This is the second story in the 3-part series of partition tales by the author. This story is based on true events, and the family members mentioned below are relatives of the author’s maternal grandfather.
You can read part one here.
15 August 1947.
A date to be remembered eternally by the inhabitants of India and Pakistan. It
was a tryst of life and death, a scramble for preservation of identity and honor.
While the didactic and legislative attributes of this partition have been memorialized in multiple books as well as museums, those who viewed the unfolding of these events remember it first-hand as an anthology of trauma and agony. These memories of disquiet and paranoia are inscribed into the families of those displaced and left vulnerable, every scar commemorated, and each tear shed pulverized into folklore for the children of millennia to come. The lineage of refugees and those of the partition diaspora, carry with them the past never told, their reminisces intangible and aged, and yet preserved.
I belong to an aged ménage of one of the many families who fled from Pakistan during the partition. My predecessors belonged to the myriad inhabitants of Peshawar who absconded or succumbed to death, leaving behind everything they knew – fearful yet proudly donning their Kesari turbans as they marched towards a world unbeknownst to them.
Here is a florilegium of untold stories and recounted experiences of my family
which deserve to see the light of the day:
Part II: The Volitional Massacre
̃A village, somewhere in present-day Pakistan -1947 ̃
They came in swarms of iridescent viridescence, a soiree of celebration and exuberance. They were the green bee-eaters, vicious yet beguiling. They fluffed their plumage and squawked in glee, their elation transcending as they suckled and ingurgitated the saffron beehive, eliminating their existence. No one could stop them; for the beehive was theirs to ruin, demolishing its numen under the crescent moon.
There was a family of 18, prosperous and prominent. They lay beneath the ivory walls of their manor, preserved from the commotion outside, yet not for long. It did not take long for the bee-eaters to sniff out their scent. It was a melancholic rainy day, and the children jumped in puddles as their mothers scolded them. Just as the men tied their
Kesari turbans and polished their kirpans, the verdant entomophages had them surrounded; bloodthirsty and callous.
They demanded retribution for sins not committed, a vicious vengeance for crimes not perpetrated. They called out the family, surrounding them with fire and weaponry.
“Leave your khanda and that fraudulent saffron cloth. Cut your hair and cut all ties with such piety. Become a part of us and we will let you come out alive! Adorn yourself virescent and you will be shown mercy,” they shouted in a crazed frenzy, eyes bloodshot with malice.
“We have lived in harmony for ages! Why must we do this?” cried out the head of the family, his voice sounding like raw steel despite being muffled by the walls.
“Gah! There is no harmony. Convert and come out or we enter and kill you!” said the bee-eaters, ravenous for their fill.
“Or” drawled a shrewd looking figure, frail yet sinister, “give us your daughters. I am sure they would make a delicious meal. Give them to us and you walk free”
The swarm laughed in frenetic lewdness; bloodlust entangled with lechery.
“Never!” hollered the elder matron of the family, her voice reverberating in an echo.
The swarms increased, surrounding the beehive. The saffron bees wailed for their life, dignity, and identity.
The head went inside a room and brought out a gun. A massive piece of ammunition it was, burnished with allure yet menacing.
“I will die before I let anyone take my identity! Everyone stand in a line,” he proclaimed, standing tall. His eyes had an unnerved glint, yet they shimmered with tears. He was grieving in foreboding for the annihilation to take place. Seventeen people stood in a line in the veranda. The children trembled in fear while the men and women stood strong.
“Forgive me for what I’m about to do. Hopefully, my guru, he who is all-knowing, understands why I did this,” saying so, the elder kneeled to the ground, his pristine white mustache touching the dust and grass.
“Just do it!” said the elderly matron, her frail shoulders stiff and her aged skin glistening with perspiration and ardor.
Eighteen gunshots were heard that day, each shot reverberating for miles. The bee-eaters grew frenzied and broke the large door. There they saw seventeen corpses dead in a line, and the elder lying dead with the gun, blood seeping in a pool from the wound in his head. They all wore saffron robes, each hand clutching a kirpan. The green bee-eaters feasted their eyes at the massacre, their elation crazed as they looted the house and degraded the bodies. Once their bloodlust was satisfied, they set the house ablaze. Eighteen people died that day, eighteen innocent people revolting for their
It is said that the fire burned ablaze for days, its dying embers reigniting each time with saffron-colored pride and agony. The smoke seemed to envelop the whole village in ash and mist, a reminder that grave injustice had taken place. The green bee-eaters forgot about it though. They had more houses to plunder, more corpses to feed upon. Their crescent moon enveloped the village in a murky shade. The stars looked down as these virescent dastards feasted upon the Kesari bees.
- Question of death: Comfort in philosophy or religion? - May 17, 2021
- The conscious-unconscious uncoupling: A series (Part II) - August 28, 2020
- The conscious-unconscious uncoupling: A series (Part I) - August 25, 2020