Chandigarh: Sajda Begum from Faizabad near Nankana Sahib in Pakistan was a five-year-old girl in August 1947 when she lost most of her family members to partition. One of them was her younger cousin, Baldev Singh from Rattoke village in Sangrur. He was just a few months old then. One of the many abiding memories of Sajda was that she would tickle her few months old cousin Baldev’s feet and he would laugh.
On April 21 during the weeklong Baisakhi celebrations, they met each other for the first time after 1947 at the Nankana Sahib gurdwara. “I must have been in the lap of my mother, and obviously I have no memories of those times. But Sajda had some sparks of memory. One such recollection was that she would snatch me from my mother and try to put me to sleep in her lap or tickle my feet to make me laugh. When I heard it, I had tears in my eyes,” said Baldev Singh, who is 75 years old now. Sajda is more than 80, he said.
Sajda’s family converted to Islam
Baldev said that I had two uncles – Attar Singh and Chattar Singh. Attar Singh shifted to a village in Haryana a little before the partition while Chattar Singh and his entire family could not cross the border. Sajda is the daughter of Chattar Singh. Upon growing up Sajda, who herself has forgotten her real name was christened by this name after she converted to Islam. And later she married a Sikh boy, Sardara Khan, who too had to convert to Islam.
“We tried to get in touch with one another through social media. The first time I came to know that a cousin of mine is looking for us is during the 550 birth anniversary celebration of Guru Nanak Dev in 2019. She had better memory because she was a young child. I had a completely blank slate. After that we remained in touch with one another on the phone but couldn’t meet earlier due to Covid restrictions,” Baldev uttered.
She wanted to take me home
Back during the time of partition, Sajda and her family in Pakistan remained hidden for days as mass killings were taking place on communal lines.
“Our families here were uncertain about their existence. With time, our parents’ reconciled to the fact that they will never get to hear about them. Our generation wasn’t emotionally connected since we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes. But if someone suddenly tells you that you have a cousin in the neighbouring country, you do feel connected. And that is what happened to me,” said Baldev.
Upon reaching Nankana Sahib, he did not have a Pakistani sim card to connect to her sister Sajda. She had come there with her son Rakib Khan and two daughters. A gentleman also from Punjab called Bakshish Singh, helped him procure a sim card and make a call to Sajda.
“We spent a good two-three hours there before saying goodbye. My sister Sajda even requested from the security personnel that she wanted to take me home, but they denied it. Now, I have invited her to India whenever she finds time.”