Tag Archives: Ahmedabad

Fugitives!~1952….a story of migration (2/2)

1 Jun

The Sessions Court of Mehsana ordered AJ and Nanima to leave Sidhpur with immediate effect…….this meant that they could not even return home to collect their belongings. What if they were arrested…..? 

Deeming it too risky, they abandoned all thoughts of going back to Sidhpur, travelling instead directly to Ahmedabad from Mehsana….with only the clothes on their backs…victims of circumstance, at the mercy of fate.

Nanima’s uncle, Hasanali Kadak lived in Ahmedabad. The displaced duo were invited to stay with him for ten days or so. From there they went onwards to Pratapgarh in Rajasthan, where Nanima’s sister, Hayati baisaheb lived. (She was the wife of Hebtullah bhaisaheb, parents of Tahir bhaisaheb, the aamil of Pratapgarh)

Since they couldn’t stay in any one place for too long, they were forced to keep moving. So from Pratapgarh they left for neighbouring Galiakot to stay for some time in the musafirkhana near the mausoleum of Syedi Fakhruddin shaheed. 

Galiakot draws people from all over, being a pilgrimage site famous for its miracles, not just for Muslims but Hindus as well. My father remembers the trees around the roza, hammered with thousands of pieces of paper, inscribed with urgent pleas....

AJ and Nanima stayed there for around fifteen or twenty days, whiling away time, waiting for Hatim to arrange for another permit from Pakistan…

Finally, they made their circuitous way to Bombay by train, where Hatim’s father-in-law (the studio owner) put them up in an empty flat he owned, ostensibly so the police wouldn’t be able to track their whereabouts.

While all this hide and seek was playing out, 16 yr old AJ had other, more pressing worries on his mind.

He had to appear for his Matric exams (with the centre in Surat) in a few days, and all his books were at home in Sidhpur. He had no idea how he was ever going to sit for the exams without being able to study for them…

Fortunately, the principal of Saify Jubilee High School back in Sidhpur (with the decidedly Potter-esque name of Badruddin Blue) counted AJ as one of the brightest of the lot that was to appear for the exams that year, therefore he was most concerned about AJ’s plight. Of course, he had the reputation of his school to be concerned about too……so AJ was indispensable and was being counted on to bring academic credit and honour to his school. Therefore, he took pains to send AJ his entrance form for the board exams, complete with a photograph that had been cut out from a group photo that had been taken at a school outing earlier that year.

And so it came to be that while Nanima stayed in Bombay, AJ made his way to Surat, all by himself and armed only with an entrance form, a mere two days before the finals.

He found the musafirkhana in Surat and stayed there until he was joined by his classmates from Sidhpur (he remembers looking out from a window and seeing the familiar faces of his friends and himself going out to join them)

Among his friends was a certain Jaffer bhaisaheb (familiar to Bohras from Karachi) who had a house in Surat, empty and unlived in. The entire group, all 22 of them, relocated to Jaffer bhaisaheb’s place, where AJ promptly fell very ill.

Displaced, unprepared, and now running a high fever, AJ faced exams for ten subjects over the next five days….two papers a day…

(Every evening him and all his friends would go over to a shop called Badshah for cold drinks…..apparently, that shop still exists.)

AJ got on a train back to Bombay on the 6th day. When he reached, the permit for Karachi had already arrived.

In a couple of days they were off, on a plane bound for Karachi….leaving Sidhpur behind forever.


Only four of those 22 boys passed the Matric exams from the Saify Jubilee High School…..

My father was not only one of those four, he actually earned 2nd position.

The rest of them failed. Including Jaffer bhaisaheb. 🙂

(He passed away about two years ago)


The Accident. Sidhpur, 1946.

11 Feb

[My father. whose name is Mohammedi, and whom we have always called Abbaji, shall be referred to as Little AJ in this story, for reasons of brevity and cuteness. Also because it is impossible for me to call him by his first name, no matter how little he was when this story unfolded, a story he recalls vividly, and was told to us in his mesmeric voice, in colorful Gujarati, the predominant language of the Bohra community of India. I hope to convey it as effectively in English, the chosen language of this blog. The setting for this story is a Bohra mahalla in Sidhpur, a small town around 103 km from Ahmedabad in the Patan district of Indian Gujarat. More on the history of Sidhpur and some beautiful images of its architecture can be found here and here.]

Little AJ could never step over the threshold of the school-gate; he liked jumping over it. Only, today he seemed to be out of luck. He knew it the second he jumped over and saw the puddle of wet earth.

He slipped in such a way that the slate he carried in the crook of his elbow somehow slammed against his ulna upon impact with the ground, as a result of which it broke. And I don’t mean the slate.

Little AJ picked himself up, and noted with horror the strange way his arm dangled, yet he made his way to the classroom and took his seat, and sat there in grave pain. Thankfully, the kindly teacher took one look at his poor, stricken, blue-tinged face and immediately sent another kid to walk him back home.

Now, Little AJ was an orphan. His mother had passed away earlier that year and his father (who worked in Madras) left him to live with his Nanima, his mother’s mother, who looked after Little AJ with all her heart in a little house located a 10-minute walk away from school. Nanima was very upset and distraught by his injury and instructed the boy who accompanied Little AJ to take him to Sheru, the local ‘haad-ved’, a bone doctor, right next to Allah Rakha’s paan ki dukaan.

Sheru ‘fixed’ Little AJ’s arm as well as he could and bandaged it, but the pain stayed all day and he couldn’t sleep all night.

The next morning, Nanima thought it best to send Little AJ off to his Dada Bawaji’s house, (his paternal grandfather) who lived in the next mahalla, a few minutes walk away. Dada Bawaji was quite old himself and all he could think of was to send little AJ across to his neighbour, a man called Najam Kapadia, with a request to see what he could do. It was decided he should be taken to Ahmedabad, three hours away by train.

So off they went, catching the first available train, and got off at the train station at Ahmedabad. There was a bazaar near the train station with a row of Parsi ‘haad-ved’ shops. They walked into a random shop and the Parsi haad-ved man there unwrapped Little AJ’s arm and surveyed the damage.

‘Must have hurt some, chhe na?’ asked the Parsi doctor. Little AJ was distracted by the doctor’s small talk and was taken by a jolt of surprise when the man suddenly (and very expertly) yanked his arm and set the bone in place.

Miraculously, the pain completely disappeared and soon they were on their way, back to Sidhpur.