“We heard the same story repeated over and over again. Even the most innocuous of our neighbours, we discovered, had extraordinary tales of 1947: chartered accountants could tell tales of single-handedly fighting off baying mobs; men from grey government ministries would emerge as the heroes of bloody street battles. Everything these people now possessed was built up by their own hard labour over the last few years. “Mr Seth, our neighbour, was a retired official in the Indian Railways. A safari-suited civil servant, he was polite, timid and anonymous. After passing out of Walton Railway Training School, Seth’s first posting came in 1946: he was made Assistant Ticket Insepector at Sheikhapura near Lahore. One year later there came the great divide and Mr Seth, a Hindu, found himself on the wrong side of the border. The killing had started. Sikhs and Hindus stopped trains carrying refugees to Pakistan and killed all the Muslims. Muslims stopped trains going to India and killed all the Sikhs and Hindus. “

Posted April 22, 2003

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