The winds of Sharifpura were regarded to be magical; they travelled from lands afar, carrying along with dust and sand, pieces of information and important news. On this day, in particular, the people of Sharifpura paid a precarious eye to what the winds were about to bring; never before had the village sensed such an intricate mix of excitement and nervousness in their hearts, and today they were beating a little faster than usual.
But that wasn't perhaps what went through Akhtar-un-Nisa's mind at the moment. The sunlight poured into the room and she had just concluded her answer to one of the last questions. She wished to write more, but the stifle wasn't letting her concentrate. She wondered how much time remained before the end of the exam.
Home Economics. Final Exam. Session '47. Akhtar-un-Nisa folded her exam sheet, with a relief. I think I am done, she said to herself. It was, after all, her last exam of the year; and soon after, she'd be a ninth-grader in that new town they had been telling her about...
Her daydreaming was put to an end by a sudden wave of raucous that fled through the hallway outside the eighth grade classroom; angry voices startled everyone.
Men had entered the premises. An unconscious force pushed her off her feet and under the bench, as other girls around her also hurled for compromised safety.
Men with turbans entered their classroom. They were Sikhs.
The school staff stormed in after them, yelling at the top of their voices. "This is a girls-only school. What on Earth are you doing here?"
"We have come for our girls," said one Sikh, leading the group. He nodded his head, in a gesture as if a command. Immediately, several girls rose out of hiding, some still stricken with fear. "There is going to be blood. Mark my words," he said grimly, placing his large arm around the girls exiting in a file. Without so much as a gaze, the men then retreated.
Concerned looks were exchanged by the teachers. Should they be worried, already?
"Zahoor paijaan, what's happening?" asked Akhtar-un-Nisa, "Where are all the men going?"
Zahoor-ud-Din held on to his sister, firmly. There was chaos everywhere; people running back and forth, some with their luggage, others with their children. Dropping their families at the bull-carts, the men were taking up their positions, swords and rifles at the ready.
"They are coming," Zahoor-ud-Din told his sister, over the noise, staring at the horizon. "The wind has informed us, they are headed on the bearing towards us."
"But, where is ammi?" Akhtar-un-Nisa demanded.
"She has been delayed," her brother replied, calmly. "But we will get her there as soon as you have been transferred to safety."
"And where is Hussain paijaan?"
Someone yelled her brother's name, and thrust a sword at him.
"He is keeping a lookout with the other men," Zahoor-ud-Din said, grabbing the sword. "Don't worry, we will be fine."
Once their sisters, Qamar-un-Nisa and Munawwar had loaded everything they required for travel on the cart they were to use to get to Lahore, Zahoor-ud-Din entrusted them the responsibility of Akhtar-un-Nisa, who was the youngest of all siblings, and sprinted into the crowd to take up his charge.
All the carts were ready. They were finally going to Pakistan.
The carts trundled peacefully out of Sharifpura and past Amritsar. The handful of men that were escorting the families made surprised conversations; they had hoped to meet some resistance on the way, and were astounded to find the route unobstructed.
In the clear night, they came upon a lighted post. The men went ahead to make sure it was the border. It indeed was.
"You are required to enter your details in this document, here," said one of the police-people, once the carts arrived at the border. "It is a consensus," he told them. He was taking down their names and the addresses they resided at in India.
They heard a train pull into a station in the distance.
"Send someone out to get their details," instructed the man who seemed to be in charge. A jeep pulled out from the jungle, and sped away in the direction of the station.
"And your mother?" one of the officers asked Qamar-un-Nisa.
"She couldn't make it with us, in time. My brothers will bring her along."
He nodded and let them through. There were vans parked a little walk away that were to take these refugees to temporary accommodations. The three sisters took their vacant seats in the van, and waited to leave.
Akhtar-un-Nisa looked out of the window. Pakistan looked no different to the land they had just left; but they had been told it was no longer safe to stay behind. Every Muslim was moving as fast as they could to Pakistan, the land of the pure. Her brothers had heard Muhammad Ali Jinnah's announcement on the radio and had been celebrating ever since.
Her sisters had told her it was one of the largest Islamic nations in the world.
A honk interrupted her thoughts, just then, as the jeep that had been sent out to the station made its return. The men aboard were shouting something that they couldn't make out from inside the van, but as they drove nearer, the look on their faces gave everything away...
"They killed them! Every one of them! On the train!"
P.S: Akhtar-un-Nisa is my grandmother. This was a glimpse of her story.