dreamybean

Meeting Mr. Bhojwani

Posted on: May 20, 2013

I stepped out of my house with a million questions. I was to meet and interview Mr. Bhojwani as a part of my Partition stories project. Had a bag of mixed feelings. Was apprehensive and excited at the same time.

 I was to meet him at 5.30pm, so I picked some flowers for him on my way to Koregaon park where he lived with his family.

I was already 10 mins late for my meeting, I reached Popular heights, I was still on my bike. I saw an old gentleman standing in his road-facing balcony that overlooked the road that connected to North Main road at KP.  I asked the watchman if this was where Mr. Bhojwani lived; he pointed out to the balcony where the old gentleman was now watching me.

His daughter joined him in the balcony almost instantly and she asked, “Beena??” to which I responded “Kajal”? I had chatted with her to get Mr. Bhojwani’s appointment.

Mr Bhojwani was now smiling, we exchanged our pleasantries, what I noticed instantly were his sharp eyes, he must have been in his late 70’s but he had the eyes of a thinking mind. I introduced myself, we spoke, he talked about old times and he seemed really contented with life.

He had done his post graduation in an era when people barely finished school or even reached college.
He retired from Larsen and Turbo 12 years ago as an Administrative Manager, he had joined this company as daily contract worker. He had worked his way up the ladder and was immensely successful.

This is his story ….
They were 3 brothers and 1 sister

 He doesn’t remember how old he was when he had to leave Lakkhi (a place in Sindh, now in Pakistan), the place of his birth, and where his ancestral house was. He said he was in his third standard when they had to leave. He was approximately 9 yrs old then. He also said that he started going to school when he was 6 yrs old. He had lost his mother when he was very young and was raised by his grandmother, father and his extended family.

They had a big house in Sindh in which Mr. Bhojwani’s father lived with his 3 brothers and their families.
They were a well-to-do family until the time that they had to leave, during partition.
He has vague memories of all of them leaving with very little necessities and boarding a train to India.
The train was crowded with people of all strata wanting to leave Sindh in hope of safety. He and their family assumed that they would return after a few months when things settled. This never really happened.

He remembers arriving at Satara where there was a refugee camp that was set up by the Govt. of India, and where he, with his family and hundreds of other families were accommodated. As children, they used to play around, and though they knew that they were far away from their homes, it didnt really matter because their family was together.

After the initial few weeks, their family moved to Ulhasnagar in Mumbai. Upon reaching here, they didn’t find proper accomodation. The families in the train refused to get off from the trains until they were given a decent place to stay. They continued to stay in the train for another 20 days after which they were given some decent accommodation.

With the passage of time, their family eventually moved to Pune, things never really got back to normal in Sindh, India and PAkistan had by now attained Independance, but peace never really prevailed between the two nations. The Sindhis who has now made India their new home started searching and doing jobs that would help them and their families sustain the financial crisis. Most of these Sindhis were wealthy, but the partition had made them leave all their wealth back home, hidden inside fake walls and ceilings.

He remembers how during their financial crisis, one of his uncles became a hajaam, the other became a dhobi. He also remembers a couple of families where one of the men would sell snacks in moving trains, one such gentleman used to sell combs, and small articles in trains. Whatever said and done, Sindhis, he said, never begged for money. They always maintained their pride and dignity and didnt hesitate to do odd jobs that would help them sustain.

Mr. Bhojwani, as a child, also had to do odd jobs to sustain. As a child, he also worked in a hotel, he cleaned the tables and also served food.  He was a bright student and did well at school as well. He continued doing various odd jobs while studying and he said he never missed a day at work for studying. He worked hard and studied harder. He was a bright student all through school. He studied in the nights by the footpath under the street lights because they did not have electricity back then.

His grandmother was his pillar of strength and passed away when she was 78years old.

He joined Larsen and Turbo as a daily wage contractor in Pune, he was extremely hard working and he also completed his post graduation by then. He eventually got married, had children, life started getting better. In the years ahead, he grew up the ladder to become the Administrative officer.

Today, when I ask him if he misses Sindh or if he would like to go back, he says, he sometimes does feel the urge to go back and see the place of his birth, but his friends and family believe that there is nothing left there that he will be able to connect with. He may not even be able to identify where he lived or who his neighbors were. He, like many other families that moved borders have moved on.

When I asked him if he regrets having come to India, he says he’s glad they came here.
“Pakistan is an unsafe place to be in”.. One of their distant relatives who lives in Pakistan was recently kidnapped for a ransom. Kajal added “People cannot live in peace, they are afraid to paint their houses or spend money on buying a new vehicle for fear of being robbed or kidnapped.”

He believes in destiny and says, whatever happens in your life, no matter how good or bad, always is for your best.

The one thing I liked the most about Mr. Bhojwani was his sense of humor and his passion and his positive outlook towards life. Life to him is a journey.

I left his house with a warm and tingling feeling inside me. This sometimes makes me wonder how our generation differs from his generation. Where we want everything fast and everything “right now”; are we missing out on the lessons of life?

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