Muhammad Faheem Mughal from Sindh in Pakistan and Rameshwar Dass from India often interact on WhatsApp twice a week as well as other social media not as foes but good friends.
The reason: Faheem, the third generation child of this family engaged in electronics business in Sindh, had migrated in 1947 from Khapphad village of Haryana’s Jind at the time of partition.
Haryana was then part of erstwhile Punjab, which was carved out on November 1, 1966 from Indian Punjab.
Rameshwar Dass, now in his forties and an employee in Haryana Government, is fond of Faheem. The latter speaks in chasteHaryanvi, understands Haryana culture and cracks rustic jokes and couplets for him.
“On every 15th and 1st of the month, the WhatsApp group ‘Haryana-Baithak’(started on 21/5/2016), with members across the border participates in Mushaira from 9.30pm to 11pm, without fail”, said Rameshwar Dass.
“While talking to Faheem, I was amazed to know that Muslim population that had migrated to Pakistan, still identified self with their native villages back in India”, he said.
He said that Faheem contacted him months ago while searching for his grandfather’s old pals in Khappad village in the neighborhood of Kasan, his own ancestral village.
“Unlike, what is portrayed by politicians, not all Pakistanis are bad but they are common men like us and there is no harm in sharing content of common interest of culture”, he quipped.
Faheem said that he is an MBA from Islamabad and was keenly interested in forging friendship with people back in India and social media made the revolution for a new crop of youngsters like him.
“Every family member in my family hears the wisdom talks of Rameshwar Dass, when he sends audio clips on WhatsApp inHaryanvi loaded with subtle wisdom”, Faheem chuckled.
Efforts from Pakistan
Mohammad Alamgir, a young person based in Lahore who works in rescue department told to BBC over phone that his grandparents hailed from a village near Hansi of Hisar district.
“I have had intimate conversations with about 150 elderly persons of both sexes and shared on my YouTube channel, which migrated from Haryana during partition. They were literally crying when I told them about comments their videos generated on YouTube channel from India”, Alamgir said.
Alamgir said that he drew inspiration from his grandparents who always had anecdotes with narratives to share with grandchildren about Haryana.
“The memories of their land, epitaph of ancestors, smell of soil, sweetness of time spent in Haryana then Joint Punjab kept haunting them till they lived”, he said.
He said that before settling a matrimonial alliance, the first thing asked in Haryanvi speaking Pakistanis shifted during partition was the place of origin in India.
“The people that came over here keenly enquired about clan identities for matrimonial match fixing so that the ancestry is known beforehand”, he said.
He added that visiting kin on occasions often found them indulgence in sharing cultural aspects of Haryanvi culture. Every confluence ended up as linguistic feasts, in tracing roots, relishing rustic music as memories of an era gone by, he recalled.
These experiences bonded us all into a common world without borders set up by new geopolitics of the sub-continent. And, this all happens in congenial milieu spending hours while puffing hukkah.
As and when Alamgir uploaded video clips depicted people with advanced age, whose facial skin curves have fatigued but eyes had a spark and tongue slowly but steadily churned out words from remote memories the audience flooded the space of response with ‘like’ preference a countless times with comments from India with compassion.
“Moved by watching the content of the stories before and following partition of the Punjab the people of this border inPakistan harbored a desire to visit lanes of their respective villages and meet their old pals, rever at the epitaph of their ancestors and spend time in the fields, masonry wells and chaupals. Those of us who had heard these tales of human bondage from our forefathers became eager to see how our ancestral villages and properties looked nowadays. WhatsApp has filled this gap crossing geographical boundaries”, he added.
The Youtube channel slot of Muhammad Alamgir boasts of about six thousand subscribers on which 160 clips have been uploaded, which is simultaneously shared on Facebook page (HARYANVI LANGUAGE & CULTURE ACADEMY OF PAKISTAN). Its popularity can be assessed by ever increasing numbers that now counts 18,000 subscribers from both sides of erstwhile Punjab.
Families across borders meet and greet on social media
Anoop Lather, formerly a Director in Department of Youth Welfare and Culture at Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra indicates that his family regularly connects via social media with Rana Shahid Iqbal’s based in Lahore.
“Rana’s grand parents had migrated from erstwhile Ambala division and we got in contact after he saw my Haryanvi video clips on my Facebook page. Following this initial connect we became fast friends more than an year ago”, Lather adds.
Lather is friend to many families in Pakistan, whose ancestors had migrated in 1947.
Rana, chief organizer of NOHRA (National Organisation of Haryanvi Arts and Culture) hosts the WhatsApp group and shares its content on Facebook as well.
Rana mentioned that about 100 WhatsApp Groups operate from Pakistan with ‘admins’ on both sides with 100-150 membership.
“The members are requested to not discuss religion or politics or bloodshed during partition and preferably post their audio recording instead of text message. The audio clips from both sides also do the work of exchange of information in chasteHaryanvi and avoid hassle of typing or copy pasting”, Rana said.
Rana continues to be a member of at least 30 such WhatsApp groups in Punjab and Sindh provinces alone, which fulfilled the emotional vacuum of not being together post-1947, which necessitates thinking in the right direction in bridging gaps between brothers separated long ago.
Raghubir Nain, general secretary of Haryana Nain Khap told this correspondent on a telephonic conversation that Kanahiya, his grandfather, who had rescued Muslim families during violence of partition era had last year came into contact with one such family in Sindh viz. Haji Muhammad Yameen, Municipal Counciller at Khanewal distric. Yameen’s grandfather had gone from Jind district. “He got excited while interacting about old memories of partition told by grandparents”, Nain said.
A digital initiative was started by a non-profit non-governmental organization ‘The 1947 Partition Archive’ to institutionalize the peoples’ history of partition through documenting, preserving and sharing eye-witness accounts of all because the younger generation wants a cultural reconnect putting hostilities aside because the latter had not served purpose in the last seven decades.
Nirmal Burdak, a young female scholar from Haryana who earlier painstakingly compiled unlisted folklore voluntarily accomplished her second major project of digitally documenting the horrendous tales of the people that survived the violence and trauma of partition. “I traveled more than 100 villages of Haryana spending my own money or loaned from friends to document more than 300 audio and video intimate conversations of affected people during partition”, she said who holds a Ph.d degree.
Ranbir S Phaugat, widely traveled, author and a cultural historian of Haryana in a conversation told the BBC that the objective of fresh documentation of the tales of eventful and hoary partition era in digital mode ensures live sharing of traumatic experiences with display of emotions.
The younger generation needs friendship bonds and intimately watches the geographical areas of India that once touched the borders of Persia or Iran and explores routes on which cultural exchanges took place since Hindupat Padshahee times.