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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 31

Partition and Friendship

Tuesday 22 July 2008, by Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan

[(The following piece appeared as a letter in the Pakistani daily Dawn from where it is being reproduced with due acknowledgement.)]

For many years I had been searching for Suvira Mann to condole her husband K. C. Mann’s death, I just could not find her.

K. C. Mann, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India, and Suvira were very good friends of Mazhar’s, my husband, and mine when they lived in Lahore. We worked together and she was a great help. She happened to know much more than I did and always gently corrected me when I went wrong. She sang very well and had a melodious voice. Whenever asked to sing, the room echoed with her divine voice.

After years I located her brother. Alas it was too late. He gave me the sad news of Suvira’s death last April. It came as a bolt of lightning. I was not expecting this news and my heart was numb. It felt like our country, our land and our hearts were hacked and partitioned.

Though I had found a dear friend for whom I was searching for so many years, I am now unable to go across. I feel like a prisoner who is in self-confinement with no crime to vouch for this sentence in a mental penitentiary. Words alone cannot simply describe the pain and mental misery and physical anguish I am going through.

I now realise with ample pain that our land was butchered and aimlessly cut into pieces. We cannot easily reach out to those we love in times of stress and grief.

I remember another occasion when I felt equally helpless when my friends Sonnu and Midow, daughters of the first Indian Principal of Government College, Lahore, lost their father. It was not easy to cross the border. Now I mourn Suvira, a friend with whom on many occasions I walked miles and miles to attend a women’s meeting. We were friends who were committed to the same cause for which we were prepared to sacrifice our lives, we believed in a future which would bring happiness for all. Such was our friendship.

Let us hope that our children and grandchildren never have to face such a partition, where hearts are torn asunder and minds are helpless.

We must not allow a partition of land to divide hearts and souls as 1947 did. It drew us away from our dear friends. Longing for friends thus lost and recalling the memories of their company is the most painful experience one can go through.

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