Quite a few longest and hot days of June have been etched sharply on the pages of world history. For instance, it was on June 10, 1942 – when all 172 men and boys above the age of 16 were shot by Nazis in a Czech village. And June 6, 1944 was the day when Allied forces had invaded Normandy during World War II, and changed the course of the history. In our local context June 3, 1947 marked the beginning of a new chapter of Indian history. It was on this day when Lord Mountbatten had formally announced the Partition Plan for India.
Coincidentally enough, it was June 3, 1984, when Operation Blue Star, an Indian military operation to remove a Sikh religio-militant leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers, from the Golden Temple Complex in Amritsar, Punjab, was started. This too impacted the Indian history, particularly of Punjab, rather violently.
The declaration of the dreaded division of India on June 3, 1947 triggered, somewhat naturally, a hysterical exodus of people from both the sides of Punjab. The ill-conceived and ill-planed migratory process, which unfortunately was painfully bloody, reached its peak by mid-June.
The following scary migratory story was enacted around our family of five, which was on its way to some unknown destination, dates back to mid-June of 1947.
It was a burning day, both literally and metaphorically, when an Amritsar bound train, loaded with bewilderingly anxious Hindu-Sikh migrants who were unaware even of their immediate future, chugged off from Rawalpindi. The train, which ran through all small stations on its way, halted at Lala Musa Junction, for refuelling the steam engine with coal and water.
The ill-fated train, surrounded by a ready-to-attack-any-time crowd, was guarded by a handful armed military persons of a Gorkha regiment. Frighteningly enough, the train was forced to remain there, for three long days. For, the engine driver, who happened to be a Muslim, was persuaded by the mob to leave the station without taking the train along.
With three kids, the youngest one me being just six month old, scarce food and water, what physical and mental agony my parents, along with hundreds others, must have passed through during that extended 72 hour long June Solstice, is much beyond my seemingly jammed imagination.
No wonder both words, even harshest of the harsh, and colours, darkest of the dark, fail to portray their physically painful and mentally agonising rail journey.
However, I could perhaps gauge a bit of their sufferings from two diametrically opposing positions that my parents were holding in relation to their religious beliefs.
My mother was a deeply devoted religious person, perhaps because she would believe that we could survive that dreadful long train journey only because one of the train’s compartment was loaded with nothing else than a large number of holy Sikh ‘granths’. On the contrary my always-anguished father was a non-believer and thus never bowed before any religious icon. May be because he held, perhaps rightly so, the so-called God responsible for all their miseries.
I am 70 plus. During all these years I have undertaken, routinely, endless number of train journeys, that includes my first train journey from Rawalpindi to Amritsar, of which I have no conscious-level memories.
Believe it or not, since I have attained consciousness I never ever have slept during any of my train journeys, short or long. The moment I lie down on a moving train’s berth I feel uncomfortably giddy, and would relax only on getting up and sitting, fully awake!
Following my father’s footsteps though I am a non-believer, I often try to find some celestial reason behind my above stated strange behaviour, as no logical explanation seems to be there.
Hope and wish that every future Summer Solstice would remain free of conflicts and agonies and spread, throughout the globe, only warmth of love and peace!(Published on 26th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 26)