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From Pakistan to India: Tracing my grandmother’s refugee journey

After my grandma passed on, I went to online devices to basically sort out a piece of her life she won’t ever talk about.

At some point in mid-August 1947, my grandma, Abnash Kaur, at that point around 12 years old, boarded a train with her family from Lahore in what is presently Pakistan. The excursion would take her to Kalka, a languid Indian town in the lower regions of the Himalayas. She could stay away for the indefinite future to Pakistan.

Like an expected 15 million others, she was a displaced person – drove away from her home as the subcontinent was partitioned into two separate country states: Pakistan and India.

A great many Muslims made a beeline for West and East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) while a huge number of Hindus and Sikhs, similar to my grandma, relocated to India. One of the biggest at any point mass relocations, the Partition left upwards of 2,000,000 individuals dead and up to 100,000 ladies captured or assaulted.

Homes were determined to fire and plundered. Trains rearranging displaced people to and fro between the recently framed countries were loaded up with cadavers and packs of wrathful men equipped with blades. Slaughters in transit were ordinary. As indicated by a report by the Australian Associated Press in September 1947, one slaughter left 3,000 Muslim travelers dead. Reports of trains dribbling in blood and rail lines covered with the dead prompted these tricky excursions getting known as “blood trains”.

Ladies suffocated themselves to abstain from being assaulted, their enlarged bodies coasting through debased, blood-stained streams. The harsh fragrance of death and annihilation implanted itself into the countries’ geography.

My grandma, in any case, never discussed any of this. At the point when gotten some information about Partition, she would answer simply that “awful things occurred”. Whenever tested further, she would essentially disregard the inquiry or change the theme. So we only here and there inquired.

At 24 years old, she moved to Malaysia from India with her new spouse – my granddad, a police reviewer and previous trooper in the British Malaya armed force.

She showed up in Malaysia as though she had consistently been there. Like a sparkly, new trimming hanging on a Christmas tree she fit in impeccably; figuring out how to speak Bahasa Malaysia smoothly and to cook Chinese and Malay dishes.

She brought forth her first kid in 1959 and proceeded to have six more, one of whom kicked the bucket in early stages. She lived in a few distinct urban communities in Malaysia before at last getting comfortable Seremban in 1963, a town known for tin mining and its sweet, heated pork buns.

As far as we might be concerned, it appeared Partition was minimal in excess of ancient history to her.

On February 2, 2019, at 4:30am, my grandma passed on of malignancy. It had begun in her bosoms and metastasised to each bone in her body.

Ten minutes sooner, when every other person was dozing, I had gone into her room, where she lay on the medical clinic bed we had leased so she could spend her last a long time at home.

I held her hand, drowsy and tacky with Johnson’s infant oil we used to saturate her got dried out skin. On her wrists were the gold arm bands my granddad had given her well before.


The maroon stain my sister and I had painted on her nails a month sooner was chipped now. Prior to malignancy, she generally wore a smooth layer of maroon or a profound cherry red to coordinate her Maybelline lipstick. She couldn’t have ever been seen with it chipped.

Indeed, even in her mid 80s, she had fastidiously colored her hair raven dark with a case of the Revlon hair color she amassed in her kitchen cabinet. As a kid, I was constantly entranced by that thick, dark hair doused in “Zam” oil that possessed a scent like Vicks and codeine hack syrup.

Presently lying in bed siphoned loaded with morphine, whatever strands of hair she had left were dark. Her body, when full from unending cooking and eating, was presently slight, fragile and cold – encompassed in thick winter wools. I kissed her head, pressed her hand and through tears disclosed to her I adored her.

I left the entryway partially open as I went to get some chocolate milk, and in the couple of moments I was gone, she died.

My family placed me responsible for her tribute, being the lone essayist in the family. We discussed how she wanted to cook. How she wanted to talk. How she enjoyed KFC and awful Indian dramas. How she knew all the tattle around. How her youngsters were her life. Also, how she was delicate and kind to everybody – from the milkman to the okra plant in her nursery.


In excess of a hundred people went to her memorial service. Nearly everybody had a tale about the benevolence my grandma had shown them in their hour of obscurity. She was essential for a fellowship bunch that dated back to the last part of the 1950s when she previously showed up in Malaysia; they had upheld each other through the passing of a youngster, aggressive behavior at home, disease and, at long last, demise.

However, I remained unaware of her initial life. Nothing of who she was before she turned into a spouse, mother, grandma and female authority of our family.

Before she passed on, she had guaranteed me she would at long last disclose to me the story she had evaded for every one of those years. Be that as it may, when I returned home to visit, the malignancy had totally desolated her – leaving simply the shell of the loquacious lady I had once known. She scarcely talked a long time before her passing. What’s more, when she passed on, she took her Partition story with her.

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