Separated by Partition, they passed on their friendship as inheritance: Story of Ch Barkat Ali (Pakistan) and Sardar Ishar Singh (India)
As part of our call to share about their friend(s) beyond the Indopak Border, Mr. Davinder Paul Singh from Amritsar, India shared the story of his grandfather and his friend:
Before the Indo-Pak partition, there was a small village in the district of Gurdaspur, Punjab – known as Neewan Dhakala – situated some 5-6 miles from the proposed border. Among its 350-400 Hindu, Sikh & Muslim population, lived a family of Chaudhry Barkat Ali, who was Nambardaar of the Muslim population. He was basically a farmer who also had some land holdings, and used to keep some buffaloes at home as well- for milk, ghee etc. He was a tall man, with a well built body & was good natured.
The Sikh Nambardaar of the village was Sardar Ishar Singh who was a great friend of Ch. Barkat Ali. Even their children used to visit each others’ homes. There was a lot of intimacy between these two families and thus food items, milk products etc. were also exchanged regularly.
When the unfortunate storm of the partition started blowing, Ch. Barkat Ali, like all other Muslims, decided to cross over to their newly created country. Although the Muslim people were their very dear friends and a part of the lives of the residents of Neewan Dhakala village, yet it was not considered wise and justified by their Indian friends to stop them from crossing over to the international boundary, to their new dreamland.
So Sardar Ishar Singh, who alone at that time had a licensed revolver in that area, provided protection to them till they reached the border. This protection was required as bad elements had become active and had started snatching cash, jewellery, household goods and even young girls from the helpless departing Muslim families.
There is a small tributary (named Nomani) of river Ravi between the village of Neewan Dhakala and the Pakistan border which incidentally was in full spate due to the monsoon rains during that time of the year. Chaudhry Barkat Ali’s family, along with all other departing Muslim families of the vicinity, could not cross this rivulet for three days and for all that time Sardar Ishar Singh stayed there, along with those grief-stricken families, protecting them from attacking marauders and providing them succor, moral support & importantly, home cooked meals which were brought from the village Neewan Dhekala, for these folks, twice every day.
After the third day, the river water receded and all these Muslim families decided to take a risk and finally crossed over to the country of their dreams. The family of Chaudhry Barkat Ali reached a town called Samundri (near the present city of Faisalabad) and settled down there.
Both the families remained in touch with each other through letters, and around 1955, Sardar Ishar Singh visited Pakistan, with a jatha of Sikh Pilgrims, to visit the Sikh Gurudwaras. Chaudhry Barkat Ali was informed beforehand, by post, about this visit and he, along with other ex villagers of Neewan Dhakala (now settled in Samundri, Pakistan) reached Nankana Sahib Gurudwara and there, both the dear friends met each other, for the first and last time, after the partition of Hindustan (into India and Pakistan).
One of the daughters of Ch. Barkat Ali got married & settled in Faisalabad city. Further she had two daughters and one of her daughters got married to a Govt. Officer, in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
Though both the old friends are no more now, yet their family members used to talk about their relationship, and finally in 1984, the Faisalabad based Saabran Bibi, (daughter of Ch. Barkat Ali) took the initiative and asked her son Saleem to write a letter to Sardar Ishar Singh. By the time the letter reached him, he was no more and his son Manmohan Singh received the letter, asked an Urdu literate person to translate the same, replied to it and then sent the same to his nephew in Amritsar, to carry on the renewed relationship.
After the exchange of one or two letters, the link remained cut off (courtesy Postal Censorship and other reasons beyond the control of ordinary innocent citizens of these two countries) and finally after 10 years, a letter was sent to Mr. Saleem through Europe which reached him finally and an unbreakable link was established again.
In 1999, Mr. Saleem got married and invited the nephew of Manmohan Singh to witness his marriage. Arranging the Pakistani visa was a big problem and thus the Indian invitees could not attend Saleem’s wedding well in time, yet they reached his place a few days later and renewed the relationship which their grandparents/forefathers had started some 60 years ago.
Saleem’s Islamabad based sister was also waiting for the Indian Invitees but unfortunately they could not go there due to time shortage & their indisposition. Her wish was fulfilled when the nephew of Manmohan Singh visited them in 2005 and met all of their family members including their 2 very sweet Doctor daughters.
Infact on the marriage of their elder daughter Dr. Nimra (solemnised with Surgeon Major Faran Kiani of Abbottabad), the Indian relations reached well in time and mashallah performed all the rituals of an uncle / aunt. That was the occasion when most of their Pakistani / overseas relatives were also met and thus the relationships were further strengthened.
Now with the Grace of Allah & Waheguru, the bonding between both these families (of Indo-Pak) is extremely strong and is increasing day by day as they believe in true human relationships which is even above blood relations, provided one understands it, believes in it and then lives it out correctly.
Present Day Scenario
1. Village Neewan Dhakala is still there but the children of Sardar Ishar Singh are settled in different cities (Jammu, Pathankot, Mohali & London ) though they still have their land holdings & 2 houses there.
2. The nephew of Manmohan Singh (and grandson of Sardar Ishar Singh ji) is Mr. D.P.Singh who is sharing this story now, with you.
3. Dr.(Mrs.) Ummehani and Dr. (Mrs.) Nimra Faran are the great granddaughters of Chaudhry Barkat Ali.
4. Saabran Bibi expired about 3 years ago, at Faisalabad.
5. Dr. Ummehani got married too (to a software Engineer, Kashif Khan of Rawalpindi) on 20-10-2012.