Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I am a man without a Home

A short story by Almas Akhtar

I was born in Mir Pur Khas a small town in Sindh, Pakistan. My father and uncles were farmers who owned mango farms. They had lived in Sindh all their lives, enjoyed the simple life style of Wadi e Mehran. They had many friends some were Hindus and some were Muslims. All of us kids celebrated Basant , Ashura, Eid, Holi and Diwali. Then came the "partition" of my country in 1947. I had just celebrated my 8 th birthday in August that year when many of our distant relatives decided to move to India. I remember them telling my father " India is for Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims, we all must leave".
" This is my land, my farms, my home I will not leave", he told them. Many of our relatives moved to India but we did not. All my friends were scared they did not want me to move maybe because they loved me a lot or maybe because I was captain of the cricket team and their star batsman!
Days past by and our friendships grew closer. We enjoyed playing " Baraf Pani " and " street cricket".

I moved to Karachi when I got admission in St Patricks College,  in 1957. My family rented a small apartment in the Saddar area near the college where I lived along with our Munshee Jee who took care of the house, did groceries and kept a strict eye on me. He prepared fresh vegetarian food for me, every day.

I spent summer vacations and Eid and Diwali with family  back in Mir Pur Khas. I bought a small radio and enjoyed listening to Sufi music.

I was able to get admission in the prestigious Dow Medical College. My parents distributed mithai and new clothes among all the farmers and workers back in Sindh. After all there will be a young "doctor babu" returning in few years to serve his community.

I completed my house job in early 1966. Karachi was a beautiful city at that time, roads were swept in the mornings, I enjoyed watching films in the newly built film theaters and enjoyed the tram ride across Bandar Road. Yet I greatly missed my village and my family.

I went back and started my own dispensary in Mir Pur Khas. My two older sisters got married to two brothers in India and they moved there. My parents went to India for the wedding ceremony. My younger brother started helping my father in running the family mango business. I also got married few years later. My father wanted me to go to "Wilayat"( foreign country usually used for England) for higher education I started applying in various universities in England, then one of my college friends told me about America. I applied and got residency in a medical institute in New York.

I arrived in New York in 1971, worked hard day and night for 7 years to complete my medical training. I became father of two kids during this time. I greatly missed my family, hated the winters in NY which I thought were worse than the summer heat of Sindh. I also missed the game of cricket, asked my brother to update me on the latest tours of Pakistan Cricket Team during our phone conversations. I got a job as a cardiologist in one of the leading medical institute in the country. They help me acquire US citizenship, now I had dual citizenships of Pakistan and USA. I had two passports a green one and a blue one.

I visited Mir Pur Khas in 1979 with my family with lots of gifts for everyone. I was the " Doctor Babu" the pride of my small town, every one came over to visit me. My brother had taken over the business from my dad and he was doing very well. He had renovated the house, started exporting mangoes to newer markets in the Middle East. " I want to move back and built a hospital in this area", I told my dad during my visit.
" Don't do that in fact call me, your mom and brother to America, we are Hindus we are not safe here,your brother has started getting threats from the government officials, I can't go and visit my daughters, we were refused Indian visa when we applied for it and your sisters could not get Pakistani visa from India, the new textbooks in school says all Hindus are enemies of Pakistan, why?" he sounded very depressed.
" But Papa you did not move in 1947 and now you want to leave Pakistan?", I asked.
" I did not know that I will be interrogated and humiliated so badly just to visit India for few weeks. I am a Pakistani, not a terrorist, the people of this town respect me but the government officials do not trust us, I did not know that my grandchildren will read that their are enemies of their own country", he replied.

I returned to US with a heavy heart and started the immigration process for my parents and wife"s parents. My parents came to US after a year and my brother moved his business to Dubai where he settled with his family. My sisters and my parents started meeting every year in Dubai as all of them could travel easily there.

Me and my wife went to watch the Cricket World Cup in London in 1983, we cheered for Pakistan they lost in the semi finals. I was not happy that India won the final and lifted the trophy, how could I ? How could a Pakistani be happy at India"s victory in Cricket?

As I am getting old myself I dream about our farms and my friends. My most cherished memories are of my childhood spent in Sindh, Pakistan.

I regularly follow the game of Cricket on Dish Network now and am one of the biggest supporter of Pakistan Cricket team.I travelled to Australia to watch the 1992 Cricket World Cup . I cried when Pakistan won, I cried for the country that I belonged to, I cried for my "Pakistan"!

I listen to the Sufi Music of Shah Latif Bhittai and Sachal Sarmast. I enjoy eating Pakistani mangoes. Me and my wife are leading a semi- retired life we like to travel across the globe, when ever I see the sign " Karachi" or " Lahore" or "Islamabad", I feel an ache in my heart.......

My parents passed away in the late 80s. I still go to Dubai to visit my siblings. I applied for Indian Visa to attend my sister"s son"s wedding but was refused the immigration officer said you can get Indian Visa if you surrender your Pakistani Citizenship.
How can I give up my Pakistani Citizenship ? No never!

I am scarred to go to Pakistan, have no association with India and will always be an immigrant in USA.

My children call America home, my father did not move to India in 1947 and called Pakistan home. I have citizenship of two countries but I don't have a home. My name is Raj Krishan and I am a man with no country to call home.