Harsh Times, Triumph of Bravery


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

7 Feb 2022 – The breakup of a country, popularly called a partition, brings forth harsh times in terms of loss of occupation, of homes, and worse, many people die in its aftermath. The former India broke up in 1947 on religious lines into a majority Hindu country, India, and Muslim majority areas on the West and East of India that were called West Pakistan and East Pakistan (afterwards Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively).

Many books were written and films were made on the partition and the tragedies — social, economic and cultural that followed this momentous event. Stories of some intrepid people have also emerged— one of which is that of a family that lost everything in 1947 but through determination and hard work has regained a part of its earlier glory and self respect.

The story I am about to recount is that of a husband and wife and their children who lost everything — homes, jobs but fortunately no one died during those horrible times. The immensity of their post partition lives also gave rise to triumph of bravery especially that of the young wife. Had she been alive she would be almost a century old in 2022 with well-to-do children. Her husband died many years earlier at the age of seventy six.

The husband had been a college lecturer in Lahore city that became West Pakistan. Despite losing his job and dignity, he looked around for a similar job and was lucky to get a job of a part time or what today is called an ad hoc job in a college near the Indo-Pak border. However his salary was insufficient to feed his family. As a result his wife was forced to look for a job as a teacher — an occupation she had worked in earlier. The woman scrounged around for different tasks to supplement their income and ultimately was lucky to get a job as a part time teacher in the capital city of New Delhi.

DELHI is an old city with dozens of ancient Moslem buildings— market places, forts, burial grounds, masjids and many Hindu and Sikh temples. However, the British occupation of India for almost two hundred years brought out a change in the architecture of the city with new buildings, churches, avenues, schools, colleges, etc. A university was also built in Delhi in 1921. The President’s Estate was built for the British Governor General and many other impressive buildings constructed by the British to house the high ranking employees after the capital of British India moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. Initially the British Governor General used to live in what is today the office of the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University but the building was subsequently handed over to the University.

The structure of the new city built by the British was quite different from its earlier form. Apart from huge buildings for the wealthy persons, modern shopping centre — Connaught Place, office buildings named South and North Blocks were built. An interesting road named Mandir Marg had an amalgam of religious places —Birla Mandir, Buddha Temple, a beautiful church named St Thomas Church,   and several modern schools also came up on the Mandir Marg.

The woman whose story I am recounting was able to get a job as a teacher in a government school in Delhi. She was transferred from one school to another government school. As a result her residence with her two kids kept on changing. This allowed the children to see quite a few areas of the city — in Gole Market (near Birla Mandir) and other areas. However her children continued to study in their so called English medium schools — St Columba’s school and Convent of Jesus and Mary.

How she managed to pay for the fees and other expenses of these schools is another example of her tenacity and bravery. Fortunately, St Columba’s attracted boys of rich families and of several embassies. There were interesting moments when meeting these rich children — the son of the poor mother had to hide behind his mother’s poverty and perilous life — adding excitement and novelty to their lives.

Such stories are rather rare, but the mother was as excited and proud as her children when the latter excelled in studies or sports. Their father did occasionally visit his family but he openly acknowledged his wife’s contribution to their welfare. Interesting events took place in the children’s lives. The person where the mother gave tuition was a man of resources and a highly paid office job. He would give invitation letters to his children’s tutor for various important events like Independence Day and Republic Day taking place in the city. The children were excited to see important personalities such as the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on such events.

There was no end to excitement in the lady’s home. Only when she retired from government school did such amazing events cease for her and her children.  But she would proudly proclaim, ‘I have seen harsh times but also exciting days. Now my children will witness such events and fill my life with unending joy.’

She died recently nearing her century mark, with joy and pride.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Feb 2022.

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