On some nights when the air was balmy with humidity and her pen refused to move anymore, writer Daya Lakhi Jashnani often thought of that day in a small village in Sindh, Punjab, when her classmate and best friend Hamid had cried because a bee had stung her at recess. The little boy held her hand and took her to his mother who applied medicine to the wound and made her 'jawar ki roti'. Daya was four at the time but she still remembers the smell of those chapattis. They smelled of love.
"It all changed so quickly," Daya, now 84, recalls. Her best friend Hamid and her home in Sukkur are now in Pakistan. When riots broke out after the partition of undivided India - which coincided with India's independence - Daya along with her family had to leave everything behind and run for their lives as sectarian violence broke out across parts of India.
Today, 72 years on, Daya who is now a reputed Sindhi writer with three children and a family in Maharashtra's Ullaspur, still cannot understand the reason for the hate.
From fighting for freedom to fighting for religion
"Before and during the fight for independence, Hindus and Muslims in my neighborhood were like brothers and sisters. I grew up in the laps of Muslims. That was until the partition of India," the octogenarian tells News18.
Though she was little, Daya remembered burning 'videshi' (foreign) clothes as part of the swadeshi movement and raising calls of Vande Mataram. She remembers singing songs in Sindhi along with other children and adults - Hindu, Muslim alike - about India's freedom from the British. "It was hard to understand when the fight for freedom became a fight for religion," she reflects.
She recalls losing her baby brother to disease as they could not secure medical resources for the infant due to the ongoing violence. "We had to bury the baby in our own backyard because we were not being allowed into any burial or cremation space," she recalls. Soon after that, she left her home forever amid massive bloodshed.
"We saw rivers of blood. We did not know who was killing whom. But we were in danger, that was certain. Muslims were killing Hindus here while Hindus were killing Muslims elsewhere," she said.
After nearly a week's journey, much of which they spent hidden behind luggage in buses and trucks, Daya's family managed to reach Deolali in Maharashtra - to India.
"But in my mind, I was born in India. I am still in India," Daya asserts, claiming that she has always been and will be an Indian, no matter where her birthplace is now.
A woman of many words
Daya's family suffered many hardships upon coming to India which had just received independence after 200 years of British rule and recovering from the shock of the worst form of sectarian violence that the country had seen. Jobs were scarce and her parents had to build everything from scratch. Daya claims that it was the Sindhi community in Ullasnagar that came to their aid.
"We Sindhis are peace-loving, enterprising people. We can make a business out of nothing. If humans manage to reach the moon, the first shop there will be set up by a Sindhi," she laughs, unable to hide the community pride.
A woman of many words, Daya's love for writing and her mother tongue drove her to the pen early on in her life. Her books have won several awards including 'Izat Ji Chadar' which won an award from the National Council For Promotion Of Sindhi Language. She has written several books and articles for magazines from across India and her pieces appear in Sindhi newspapers in both India as well as Pakistan.
Speaking of Pakistan, Daya recalls returning to her former home in 1986 for the wedding of their beloved friends. On her visit, she sensed a hint of unrest amid the younger generation. "The elderly showed love and respect. But those born after the Partition were suspicious. I sense similar unrest in India's youth today.
But Daya believes in not dwelling on the past and marching forward in life with a fierceness intended to make adversities quail. "I have a big family now. I write about love, friendship, about the Sindhi language and other joys of life. While I have witnessed unimaginable pain, I have also lived a life full of laughter and love," Daya says.
On some nights, however, her mind wanders to Hamid. Streams of blood can not make her forget the streams of tears on her best friend and protector's face. And she smiles.
This story was published as part of a three-part series 'Preserving Partition' in collaboration with 1947 Partition Archives of India to mark the 72nd anniversary of the horrific Partition of India. News18.com interviewed three partition survivors who lived to tell the tale. Daya Jashsnani was originally found and interviewed for the non-profit by Pooja Yangaldas.