bullock cart

From Balloki to Shimla – August 1947

Veena Sharma


Veena Sharma

Veena is a scholar in African studies, in which she has a PhD from JNU, Delhi, and Vedanta, in which she is self-taught. She retired as the Head of All-India Radio's Swahili Service, broadcasting every day in Swahili for 22 years. For over 15 years, she has taught the philosophy of leisure at the International Centre of Excellence, Wageningen, Netherlands. She is the author of Kailash Manasarovar: A Saced Journey (Roli Books 2004). In recent years she has given talks on the Upanishads in many countries. At present, she is the Chairperson of Prajna Foundation, an NGO dedicated to educational and cultural activities, and the development of economically non-privileged youth and children

In 1947, I was six, getting on to seven. My parents, elder brother, a younger sister and I were living in Balloki, a small township in western part of undivided Punjab, located on the site of a headworks from where the Bari Doab canal emerged from the Ravi River. My father, the Executive Engineer in charge of the headworks, had been posted there three years earlier.

Apart from my parents and siblings, there were a lot of people around in our household, all of whom seemed to be like members of our extended family. Called by different names or designations like chowkidars, malis, beldars, orderlies, mates and so on, they were in and out of the house at all times of day and night.

Punjab village 1925



A snapshot of life in a village in the Punjab - from the production of mustard oil to the shoeing of a bullock.

The bullock cart salesman in Mysore

M P V Shenoi

Shenoi, a civil engineer and MBA, rose to the rank of Deputy Director-General of Works in the Indian Defence Service of Engineers. He has also been a member of HUDCO’s advisory board and of the planning team for Navi Mumbai. After retirement he has been helping NGOs in employment-oriented training, writing articles related to all aspects of housing, urban settlements, infrastructure, project and facility management and advising several companies on these issues. His email id is mpvshanoi@gmail.com.


Venkataramana Shetty ­- I have changed his first name - was perhaps middle aged when I was born. In those days, in Mysore, in our community - and probably elsewhere in India, too - there was no way a child like me could talk to an outsider like Venkataramana.

But he was so active in our mohalla, and the older members of the family and community would talk about him, and I would hear their discussions. My father did not like him, but my maternal grandfather liked him. Sometimes they talked about Venkataramana.

Shettys are from a community whose Dharma is to take to business as their profession. This is as per the tenets of the Hindu caste system (Varnashrama Dharma). Following this, in those days, most Shettys were engaged in business, big or small as per their ability from a young age.

Averting the Horrors of the 1943 Bengal Famine

Tapas Kumar Sen


Tapas Sen was born in Kolkata (1934), and brought up in what now constitutes Bangladesh. He migrated to India in 1948, and joined the National Defence Academy in January 1950. He was commissioned as a fighter pilot into the Indian Air Force on 1 April 1953, from where he retired in 1986 in the rank of an Air Commodore. He now leads an active life, travelling widely and writing occasionally.

Editor's note: This is a slightly modified version of article that originally appeared on Air Commodore Sen's blog TKS' Tales. It is reproduced here with the author's permission.

Planting our crops

We had just moved into our new and half-finished house at Himaitpur. It was early 1943.

The riversides of Himaitpur were full of Jute growing to its full height. The flood plains along the river were a very fertile tract. The land was of course sandy and loamy\; not quite fit for the cultivation of fine varieties of rice. However, the farmers had the choice of sowing jute, sugarcane, or the aus variety of rice. Some of them also experimented with maize at times. These flood plains, known as char-land were fit only for single or double cropping while the land further inland regularly produced three crops a year.

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