The Epitome of Silence

Wg Cdr Mahesh Chander
It is my humble attempt to write few words about an unheard, unspoken heroine of life who could adopt unfavorable strikes of fate in her journey in this materialistic world and beheld deafening silence to respond these challenging moments of her life like a bravest person that left indelible imprints on me. I may or may not find sufficient vocabulary at my command to express a large standing personality who lived for almost nine decades on this planet, it may however be a sincere attempt on my part to justify the role of my esteemed Grandmother in reassembling her shattered life during ill-fated Indo-Pak partition of 1947 that continues to remain unsurpassed historical fact of the region. Late Smt Sarasvati Devi started her journey in the year 1906 (no recorded date of birth available) and left for heavenly abode in 25 Jan 1995. The journey of her life remained eventful throughout except for her childhood as she used to narrate occasionally that life has shown her all phases of happiness, grief, struggle and accomplishment without causing any instability to her rock standing personality worth emulation for each one of us for successfully treading on our journey of life. For ease of expression and justice to her contribution towards our family and society, it is felt that period of her life be expressed in two parts, before Indo Pak partition 1947 and post partition till her last day of life.
* She lived like a blessed queen in her childhood and enjoyed association of cousins, being the only female child in her large family of uncles and aunts, who pampered her in their own way. Born in the year 1906 at a place (now part of POJK) known as Mangh Patodiya to Late Sh. Lekhi Ram and Late Smt Prema Dei, she was warmly welcomed by blessed parents and other elder siblings. On occasional interactions, it was learnt that she remained center of attraction for her parents and other members of the family for two reasons, firstly she was the only female child in an extended family of her uncles and aunts and secondly she was blessed with cat eyed beauty blended with unshakeable self confidence that helped her to face many odds in the later part of her life. She possessed well nurtured mental faculty despite the fact that she was not privileged to acquire any academic qualification during her childhood but learned to read and write Roman English in the due course of her journey in matrimonial phase. Her tall fair complexioned physical structure made her presence distinctly noticeable in any gathering as a dignified well cultured lady though hard realities of life have thrown various challenges to her immediately after her wedding. The first hard fact of life that kept her wedded spinster for fourteen long years as the newly wedded groom deserted her and disappeared from their home as he apparently obliged his parent to marry against his will. She however waited for his return for fourteen years and then yielded to her fate and family pressure to accept her brother in law [a widower with a child] as spouse for rest of her life. It is quite difficult and burdensome especially for a female to bear with such eventual shift in life; however it displays her healthy outlook that enabled her to move forward with positivity and embraced the life afresh with humility and performed all matrimonial obligations towards new spouse and raised family fully blended in love, care and responsibility towards her children. She held equally dignified stature in large in-laws family, earned affectionate relation with her own siblings and elders. This phase of life brought blessings to her and helped her family to grow with three sons besides an elder daughter. She often narrated about this fateful period of her life where she could enjoy company of husband, an Army Subedar Major, and lived a joyful life for some time with due entitled dignity of then Army JCO of English Empire. This was the period of accomplishment when she could acquire the skill of reading and writing Roman English despite the fact she had no formal schooling in her childhood.
* She did not know that the changes awaiting their turn in her life have more challenges. Hardly had she embraced the blessings and realized the bliss in her life, moon phase changed to its darker side and brought unbearable hit that took away her two toddlers who could not fight against pandemic then referred as black fever. Left with a son and elder daughter, she regained her strength both physically and emotionally to align tracks of her life single handedly but fatefully not for long. The onset of Second World War demanded Indian Armed Forces to join the actual war fields and her husband, then Subedar Karam Chand, had to dutifully join the war fields as a part of English Army. She might had hardly imagined that the hardest hit of fate was about to shake her life completely. Her husband attained martyrdom during Second World War in 1942 as a part of then Balauch Regiment of Indian Army. This ill-fated blow once again shook her life and it took years for her to recollect her strength, as often narrated by her to me, to perform her motherly obligations towards her son and daughter. It could be appreciated that the country as a whole and the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in specific was passing through hard times, Indian Freedom Fighters were expecting British Empire to yield to their demand for freedom and ultimately the unprecedented historical partition of India based on two nation theory on theological basis uprooted poor people across the state of Jammu and Kashmir and it rendered millions homeless to face ugliest homicide of the century.
* Her family consisting of three members (Self, son and daughter) got separated from each other and moved through jungles unaware of their destination just to save their lives and landed in some migrant camps after days walk. Thereafter, shifting various refugee camps she finally reached her siblings and helplessly reached a place known as “Thandikassi” in Tehsil Sunderbani, J&K and managed to live all alone with memories of lost children, two dead and one lost during this deadly forced migration. It all took around five years for her to regain herself and she started looking for some ways to find out her missing son through International Red Cross Society. It is her self-confidence, positivity towards life and composure that enabled her to rise above her agony and ultimately reached Lahore through Red Cross society specifically through a female official, often remembered with dignity and respect as Mata Bhag. She put forth her claim for lost person during the migration and proved her identity to their satisfaction despite the fact that her own son failed to identify her and rejected her claim. One may appreciate the shock she could had felt on this but she maintained herself and proved her own son wrong through her motherly affection and finally brought him along with her to her place accepting all his conditions. On his arrival back home, she once again felt accomplished and took up challenge of adjusting to new conditions of life like other refugees who were to work hard for sustaining lives of their family members.
* Slowly and steadily, pace of life started gaining normalcy for her and together they started exploiting piece of agriculture land allotted to her for livelihood, simultaneously ventured out to look for better avenues in the closer vicinity of Jammu city and ultimately bought a house and a piece of Agriculture land near Ranbir Singh Pura, the present location of the family, and she also managed to find an alliance for his matrimony. With the passage of time, her efforts could develop a family of seven members, acquire worldly possessions sufficient enough to lead a contended ordinary life and build a respectable social acceptance and repute. However, destiny never discloses its treasure at once especially when it is around to take a U-Turn and it so happened with her that her only son suffered Liver Cirrhosis and expired at a young age of around 38 years leaving behind mother, wife and four sons that once again challenged her epitomic silence unsympathetically. By now she has understood that oddities cannot be fought but managed with diligence, calm and confidence. She boldly dared the challenges and pulled the family out of dire adversity and prepared all members to contribute to reestablish normalcy in their day to day life.
* She supported her family throughout her life on all fronts and prepared her grandsons to meet all forthcoming challenges in their lives. Slowly and steadily, she encouraged all family members to share due responsibility in strengthening the course of sail through rough waters and ultimately succeeded in settling each one of them in a befitting manner and continued her journey till last breath. Another experience gained from her life is that pious souls leave their physical body in a very calm and quite manner without any physical pain or prolonged sickness. She also left for her heavenly abode at around 0230h on 26 Jan 1995 in a very sudden, surprised and short duration of 20 minutes allowing no chance for availing any medical help for her survival as she had dinner along with family members and retired to her bed in a usual manner without any indication of such collapse.
* Appreciably, she accomplished her mission, faced all challenges almost singlehandedly with due diligence, drive and consistency to overcome all of them with success and contributed towards her own family, society and wounded nation with unparalleled, unprecedented painful partition. It is my humble attempt to pay regard and respect to a pious soul who maintained unshakeable epitomic silence during all odds of life not only as a member of her family but also as part of the society she served all along.