Only recently did I learn that my maternal grandmother was from Ratedero in Larkana, and my maternal grandfather was related to Prof. Kundnani, or that my paternal grandmother was related to Bhagwanti Navani
By Sunayna Pal
I can’t remember if anyone ever spoke to me of the Partition. All I know is that all my grandparents lived in Sindh before they moved to Mumbai. They stayed in refugee camps for some time, but I never questioned why. Not as a child, anyway.
My paternal grandfather died before I was born, and my grandmother died when I was a year old. I wasn’t lucky enough to spend time with my maternal grandparents either, as they lived far from us. Technology didn’t allow frequent calls in the 1980s like it does now.
Learning about the Partition
It was in school that I first learned about the Partition. It took me some time to connect the dots with snippets of stories I had heard in my childhood. About the reason behind the partition, the riots, Sindhis, or refugee camps.
My English teacher was very fond of me because I loved reading (she would happily recommend books.) We often chatted after class, when time permitted. I can’t remember how the conversation turned to Sindh, but when I told her I was a Sindhi, she told me she felt pity for the Sindhis because they fled with nothing. But because they were so hardworking, they were able to reestablish themselves.
It was heartening to this. I came home and told my mother what the teacher had said. My mother agreed with the teacher, but didn’t say much else. Perhaps, she thought I was too young to fathom the reality of protecting one’s self, and leaving one’s home to settle in a new place.
Yearning for Home
Having said this, I can’t remember if there is anyone in my family, or any Sindhi I know, who hasn’t expressed a deep desire to visit Sindh, or revisit their home in Sindh. As I grew up, I often felt like going there, too. At least once to see this home—my ancestral home.
A pin pricked my heart, and the poem “Karachi” came to me. Soon, few more verses poured out. In a month, I had written nearly 50 poems
In 2020, I was watching a movie about Kashmiri Pundits. It hurt me to know that they couldn’t go back. It hit me that even if I wanted to visit my ancestral home in Karachi, there was no one left in the family to guide me to it.
A pin pricked my heart, and the poem “Karachi” came to me. Soon, few more verses poured out. In a month, I had written nearly 50 poems. The idea of the book came to me then.
One can ask, why bring up the past?
India celebrates its 75th year of independence this year. In another decade or so, the last of the Partition survivors will be gone. For those lucky ones who are still alive and stay with their grandchildren, I hope to start a dialogue between them.
I am in an inter-community marriage. My son knows very little of the Sindhi culture because I was born in Mumbai, and didn’t really connect with the Sindhi culture myself. It is only as I mature that I realize how little I know (and my son’s questions are helpful too.)
Only recently did I learn that my maternal grandmother was from Ratedero in Larkana, and my maternal grandfather was related to Prof. Kundnani. Or that my paternal grandmother was related to Bhagwanti Navani.
I might not be able to answer the questions correctly, or be around when my grandchildren are old enough to ask questions about Sindh, or the pain of the Partition. I hope they will find the answers in my book of poetry.
About the Author
Born and raised in Mumbai, India, poet Sunayna Pal moved to USA and happily resides in Maryland with her husband, children, plants, and an invincible goldfish. Holding degrees from XLRI and Annamalai University, Sunayna’s poetry is published extensively in international journals and anthologies, and she enjoys working as the Director of ‘The Poetry Academy.’ Her debut poetry book, ‘Refugees in their own country’ was published in 2022. She is also devoted to the practice of Heartfulness meditation. Find her at https://sunaynapal.com.
Courtesy: India Currents (Posted on September 8, 2022) Reproduced with permission of India Currents