The Ardas of the 24 million Nanak Naam Lewas was finally heard on 9th November as the Kartarpur corridor and the adjacent Darbar Sahib Gurdwara was opened for Indian Sikh Yatris, after a hiatus of 73 long years. The Sardars based in Indian Punjab no longer had to fix their binoculars to catch a glimpse of the final resting place of the founder of their faith.
They no longer needed to request the Pakistani government to cut the grass around Darbar Sahib which hindered their view from across the border. They no further longed to be those birds who flew freely over the fenced wire to the temple as faith finally transcended man-made boundaries.
The air was still thick with the tears of Sikh Sangat’s, but what differed were these tears displayed joy and affection for their Maha Guru rather than tears of grief and separation which had burnt their eyes for the previous seven decades.
Sadly, the Ardas of my grandfather to visit his ancestral village in Ludhiana could not be fulfilled. He passed away without ever returning to his home from where he was separated at the time of partition. Be it Eid, wedding, funeral or any other family gathering; his dais was all he reminisced about. I often asked him why he referred to his birthplace as dais and not as Indian Punjab?
“Pakistan is my home but Dhurkot (the name of his village) would always be my Dais because a part of me still lives there”.
He often recalled, even after all these years if he was blindfolded and left at the road which led to his village, despite all the changes that area must have gone through, he would be able to walk to his Pind without any help. I wondered if he remembered everything so well, how immensely affected he must have been by the communal violence Punjab witnessed in 1947!
Just to put the grave injustice that the Radcliffe line did to Punjabis into perspective, Amritsar is located only 30 kilometers away from Lahore. The journey can be covered in approximately 30 minutes. Punjabis living in Amritsar along with Lahore share the same looks, speak the same language, eat the same Saag & Ghee wali roti and perform the same ‘’Bhangra’’ at their weddings. Regardless of all this, it’s next to impossible for them to visit Amritsar or Lahore given the strict visa regime between India and Pakistan.
Therefore, for me, it was quite an emotional journey when I visited Kartarpur last week. My two complete generations had passed away with the pain of partition. The anecdotes from my visit are too many for all of them to be listed here. All of them were replete with poignant and elated blurs of emotion which had been pending for 70 years.
How refreshing it was witnessing the Sikh Jathas comprised of both young and the elderly, observing a little boy running around wearing a school bag and the traditional Sikh turban. I said humorously to his mother that
“Lagda ae schoolon pajj k aayia wa’ (Seems as if he skipped school for this)”.
Her mother couldn’t refrain herself from laughing whilst replying that she had asked everyone in the family to carry bags so that they could bring as much Prasad from Baba Ji’s land as possible.
The greatest eureka moment was by a Pakistani citizen who hailed from the Hasan Abdal district. During our interaction, I found out that his mother was a Sikh who later converted after she got separated from her family during partition. Her family members were either killed or displaced to India, leaving her all on her own. He had brought his son to serve the Yatris and fulfill his mother’s will. His mother’s last words were
“Apnay puttar nu sardaran kolo piyar dawayi, mein samjhu gi jeevay meray piyo ne aenu piyar dita” (If any of the Sikhs bless your son with affection, it would be as if my own father had done it).
Everywhere I looked, I saw Indians and Pakistanis sitting in small circles discussing the whereabouts of their lost villages and forefathers. In a trademark symbol of interfaith harmony, the Muslim locals could be heard greeting the incoming Yatris by ‘Saat Sri Akaal’ to which the Sikh Sangat responded by ‘Assalmu Alaikum’. Next to Guru Nanak Maharaj’s well, an Indian Sikh Hakeem had taken out time from his holy pilgrimage and was writing prescriptions for the locals.
The prescription to all the physical and spiritual ailments was provided by Baba Guru Nanak at Kartarpur 500 years ago. There is a great lesson in these prescriptions for everyone living in India and Pakistan. Half a millennium has passed since Baba Guru Nanak breathed his last, yet he continues to be a source of compassion, equality and unity. The legacy of Guru Nanak manifests itself to the stakeholders of both countries if they wish to seek guidance from it. The world remembers those who preach peace, tolerance and coexistence even after they have left it. Life is short, so why not live it like Guru Nanak Maharaj, by defeating hatred, feeding the poor, treating the destitute and filling hearts with eternal love!
Baba Guru Nanak was a voice for humanity and lived for humanity. The Udasis he undertook can be used as a fillip to overcome the painful past between the two rival states. Like Guru Nanak explored new towns and eschewed venal practices, the time is ripe for both governments to look beyond past mistakes realizing the infinite possibilities that could emerge from this corridor of peace. Both governments must ensure that this phase of camaraderie does not turn out to be ephemeral.
We have built the largest Gurdwara in the world. Now, we need to complement it by enlarging our hearts for different ethnic and religious minorities who live within the
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