Erasing Borders

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Erasing Borders

Has anyone ever felt that feeling when your super boring day takes a trip inside Beyonce’s diva closet and comes out glammed up. I thought that day was turning out to be ‘the-day’ for me. I was just looking out at the lush green lawns of my school, where the football team was practicing for the upcoming interschool tournaments. When I spotted him and oh my, I felt weak in my knees. I felt my heart skip a beat and suddenly it was pounding. I was so lost that I never heard my sociology teacher shouting my name, “Ishita, come here right now! “. It wasn’t until my seatmate Kavya shook me hard enough that I stopped drooling and looked at her. It was then that I realised that I screwed up big time. My sociology teacher, Ma’am Ira, shouted, ” Ishita, now that you have stopped day dreaming get out of my class right now! I will talk to you at the end. I will not tolerate such behavior in my class. Leave!”

Hearing that felt like I just jumped in the Lion’s den. I said to myself, “You idiot, how can you be so dumb! ” The annual assignment submission was at the end of this month. Since I, myself, have served my head on a platter to ma’am Ira, I just knew that I was gonna get the most difficult sociology project in all of the of sociology projects. Good luck getting that 90%, I promised mom I’d get, I thought.

I was completely lost in my thoughts, when I heard the bell go off. I peeked a bit inside the class and I could already feel a very harsh glare, ma’am Ira’s glare, on the side of my face. I turned to face her and she spat, “Get in! ” I felt my heart pounding again, but this time for a totally different reason. I entered the class and somehow I knew all eyes were on me. I stood in front of her and apologized for my behavior even though I knew what my punishment was going to be. When she started talking again I just hoped for all of it to be a nightmare and that I wake up soon. But God was smirking at me from heaven and saying ‘just like all the times Ishita, I’m sorry but I have got to say that it’s not in your head, it’s reality my child.’

“I was just giving all the students their topics for sociology project that is due at the end of the month. All the topics have been divided roll number wise but since you were not present in the class physically or mentally I decided to choose a special topic for you. Its nothing difficult, I just want you to ‘Draw a critical analysis on social changes, interaction and behavior that happens in a society.’ Also I hope you keep your behavior in check in the class from now onwards” said ma’am Ira.

I couldn’t move from where I was standing even after everyone had left the class. Being miserable would have been an understatement. I dreaded that subject and more than that I dreaded that topic, I was given for the assignment. Not only me, the entire class dreaded that topic. I just wanted to know if I’ve ever wronged someone so bad that my karma was getting back at me or was it just the fault in my stars.At that very moment, I knew I hated my life.

The entire way back home, I was wondering how I was going forward with my assignment. I was thinking of different ideas with which I could make my assignment so it would at least get a B or B+. I entered my home completely exhausted but then I heard few voices, laughters specifically, coming from the living room. I decided to go in and saw my whole family gathered there. My parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, everyone was there. I didn’t know what the occasion was but what I did know was they were looking at different picture albums from my childhood, my parents’ and grandparents’ wedding.

The day until now was stressful but when I saw everyone laughing and gay, I felt myself smiling at the scene in front of me. I didn’t expect this surprise but I enjoyed it. I hastily went to my room to freshen up and change. I was hungry so I had a bowl of rice with lentils and vegetables and then decided to join everyone in the living room.

I joined my cousins and saw that they were going through my grandparents’ wedding album. We sat together as we saw all their pictures of different ceremonies and customs and cooed at them. They were looking happy and cheerful together in the pictures. Then I suddenly heard something fall, so I turned around and saw another photo album. I had never seen it before so I picked it up and wondered whose could it be. I opened it and saw that the entire album was full of pictures of two young boys. When I was on one of the last pages I finally recognised one of them as my grandfather. He looked very young at that time but who was the other boy. I didn’t know him and I also knew that my grandfather didn’t have any brother. So I was very puzzled seeing so many pictures of my grandfather with someone he had known and spent his entire childhood with but had never talked about him.
I nudged my grandfather and he looked at me wondering why I looked so confused. Before he could say anything, I told him, “Look what I found, I’ve never seen this album before. But I’m sure it’s yours. Who is this person? You have an entire album dedicated to him, was he someone special? If he was then where’s he?” I know I looked like a reporter who jumps on celebrities asking about their personal lives but I have always been very close to my grandparents and not knowing something so important in their life made me anxious. I had to quench my curiosity somehow.

Shaking my thoughts away, I looked at him and saw his eyes getting glossy. I knew he was holding his tears back and it hurt me seeing him cry. But I waited to say anything, waited for him to say something. Everyone in the room was now looking at us, wondering what had just happened. He sighed and said, “I met him when I was 5 years. He was our neighbour’s son. His name was Kabir Ali Khan. Our mothers introduced us so that we could play together in the nearby park. Soon we became the best of friends.
We were always together in school, we would share our stuff, thoughts and secrets. Both of our parents were very supportive of our friendship and didn’t mind the religious differences at least not until the partition. The whole nation was going through a catastrophe. His father was wary as his relatives, family members and friends had decided to go to Pakistan. But the communal riots had affected everyone deeply and they were scared for their safety.

His father had first decided that they would continue living here, me and Kabir were ecstatic hearing that. We had a mini celebration party, I guess we got happy a bit earlier. After a few days, we were sitting and reading the newspaper together when we had a little argument. I can’t even remember what it was about or who started it. We went home without resolving it. The next day when I saw him I thought of apologising, but then I heard him saying that it’s because of all the Hindus that all the Muslims had to face such violence, vacate their homes as leave their motherland. At that moment I couldn’t think rationally. I was seething with rage and shouted at him that if it wasn’t for Muslims there wouldn’t be a partition. I didn’t want to say it, I swear to God I didn’t mean it. But I saw the hurt on his face. I was filled with guilt and remorse but before I could say anything, he ran away crying. I didn’t see him at all for a week. It felt like he never left his bedroom. I was so sad and I wanted to apologize so badly. I’d had enough and I got up. I knocked on his door ,he opened it. I could see the hatred in his eyes very clearly. He was about to shut the door, when I blocked it using my foot. He glared at me and said, “I’m leaving and I don’t want to talk to you or see you ever again.” I was taken aback, I was so shocked I couldn’t process his statement. I felt tears well up in my eyes and before they could fall I ran home. I cried all day and all night thinking that it was my fault that his family was leaving. I was so tired that I fell asleep crying.

Next day when I woke up, I heard my father saying that the Khan family were moving to Lahore. He said that Kabir’s father, Mr. Asad Ali Khan, had left an address, saying that he was very grateful for us and for our hospitality towards them. He said his family would miss ours and if someday we needed anything or if we decided to visit Pakistan, we had to go to their house positively. Hearing that my heart shattered, I realized that I might never see Kabir again. I had walked out of the door to see him one last time, whenmy father stopped me saying that they had left that morning. Just like that, I couldn’t believe that Kabir had left me without saying Goodbye. I still can’t.”

It was like the dam finally broke and my grandpa was now sobbing. My grandma hugged him and whispered comforting words in his ears while I stood there dumbfounded. I wanted to comfort him and assure him that he would see his childhood friend again but I didn’t want to give any false reassurances to him. So I decided to go to my room as I had already spoilt everyone’s mood. I didn’t have strength to stand there and bear everyone looking at me with disappointment as he cried. I fell on my bed and let my tears flow. I was upset that my grandpa had lost a dear friend that meant so much to him. By interrogating him I only opened the old wounds again. After sometime, I decided to watch a movie on my laptop to take my mind off things. I was scrolling down my movie folder, when I came across the movie Lion. It came out last year and it was a story of a lost child who found his family back in India after being adopted and brought up by Australian foster parents in Australia. The movie was very emotional and touching but what’s more important was that it was based on true events. At that moment a thought came to my head, if Saroo Brierley, Lion’s protagonist, could find his family after 30 years just by knowing the name of a place, surely I could find my grandfather’s childhood friend with the information as access to internet that I had. I just wanted to help him and see him smile when he talked to his friend.

To begin the search of Mr. Kabir Ali Khan, I decided to take help of my cyber and tech expert friend, Arjun. I knew I could count on him , so I called him and told him about my plan. I slept that night thinking about the plan and that how I won’t leave any stone unturned. The next day was Sunday, so I left for Arjun’s house telling mom that I was going to a friend’s house. At his home, his mom greeted me and took me to his room. I saw him sitting in front of his computer when I entered his room. He faced me and smiled at me. I sat beside him and he explained me how we were gonna search for Mr. Kabir. He said he had a software that shows all the people living in any particular area with their registered names and houses. I was awestruck, as I heard this and soon we began our search. Everything was getting so stressful. Once we began we knew it was not going to as easy as it sounded as there were thousands of Kabir Ali Khan living in Lahore, who moved there after Partition. We wanted to be strong, determined and positive but we were struggling. We both worked with all the perseverance we had, day and night, together and separately as well. It had already been 5 days and we were losing hope. My parents were getting suspicious so I lied to them and told them that I was making my sociology project with Arjun that’s why I was spending my whole day with him.

I was sitting in the car with my dad on my way back home, I was staring outside the window, Ed Sheeran’s perfect was playing in the background and I was humming along. Thinking about ideas, I didn’t want to give up unless I had given it my all, my mind was playing the story my grandfather told, searching for any clues and it suddenly clicked. I reached home, ran to my grandfather’s room and asked him, “Dadaji, remember that day you told me about your friend and how his father Mr. Asad Ali Khan left your father the address of their home, in which they were moving in Lahore? ” He replied in affirmation so I asked him if he remembered the address. He looked at me suspiciously, like his eyes wanted to ask me ‘what are you upto’, instead he said, “It’s been so long, I don’t remember it.” I sighed, it was like even the universe was against me reuniting my grandpa with his childhood friend. I decided to go to my room, when he said, “But I think my father wrote it down in his diary. Maybe you can find it in there.” I took this as a sign that maybe someone up there really believes in me and wants to help me. I smiled and went inside the underground room of my house as all my great-grandfather’s belongings were kept in there. I opened his trunk, removed all the stuff lying on the top, after digging a little deeper I finally found all his diaries and let me tell you there were a lot. I collected them all and brought them to my room, deciding to take them to Arjun’s tomorrow and read them thoroughly, I went to bed.
Next day, me and Arjun were sitting on his bed with our heads buried deep in the diaries. We scanned through the diaries and thoroughly what was written in them, hoping to find a clue. We were at it for hours, but we couldn’t find anything relevant, yet. Each time we picked up a new diary, we would pray to God, for it to be the one. Then I heard my dad honk at the door and I knew this was my cue to leave. I wished Arjun good night and left the diaries at his home, so we could continue from where we left. I was lying on my bed, playing with the lamp, flicking it on & off again and again. Sleep evaded me as my thoughts were running at a speed of 100 miles an hour. Then suddenly, I heard my phone ring, Arjun’s name was displayed on the screen so I picked up without giving a second thought.

“ISHITA I FOUND IT!!” I jumped at his loud voice. “I found it. I found the address. I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about the diaries so I picked and opened one from the four that were left. I was just flipping the pages, when I saw the name Asad Ali Khan. There it was, on the page his address, House No. 202, Near Iqbal Park, Kasur District, Lahore, was written. I couldn’t believe that I found it. Ishita are you there?Why aren’t you saying something??” I was lost in my thoughts, I couldn’t say anything, I was shocked, happy and terrified at the same time. “I’m sorry, I was awestruck. I was processing what to say. Oh my God, this is amazing. I am numb right now. I can’t talk. I will come to your house in the morning tomorrow.
Thank you so much Arjun, it really means a lot to me, I will be forever grateful. Good Night.” I fell on my bed and drifted away in my dreams in few seconds, like a certain burden had been lifted from my chest and I could finally relax.

I was sitting on Arjun’s bed when he showed me that page where he found the address. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I pinched Arjun. He yelped angrily, “Why would you that?” I apologized and said, “I was just making sure that it all was really happening, hehehe.” He pouted at me and then went to his computer. He opened the software, did his tech magic, set the radar at the written address and we found out that there were 3 Mr. Kabir Ali Khans living in that area. So we checked their details and background given and found that one of them had the similar life trajectory as my grandpa’s friend’s.
We dug deeper and found that this person’s granddaughter, Alaya Ali Khan, is a business major in University of Lahore and also her Facebook id which she actively uses. We thought that this girl was our only hope so we decided to connect with her and message her explaining everything on Facebook. I also clicked and sent some of the pictures from my grandpa’s album as evidence just in case she suspected us for lying. We waited for her to come online and read our messages impatiently. I was lost in my thoughts, when Arjun shook me hard and I looked at the screen to see that she was typing something. She texted back saying that the photos that I had sent, her grandfather also had a copy of those photos. Her grandfather had told her the story of his childhood friend when she was in school, so she believed me. She also said that how her grandfather misses and regrets not saying goodbye to his long-lost childhood friend. Her grandfather had told her anecdotes of their time in India. His school days and his memories with his dearest friend, Kishan, my grandfather. She asked me about having them talk on video call face to face would be a wonderful idea and they would be able to reminisce their time together. I agreed and we scheduled our video call on Skype on Wednesday, 3pm.
When I was finished messaging her, I hugged Arjun and thanked him for his support and efforts. I told him that without his help, I would never have been able to find Mr. Kabir. To which he said I could repay him by treating him to a lunch or a movie. I promised him that I would take him out and he smiled at me, showing me his bunny teeth. I felt my cheeks getting hot and red, but I couldn’t understand why I was blushing. I turned around and bid him goodbye. I lied on my bed, waiting for sleep to take over as I awaited Wednesday’s arrival.

I came home from school, washed myself, had lunch and then glanced at the clock. It was almost 3.Today was the day my grandfather would finally be able to talk to his best friend and I couldn’t be more excited. I was proud of myself that I was able to accomplish this mission. At least I didn’t fail this one important thing. I opened my laptop and connected to the house Wi-Fi, staring at the screen with wide eyes as if it was gonna open a portal to Mars. Finally the video call request came and I accepted it eagerly. At the screen, I could see a very pretty woman sitting in front of me, I asked her if she was Alaya and greeted her. She confirmed that she was Alaya and greeted me back. I took the laptop to my grandfather’s room and placed it in front of him. He looked at me strangely and asked me about what I was doing. I told him that there was someone special wanting to talk to him. Then he turned to face the screen and there was a stranger on the other side. The stranger said, “You have gotten so old, Kishan, but I still can recognize you as your face hasn’t changed that much.” My grandfather looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes, so he looked at me to confirm his doubts. I smiled at him sweetly and asked Mr. Kabir to introduce himself. My grandfather started tearing up when he heard Mr. Kabir introduce himself. Mr. Kabir was weeping as well, both apologizing, claiming it was their fault and how much they missed each other. My grandfather said that he had given up on the possibility of ever talking to or meeting Mr. Kabir again. They continued talking for hours, catching up on each other’s lives not wanting to hang up. On a good bye note they promised each other to meet soon and keep in touch. My grandfather hugged me and thanked me, while I was so happy that I could actually make this happen.He said this was the best thing that I could have ever done for him. My parents patted my back and smiled at me proudly. This moment, of being able to reunite 2 people who cared for each other so deeply, I knew that I would always cherish this moment. It made me feel like I fulfilled a purpose in my life.

“The Golden Temple in Amritsar,Punjab, India, is the epicenter of Sikhism. Close by there’s another important Sikh site called Kartarpur. It is the second holiest place in Sikhism. For centuries, Sikhs have been able to make pilgrimage between these two sites to move freely throughout their heartland. But in 1947, a British lawyer drew a border here what had been British India into two new countries, India and Pakistan. One could only call it one of the most bizarre set of lines which were ever drawn across a map. The border separated the nation with Golden Temple on one side and Kartarpur on the other. Sikhs, now in India, have to go to a platform and look at their holy pilgrimage site, with telescopes, which is only 3-4 kilometers away. Thus border separated families, cut across rivers, forests, farms and railroad tracks. This story of a violent separation is one of the most traumatic experiences of the 20th century. It’s a story of his hastily drawn lines on a map separated one people into two. If you stand in the wall city of Amritsar and the wall city of Lahore, the smells, which is kind of a giveaway, are the same. The divide was created, and is nurtured and fostered because it suits a certain politics. 70 years later, the shadow of partition continues to divide families, halt trade, cut connection, stop cooperation, instill fear and promote hatred among the people who live in its shadow, on both sides, old and young, that’s superimposed on their deep history of connection.”

I concluded my recitation of my sociology assignment, which ma’am Ira liked so much that she gave me an A+ and a standing ovation in front of the whole class.

Komal Chandak
Writer


Komal is from Rajasthan, she loves to learn about new cultures, cuisines, and all the differences that we have amongst ourselves as countries. She is a Potterhead and a member of the BTS Army.

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Bhavana
Bhavana
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1 year ago

simply wonderful ❤️ . I literally imagined everything you wrote.

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