Pre-Partition Punjab: My Sikh Country

When my grandfather tells me he wants to go back to his home, he gets excited. His eyes light up and he smiles, speaking fast and anxiously. 

My mom gets scared, telling him no. My dad says, “yes, let’s go.”  

My grandfather wants to show me where he went to school, the street he played in, and where he lived. I want to see it too. 

My mom tells him it’s long gone by now. My dad says, “who cares?” Something’s probably still up there.  

We limbo back and forth until we ultimately decide not to go, pushing the trip to another year. The situation might be better than, Pakistan might look better. India might pause its attacks on non-Hindu minorities. Time is what we need, we convince each other, time is what we need. We forget that time is minimal. 

The world will never believe me when I tell them that from the top of now Himachal Pradesh to the bottom of now Haryana, to where the Punjab border ends in Pakistan, is my true land and my country.   

               The dirt that has kissed Guru Nanak’s feet and heard Bhai Mardana’s rabab. 
               The dirt that has held the blood of Bhai Taru Singh Ji and the rest of my family of martyrs.  
               The dirt that has given birth to a community of lions. 

My country ends right before Sind starts or Alwar, before Tibet and Kashmir, with Rajputana in the middle of its legs, with Baluchistan on its left. 

They’ve split my home like they’ve split my limbs, cutting them off one by one to satisfy their own selfish needs of nationalism and forced expansion instead of listening to those who plead for the simplest of rights. 

What do you do? 
                When your feet land on both sides of the border.
                When each country accepts you as long as you praise their leaders
                             and their choices, kissing up to their radicalized rule, but the minute you tell them                               they’re wrong, you’ve become a terrorist or a separatist  
                When neither country is willing to listen to you and what you have to say
                When both countries are concerned with themselves instead of others  

What do you do, 
                When your feet land on both sides of the border?

I harbor neither hate, nor any anger. I harbor neither pain, nor any negativity. 
That is not who I am. I do not mindlessly scream about how religions have started to weaponize into the country’s second military. I do not spend days day-dreaming about what a country of my own would look like nor what would the world look like if my feet did not fall on opposite sides of the border. 

I write, I teach, I educate, I preach. 

I live at peace, knowing that both my beaten-down white shoes need to touch both sides of the border for me to claim my land, and that they may never. I am okay knowing I may not get my undivided home back. I may not see my limbs reattached. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to visit the other half of my body and soul that was ripped from me in 1947 during the partition, and I’m not really sure if my 80-year-old grandfather will ever get to see it before his breaths vanish. 

Politics made me nationless and stateless, but reality made me homeless. 

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