – now Rashtrapati Bhawan – we were among the thousands who followed their carriage, cheered them, clapping and jumping. I cannot erase that moment of happiness from my mind – it will survive as long as I live. I felt the glow of freedom in my heart.

The celebration of Independence day started on the evening of August 14. Accompanied by my friend and colleague in the newspaper, I joined the stream of humanity which was proceeding towards Parliament House where Jawaharlal Nehru was to speak at midnight – unfurling the national tricolour and bringing down the Union Jack from the Parliament House.

The crowd was excited, overjoyed and very disciplined. They occasionally shouted slogans like “Inquilab Zindabad', 'Mahatma Gandhi Zindabad'. We, too, being young, were jumping with joy and shouting...waiting for midnight to come.

When the clock struck twelve, we heard the sweet voice of Sucheta Kriplani – the Congress leader singing “Vande Mataram' over the loudspeaker. We all stood to attention.

Vande Mataram, the national song, was followed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's unforgettable speech – which till today echoes in my ears.

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny......

Now comes the time to redeem that pledge......”

And so on.

Most of us burst into cheers – some like me even cried.

We embraced strangers, congratulated each other for winning the freedom of our country – our cherished goal.

I was still staying in Birla Temple. We, two, got ready at 6 AM to reach the Red Fort and to take suitable place to watch the proceedings of the dawn of India's independence. A million people may have gathered to watch the whole scene and more were walking on foot – men, old and young, women and children. I have seldom seen such crowds – all moving towards their new destination – Red Fort. It was here that Union Jack was to go down formally and our national flag unfurled on the Fort.

Lord and Lady Mountbatten drove up in their six-horse Vicarage carriage. We followed their carriage – almost running after them, out of breadth. So did thousands of others.

The happy crowds on their shoulders carried some of the British soldiers standing en-route. Almost overnight, the British who were our enemies, were suddenly heroes of the masses.

We managed to gain a foothold not far from the ramparts of the Red Fort. We heard the bugles sound the last note as Lord Mountbatten formally lowered the Union Jack. His Lady was standing behind him.

Soon after, Jawaharlal Nehru appeared on the Fort - the British band played India’s national Anthem. Prime Minister Nehru proudly unfurled the tricolour- the national flag and the people burst into cheers and applause.

And, the cannons roared to salute the new leader of the country – none other than Jawahar lal Nehru, whom we had learnt to adore.

The fear of death on the streets of Lahore no longer haunted me – the fear of constant communal violence that prevailed in the Lahore streets was forgotten. In the safety of independent India, I realised there was no way to go back to my home town. Events were drifting towards chaos – our home was lost for ever and we had to make a new beginning with life in Delhi or elsewhere.

In the safety and joy of independent India, I thought of my friends, colleagues, relatives and well-wishers who were left behind in a country which belonged to them once but they could no longer call it their own because of their one fault – they were non-Muslims. I felt sad for those millions who had to leave their homes – both Hindus Sikhs and Muslims – all sons and daughters of Mother India.

We had agreed to cut Mother India into two pieces. We had dissected the Hindustan of Allama Iqbaal's – which he claimed two decades earlier was the best country in the world.

My mind went to thousands of refugee camps on both sides of the border where inmates were shivering in the fear of unprecedented cold and death that year.

The journalist in me admired the broad-minded approach of the Indian people - who hated the British only a few months ago, nurtured numerous grievances against them for the atrocities of the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, putting millions of Indian men, women and children in jail for their crime of demanding freedom from foreign yoke - and now suddenly, I along with thousands of my countrymen were running behind the carriage of the highest representative of British Crown in India – the Viceroy – Lord Mountbatten. In the first glow of the dawn of freedom, the Indian people had forgotten the British crimes of cruelty and repression against our people. It had never happened in the history of the world. Who brought about the transformation?

Only Mahatma Gandhi could do it. Such a man lived on August 15, 1947 – silent at the turn of events in the aftermath of partition.

Gandhi never wanted partition but partition took place in spite of him. He threatened to fast unto death, if his people did not stop killing each other. And he did go on fast to change people's mind and hearts. People made amends, brought back Muslims to their homes. Gandhi ended his fast and survived.

Ultimately, he became the victim of the bullet of one of his own countrymen.,

Perhaps such a man shall never walk on the face of this earth again!

(Strangely, I was shocked to read a survey of Indian children sixty years later in a newspaper, many of them in their reply said that Mahatma Gandhi never existed, he was a fictional character!!)

How easy it is to forget.

Three hundred kilometres from Delhi, in a small 2-room apartment of a charitable Travellers' Lodge (Dharmashala), in the holy city of Haridwar, one dozen adult members of my family with another ten children were sitting huddled together in different corners of the Lodge. It seemed like a gathering of mourners who were sad at some unfortunate happening or misfortune. They were my parents, brothers, sister, nephews and nieces. For them August 15 had come and gone bringing no joy to them.

Pran is no more, they conjectured. Only God knows what happened to him – they did not want to believe in the worst – but knew the worst could have happened!!

My father's daily routine was to pray in the nearby temple and walk down to the Main Post Office in Haridwar as the clock struck ten. Hundreds of refugees from Pakistan gathered at the Post Office waiting for a letter or a telegram from their dear ones left behind. Most of them had no permanent address. My father had. But, in the chaos that prevailed letters and telegrams were not delivered. His entire family was with him except for one person – PRAN –me. who had himself left them in the safety of Haridwar and had gone back to the dreaded reality of Lahore.

In any case, post was moving at a very slow pace. Telegrams were delayed or not delivered at all due to staff absenteeism and virtual chaos in government departments.

While at the Post Office, my father asked everyone who looked familiar and hailing from Lahore, “Did you see my son, Pran, in Lahore?”

Most never knew my face and said no.

Those who knew, feigned ignorance or said, “We saw him with two Policemen moving in a car.”

“He helped everyone”

“Everywhere. He was quite mobile.”

Such answers frightened my father even more. “What if he too was attacked?” my father feared.

“What if the Muslim Policeman turned hostile?” he argued to himself.

These were real possibilities and fears.

By August 21, my people were virtually convinced that if I were alive, I would have contacted them. Surely, I was no more.

But, my father did not stop going to the Post Office. One day, on August 21, he heard his name being called by one of the clerks.

My father could not believe it. He picked up a telegram from the clerk. Pran is alive, he shouted and ran towards the Dharmshala.

Telegraphic message sent by me from Delhi after my arrival on August 14, 1947 had taken a week to reach Haridwar. There were so much backlogs.

However, there was a sigh of relief – sweets were brought in, given to everyone who cared to stop.

Next day, some twelve of them came to Delhi's Birla Temple looking for me. I was not there. But soon my friends located me and handed me over to the family.

They touched me one by one – to make sure I was real. Some hugged me – some kissed me. I was confidently sitting in Delhi – sure that my message of safe arrival must have reached them. A telegram could not take such a long time.

I took them to the Dharamshala where I stayed – gave them the opportunity to bathe, relax and eat.

It was a reunion I could not forget – the love of my own people for me and how they missed me.