Will the Punjabis help?

 Afzal Randhawa an eminent Punjabi writer of Punjab (West) saw Punjab Monitor magazine and wrote us an affectionate letter which was published in the March issue of the magazine. Through friends we learnt more about Randhawa and came to know that Randhawa is in fact the personified form of soil of Five rivers and that is the reason we find that all his creations are immersed up to neck in the essence of Five Rivers, its indivisible land, people and vegetation. Randhawa knew no weeping, not even in his childhood, but is now continuously shedding tears for half a century. This distinguished story writer talks in his own style  of  language.  "I am a writer and my two stories are lost will these be restored to me in my life time?”

Dr.JPS Jolly who has done doctorate on the works of Afzal Ahsan Randhawa  provides us the profile of this son of Punjab and excerpts of an interview  which was published in the pages of his collection of short stories, “Munna Koh Lahore.”

Randhawa’s short story ‘Guachi hoi Khushboo’ (Lost Fragrance) was published in the Punjabi Tribune and it was discovered that the short story was infact a real story of a Sikh family which was displaced in 1947 in those very compelling and cruel circumstances. Dr. Jolly tracked the characters in the Lost Fragrance and wrote ‘The Fragrance Lost Again’ Our Associate Editor Rajiv Arora  renders these two stories into English which were originally written in Persian script. Read to find out what are these two stories over which Afzal is weeping for the last 50 years.


Which story shall I begin ?
"When I think of writing some story, Many appear before me fragmented, there are some stories whose hands have hardebed through the day's hard labour, some are with soiled hair and 'hands, some are with uncovered faces and tops, some have scars of gun powder, see! there is the one with amputated hand or leg or the one who has been abandoned by sight, and the one whose flesh is burnt by bomb.
Uncle Tahal Singh was right, "My son we are all stories! but there is hardly any writer to write us."
Uncle ! the other day you were with us - son of this very soil and enjoyed 'the gold that you produced in yourfarms. Your horses moved with the speed of a hurricane, and were the talk of the area. Your magnificent' Dhanni' bullocks and marvelous 'Nilli' buffalloes were rare in the Punjab. Uncle your sprawling haveli, those coloured cots,  boxes, phulkaris, quilts and khes. Your house from where never ever needy returned  empty handed. An honourable Sardarji you treated your servants like your own sons. You treated the daughters and sisters of the village as your own.
That saint Guru of Bhaini Sahib once visited the village and was sitting before a congregation under the deep shade of a giant umbrella tree. Food for hundreds of guests was being prepared in your kitchen, shouting of those innocent children.
 "The Namdharis have arrived to eat to their fill."
 There was a carnival time in the village. The festival was being celebrated. We too went there to have a glimpse of the Guru. Many people had come from far and wide to have a glimpse the saint. You made me and Pal Singh stand before the Guru.
You s.aid, " They are my sons". Pal was bareheaded and he had tied the small bun very tightly. Guru first blessed him with love and looked at him with inquisitive eyes as if asking him, "Who is this second Muslim boy?" you had said, "he is my brother's son",
Then Guru smiled and blessed me with great affection and the mare that you had bought from the king of Kapurthala in those days for rupees ten thousand bore a filly. Your life was in that filly and this I came to know after very long time that filly was very precious. At that time, it was barely of six months. One day while playing, I went to your house and the aunt with magnanimous heart hugged me tightly with her both hands and blessed me. She took me on her legs and forced me to eat 'churi'. ln the meantime, Pal came and both of us went to that' haveli' while playing. Ratan Singh was in that 'haveli'. This monkey just like men was extracting the cane juice. This juice was used to make jaggery. Ratan Singh was hidden behind the eddies and fumes of boiling jaggery.
But Pal saw me. He offered me cane juice, jaggery and even sugar cane but I happened to look at that filly. The filly was as beautiful as a picture. But God knows from where uncle Tahal Singh came and very foolishly, I insisted on having a ride on that filly. How much wise can a child of seven years be ? But uncle  not even once did you stop me and you tethered that innocent precious filly with a small rope. All kept standing there transfixed. Every person looking at you uncle because you had become a child with a child. But none had the heart to stop you. Then you removed the khadi sheet from your shoulder and put the saddle on the tender back of that frightened and frantic filly. As if this was not sufficient to take life of that tender filly, you put me on the back of that filly and held it from ahead and dragged it alt around the 'haveli'. Now this was too much for the filly who could not bearthis much burden and collapsed there. But you just laughed away the whole matter.
 Uncle now I am grown up and the rush of the world has made me worldly wise also. I have faced all the hardships of life. I have also tried to understand the people of this world. Today those reminiscences seem to me like lost dreams. Though you were not .the real brother of my father, the love  that I got from you that much love I could not have got from my real uncle. Blood is always thicker than water as the saying goes, but even then why were you  dearer to me 'than my own real relatives ? And why was I dearer to you than your own son ?
All of a sudden, as ill luck would have it man became a beast and started killing his own siblings. He shed blood in the magnitude of flood. You took just a few mandatory things from the bristling 'haveli'. You loaded spears, swords and guns in the cart and under their shelter you walked out of the village. ln the cart, you, aunt, Pal and Ratu were sitting and to give you proper protection, we too went up to the village bridge with you. You cried your heart out and so did we. There was a lot of blood shed on the way and on reaching the bridge, when you and my father hugged each other and both of you started wailing. On peeing you crossing that bridge with your family, my father was crying like children. You were lost in the flood of people but we kept standing and sheddling tears on the bridge till evening. And at last we came back to our desolate place. At that time, I was of eight years and now I am thirty eight years. But till date I have not seen my father shedding tears even in the face the hardest time except on that occasion. Even today, his eyes turn wet when he thinks of you. Now God knows how much happy life the refugee Tahal Singh and his grey haired son Pal may be leading in one of the villages of District Mukerian. Uncle Tahal Singh used to say, " We all are living stories, but there is no one to write about us.”
Now look uncle, I still remember your story, and one day, I will surely write it. But today, I have been surrounded by so many stories and all around. There is the din of doom.
All my stories are smeared with blood'. They are bareheaded, their bodies are bruised and hair scattered. I have a broken pen, and a broken pot in my hand which I had carried to collect the eternal joys for any stories after leaving my place. Tears have blurred my vision to such an extent that I can't even see my path. And my own plight also ' just like that of my stories and I think  how can I write a story?


by Dr. J.P.S. Jolly

According to various references made in the story Tahal Singh was living as refugee some where in Mukerian. l posted a letter to him and my joys knew no bounds when I received a beautifully written letter in Gurmukhi script with the trepidating hands of Tahal Singh. l rediscovered my lost fragrance. lt is a queer experience to find any character of a story standing alive before you. To have a close look at the reality. l made up my mind to meet Tahal Singh. Though lt was not so easy to reach the village where Tahal Singh had his abode yet some how I managed too reach there, On the way we met several people. All of them were speaking very highly of Tahal Singh. From them we came to know that after Tahal Singh, his son Kirpal Singh had become the 'sarpanch' of the village.
Kirpal Singh was none else than Afzal's own childhood crony Pal. While listening to the felicitations being poured from all directions by the people, every line of 'The Lost Fragrance' was appearing crystal clear before my eyes.
On the out skirts of the village in a large and commodious 'haveli'. l found uncle Tahal Singh sitting on a heavy wooden and beautifully carved bed and telling the beads of the rosary. They had received my letter so I did not have to introduce my self. All of them received me with open arms. The whole clan of Tahal Singh sat around me the way kids sit around the bonfire.
First of all S.Tahal Singh asked me in detail about Afzal. He asked me if I had ever met Afzal and how I had known him. While answering their questions I told them that I was doing M.A. (Punjabi) in G.N.D.U. Dr. Karnail Singh Thind was my teacher who was a close friend of Afzal. He would very frequently go to Pakistan. He had also brought the books of Afzal here. l translated them into Gurmukhi script and get them published. I told them almost all the stories of 'Rann,Talwar te Ghorha'.
Not only all the characters of 'The Lost Fragrance 'Were before me, but Sulakhan of 'Randi' , Ranbir of 'Chithian' and Bahadar Singh, of the 'Haquedar' and many other characters of other stories were known to them. As I was reading the stories, various characters of the stories were being unravelled. At  times the village ' Sadei Madei ' was alluded to and some times the name of Afzal who had great influence in the whole village was also mentioned. Tahal Singh Randhawa and Sarfaraz Khan, the father of Afzal, had made each other brothers by exchanging their turbans. So Afzal in his story 'The Lost Fragrance' was looking for his lost uncle who had to leave his native land at the time of partition of the country. Mr. Afzal did not have any knowledge about the family which used to 'breathe with him. But as the adage goes' God helps those who help themselves ' S. Tahal Singh and his clan revived their lost glory with rectitude and mutual cooperation. They founded a new village 'Laadpur' in Mukerian and thus carved their own niche in that area. The people from the near by villages would also come to them  to settle their scuffles. This village had this distinction that none of their scuffles had ever reached police station or court. Uncle Tahal Singh had become the justice of the village. His judgement was  always considered final. His own children were so respectful disciplined, loving and gentle that whosoever met them would 'gel delighted. To discover this kind of family was in no way less than an achievement for me. While taking the books of Afzal they said, "There are nol mere stories. You are returning our lost heritage to us."
When Mr.Randhawa came to know that the lost family of his uncle Tahal Singh, his joys knew no bounds. lmmediately in response to my letter he wrote that I should send him the photographs of uncle Tahal Singh and thus I should rejuvenate the old memories. l kept doing the same. ln a very short period we exchanged many letters. At last it was settled that we see each other Wagah Border when flag lowering  ceremony takes place, there we should reach and behold each other. The date was fixed. I took uncle Tahal Singh, his son Kirpal Singh and grand son  Sulakhan Singh and reached Wagah. There Mr. Afzal along with his sibling Aslam and father Chowdhary Sarfraz Khan Randhawa reached there.
ln keeping with their daily schedule the soldiers fell in at the call of their commander, got hold of their guns. There these tall soldiers started their parade. At the appointed time as the sun was setting, the flags of both the countries were being lowered with a great deal of respect and decorum with the sweet but shrill tune of bugle. The soldiers holding the rope of lndian flag entered land of Pakistan and the soldiers holding the rope of 'Pakistan flag entered" the land of lndia. When the flags of both the countries smeared each other it seemed as if just like the people of both the countries they too were dying to embrace each other. With a blow of wind when that green and white flag bearing the moon and star touched the front end of the tricolour, that velvet like touch permeated into my being through my pores. Photography was prohibited at the border but l imbibed that picture in the deepest recesses of my heart and none could snatch.it from me.
When the ceremony is over, though the gates of both the countries are closed, the people standing about 100 mts away from the  gate are allowed to come near the gate for a few moments. During these moments on one side the family of Mr.Afzal Randhawa was standing and on the other side the family of S.Tahal Singh Randhawa was standing .'The Land between two gates is 'No Man's Land'. Sarfaraz and Tahal Singh were looking into the eyes of each other and on the other side Afzal was looking into the eyes of hrs cousin and crony Kirpal.
Tears had welled up in their eyes. But there was no one who could listen to the voice of their heart. But these lines of Prof. Puran Singh seemed to ne the only truth of life.
 “Time and again; my heart aspired to be an animal. l am fed up with this human life”
After about four or frve minute when all were asked to get back, uncle Tahal singh was about to collapse but we helped him to stand. The plight ,of Ch. Sarfaraz was equatlly miserabie but they were equally helpless.
After that Uncle Tahal Singh and Kirpal Singh got their Visa and went to Pakistan with the group of the pilgrims to see various abodes of Guru. Afzal served Tahal Singh just like his  own son and told him that after coming back , from Wagah his father became utterly incapacitated and waS down on bed. He would say to Aslam (the elder brother of Afzal was the M.L.A. of Pakistan Assembly and before him. Afzal had also remained the member of Assembly) ." What is the use of your being in the Govt. I could not even embrace my brother." The condition of Tahal Singh was in no way better. Due to the various constraints of the Govt. he could not go to his native village 'Kiampur' which was just a few miles from there. With all their desires suppressed in their heart they came back.
After a few days on the invitation of Ajit Kaur Afzal came to Delhi to participate in a symposium of the story writers organised by Punjabi Academy, Delhi. Kirpal Singh along with his brother in law reached Delhi to meet him but some how Tahal Singh could not go there. The anguish of not meeting his brother in spite of going back to Lahore had rendered him utterly shorn of strength. Doctors had advised him complete bed rest. On the other side Afzal couldn't get the visa of Punjab. ' After participating in that symposium Afzal had to go back without even meeting his uncle.
 Then suddenly a tragic news pierced through the border' father is no more '. This line written by Afzal himself seemed untrue. , Ch. Mohammed Sirfaraz Khan who remained sub inspector in Amritsar for many years whose orders were obeyed by one and all in  every s!199t qnd market, left this world with the desires to walk in those streets again suppressed in his heart. All his aspirations were buried with him particularly his desire to hug his brother.On hearing this heart breaking news Tahal Singh cried bitterly . Without wasting any further moment he wanted to provide the much needed shelter and consolation to his nephews.He wanted to participate in the funeral procession of his brother. but how that could be made possible. Some body said, " lt is the death anniversery of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a group is going to Lahore tq his mausoleum. You should also join that group." " But they will not allow me to go to the grave of my brother." After saying so once again Tahal Singh felt helpless. On seeing a man in the evening of his life with his eyes shedding tears, I felt like breaking all the boundries of all the countries so that the entire humanity of living on this earth may become one. All the compulsians should disappear, but unfortunetely nothing of this sort happened any many such such dreams were shattered in the eyes of Tahal Singh.
While I am writing these lines father Narain Singh is very much alive whose age is around 95 years and  his elder brother who  has crossed the century of his life and to whom Afzal had I addressed in his story 'The Lost Fragrance ' saying "Uncle! you would rightly say 'We are all stories but there is no one to write us !' See I remember your story and one day I will write it also "
At the time of the partition of the country even after suffusing his story with the fragrance of the lost relations. Afzal felt as if he could not find the fragrance to the full extent.
After meeting uncle Tahal Srngh I had felt as if I had found that lost fragrance but after writing 'about this incident I felt that this lost fragrance can not be revived until this whole earth  becomes' No Man's Land'.tl 

Afzal Ahsan Randhawa

One of the most prolific and prominent writers of Pakistani Punjabi Literature, was Born on Sep. I , I917 at Amritsar to Mohammed Sufaraz Randhawa. Afzal did his graduation from Murray College, Sialkot in 1958 and degree in Law from Punjab University Lahore in 1964. In 1965 he was appointed law officer at Agricultural University. From 1972 to 1977 he remained the member of National Assembly, Pakistan. He held important offices of many literary, Cultural, national and international councils. He represented Pakistan in many world conferences. In 1973 he participated in the fifth Afro Asian writers conference. In Punjabi his first novel ' Deeva Te Dariya ' was published in 1961, then 'Doaba' in 1981 and 'Suraj Grehan' in 1984. His first short story collection" Rann Talwar Te Gorha " was widely acclaimed in both the Punjabs. His second short story collection ' Munna Koh Lahore ' was published in 1992, Apart from this he has also done quite a few translations. Nature has deprived, this tall and robust looking man of his right hand but his left hand has made up that loss and brought forth many literary off shoots.
(The last two photos downloaded from internet. In the meanwhile Dr.JPS Jolly has also unfortunately expired in a road accident in 2009)
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