Pre-Partition family memories

Author: 
Jatinder Sethi

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Jatinder Sethi was born in Lyallpur, now Faisalabad, in pre-Independence India. He finished his M.A. (English) from Delhi University in 1956, and went off to London to study Advertising in 1958. He passed his Membership Exam of The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (M.I.P.A) in1965, and joined Rallis India in Bombay. Later, for over 20 years, he worked for the advertising agency Ogilvy &amp\; Mather. Now retired, he helps his son in his ad agency in Delhi.

My Nanaji, I think his name Mulakh Raj Ahuja, was a Surgeon and headed the administration in Sargodha (now in Pakistan) in around 1910.  In those days, Civil Surgeons were also the Head of all District medical administration-it was a very powerful job. He married his older daughters in Bhera and Khushab to men from big Zamindar (landlord) families.

His youngest daughter, Lajwanti, my mother, got married to a man from Jhang who lived in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad, Pakistan). He was my father, Chaudhry Jai Ram Dass Sethi, BA LLB, who was a lawyer.

My eldest Mamaji, Shanti Narain Ahuja, who lived in Sargodha, was Punjab's leading criminal lawyer\; he had studied law in London. He had a big convertible car. And he was a very close friend of the Turray Waalay Khizar Hayat Khan and Sir Sikander Hayat Khan.

Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan

Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan with a turray pugree

This Mamaji died when I was in the 4th class, with what I think was called carbuncle. My younger Mamaji (my mother had two brothers) was a Trade Commissioner posted in Toronto. That family retired in Toronto.

I remember the very big Ahuja kothi (house) in Sargodha, with Khas Tattis outside, with commodes, and trees of bair बेर, and peengs on those trees, which we all used to Jhullo (swing).

One detail I never forget of my childhood.

As a family, we were very close to all the three Massis (mother's elder sisters) than our father's family. I remember at the age of 7 years, I was sent to Khushab (in Pakistan after Partition) to stay with one of my Massis.

After a stay of one week, when I was ready to return to Lyallpur, my Massi gifted me a hand-stitched Chinese Silk Shirt with Double Cuffs (fashionable in those days) and a pair of gold cuff links. I wore that shirt when I returned to Lyallpur.

This Massi's daughter, Kanta Bhenji, married a PCS officer Prakash Suri in Lahore. She was one of the most popular Ayurveda hakims. It was claimed that she could diagnose your disease by just holding your nadi (pulse).

My elder sister, Pritam Bhenji, was married to Batras in Sargodha. They were Shahukars (moneylenders). They had a very big house. But they lost everything, like many others, in the Partition.

After Partition, all of us Ahujas, Suri, Batras, Kanwers, and Sethis got together in Delhi, and lived happily after.

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© Jatinder Sethi 2017

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Comments

DearSethiji-It was very emotional to read your memoirs.They are absolutely similar to mine. I am from Sargodha. My Nanaji Shri Bhagwan Das Luthra lived in Block 11 at Sargodha. My Dadaji Shri Sita Ram Malik lived in Sahiwal. I was born in 36.Studied in Sargodha upto class 4.I retired as a Colonel from IndiaArmy. Now settled in Gurgaon. With best wishes. R N Malik

Son of raj Kumar Ahuja son of shanti narayan Ahuja

Dear Mr. Malik,I am rather surprised to get your comment years aftert this was posted. Glad to know your links with sargodha/;but I am now not ina position to find out about your family as my eldersister(Pritam Batra) passed away many years ago. Last year my nephew,Vijay Batra also left this world. My neice(sisters daughter) Shashi Bhsarwaj now lives alone in Lajpat nagar.(you can see us children in my blog about LYAKLLPUR here .)That is the only Sargodha contact left with me. Sargodha was very much part of our life but cant recall much. I will check with my neice if she remembers anything.we were six brothers and two sisters.I was the youngest(now 89).Now its only i and my other sister((94) santosh who lives in Singapore.after living in london for 6 years and Bombay for over 25 years,we also moved to Gurgaon 20 years ago.my wife now 86 was my class mate in delhi university in 1956/57..now locked in home.Thanks for your love.

I still remember ,i used to visit pritam aunty in lajpat nagar with my mom,
Sawaran Chhabra ahuja ,daughter of shanti narain ahuja and kartar devi ahuja ,my nana ji and nani ji.

Dear Mr sethi , my mom , sawaran Chhabra was daughter of shanti narain ahuja and kartar devi ahuja ,my nana and nani ji.I used to visit pritam aunty very often in lajpat nagar ,since my nani was also staying in lajpat nagar with my eldest mama ji, shri prithviraj Ahuja, and also i have some memories of shishu uncle and kuku uncle and prem uncle and pash uncle who used to visit us.

Dear Uncle,
It was wonderful reading your story.
I am MONICA Sarin, daughter of Prithvi Raj Ahuja
His father is whose house you have mentioned above.
Mr Shanti Narayan Ahuja.,the mansion in Sargodha.
My dad was Indus Commisioner and he visited the house in 1975.
It was as they left it and the head of Airforce was living there.
His dad's fantastic legal books too were there.
The whole incident had really shaken my father.

We all lived in New Delhi and were extremely close to all your brothers and sisters.
Pritam Aunty,Prem Uncle,Satinder Uncle,Vedi Uncle,Toshi Aunty esp.Also Kanta Aunty was a very integral part of our family.She was gifted and a wonderful human being.Actually I have wonderful memories of all the Uncles and Aunts.Ratan Uncle too was very close.Even Daddy's Chachas name was Mulk Raj Ahuja.We have heard wonderful stories about Sargodha,.
Daddy too played a very important part to get the Hindus from Sargodha in a convoy to New Delhi.It is a fascinating story and my mom,who is living with us just recounted it to the Partition Archives.So happy to connect.God bless everyone.

I am rajat s/o raj kumar ahujason of shanti narayan Ahuja
We also have been updating family tree

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