It was the big day of my life. My joy knew no limits as life was about to unfold a new chapter. I was dressed in my best to look as beautiful as I could. The exuberance and euphoria in the ambience increased by many folds with the auspicious presence of all those who came together to shower their blessings on me; regardless of their different customs and traditions related to “Nikah” and not only this, they helped my family financially in making the necessary arrangements of marriage. I was taken to the special seating meant for the bride, which had a flower curtain hanging before it. I remember, my hands, soaked in the aroma of mehandi, the Quranic verses being read to seek the blessings of the Almighty, the marriage vows being taken and the customary words, “Qubool hai” being said. That was the happiest day of my life.

I was very young, innocent, and ready to enter into a new phase of my life. “Heend” in Uttar Pradesh was not much developed at the time but yes, it was a beautiful place with a diversified set of religions. While there were different religions, Hinduism had the highest number of followers. The bond among people was strong, and we shared meals with each other except beef, which Hindus did not consume. The majority of people were into agriculture for the sake of earning their livelihood and so was the case with my family. Apart from agriculture, we were also involved in cattle farming. My father was a respected figure among people. He was a happy man who had three sons and two daughters. Like any other father, he also had dreams and aspirations for his children. We owned ten to twelve acres of land too.

In that place, everybody knew everybody and all of us were aware of each other’s struggles, so everyone tried to make things easier for each other. This made those times and places special. My childhood was beautiful and so was my teenage. I was in my teenage when my marriage got fixed with a man who was the only Muslim to own a shop in the town. For many years that came after my marriage, I was happily married, had a caring husband, and was content with my life. His general store was doing good business. Everything was perfect till the violence consumed all the peace we had.

In the year 1947, many people lost their lives at the hands of extremists who targeted everyone who ill-fatedly fell in their way. It was the Nambardar of our village whom we called “Mukhiya” who brought us the news of the partition. It hit us like a thunderbolt. The news was received with disbelief and almost everyone questioned its authenticity of it. No one wanted to migrate, so we stayed like everyone else. But soon we realised how real the partition was when our village was invaded by the extremists. These attacks created dismay and perturbation among people and most of the families made up their minds to migrate for the sake of their children’s future which then, seemed quite uncertain.

My in-laws’ family was also in favour of migration but my parents were not. On one side, my husband was expecting me to back him with his decision. On the other side, my father was also concerned about me and wanted me to stay. It was a tug-of-war and I felt like I was at the centre of it, being stretched from both ends. Both were important to me, but none was listening. The stress got higher when I was at my father’s home and he did not allow my husband to take me with him.

Eventually, he left me at my father’s house and went with his family. Meanwhile, my younger brother who was working in the fields one day, got attacked by the extremists. No mercy was shown to him and he was butchered in broad daylight. This incident hit my family like a thunderbolt. Yet, my father stood by his decision and did not migrate. On the other side, my husband’s family and other relatives from the in-laws’ family had already migrated.

I was married, with a two-year-old son in my arms at my father’s home; house-arrested. My husband was with his family there, trying to settle down the things which were turned upside down while figuring out a way to reach me. There were two nations in between us. The differences just grew bigger. I was missing him, but I could not do anything.

Nonetheless, he did. He did not forget me and came back, searching for me everywhere, in the refugee camps and every other possible place he could think of. He thought my father might have changed his mind after the death of his own son. And then he came to the same place where he had left me and found me there. For a moment, I thought I was dreaming but it was real. He had come back for me. He had already seen the conditions of the newly shaped nation. He knew it was not going to be a bed full of roses there but here we had our own house, our own lands, our own lives, and then, he had me.

He also knew my father was not moving from his decision by any means so he stayed; he stayed for me, for his son, and for his family. For the next ten years, we remained in India. We had everything that we needed but there was a problem. If my father was happy, my in-laws were not. And, how could they? Their son was not with them and it was not just a different city that he was staying in, it was a different country, all together.

In the beginning, the Pakistani Authorities used to issue permits to keep track of the people coming in and out of the country. The visa procedure was introduced much later. So, my husband used to visit his family whenever he could. From our side of the family, only my brother who was serving in the military, migrated to Karachi, Pakistan. Time started its healing process and things got better over the years, but many things had changed. The brotherhood and harmony among different communities were not the same anymore. The brutality shown in riots left that bond scarred which never faded away. After a decade, my husband felt the urge to reunite with his family. He wished to migrate. But even after all these years, my family’s response to his decision was not any different. Again, my father was not very supportive towards me getting migrated. Years ago, when I requested him, he stayed with me, and now it was my turn to stay with him.

So, we decided to leave without telling anybody. We knew we could not take anything with us, it would only raise the eye-brow of doubt at us. Therefore, when we left, we took nothing but food with us. We had a bullock cart, a shop, and agricultural lands but we didn’t sell anything; we just left. We took an off-road route to escape the eyes of the known and unknown. We started the journey to Agra and spent two days travelling before we reached there. Then we went to Delhi from where we boarded a train to Lahore and went to Piplan from there and finally, we reached home, Sargodha, Pakistan. My husband’s family was already here and so were his relatives. They all welcomed us wholeheartedly.

We were not allotted any land here, so my husband had to make things work on his own, but we didn’t lose hope. He started working as a labourer. And with time, our situation got better as we had each other to depend upon. My husband passed away in 2001. He gave me a good life. I have eight grandchildren and have seen my next four generations! I am happy with my life. At this point, if I look back, I can see things which we had struggled for and now we are in a better position. We only had a cot with us when we came to Pakistan but now, we have good food to eat, a house for shelter, and a family to live for.

I keep on telling my grandchildren about my life earlier so that they remember how many hardships we went through to have what we have now. I have not seen my own relatives since I have come here. Only the relatives of my daughter-in-law visit India often and they tell me that my family is doing fine there but I miss them. I wish to visit there again once more to visit the grave of my parents and see my siblings. I want to feel the same cool breeze, the shades of those trees, and the home, where I spent my childhood. I wish I could relive all that again and if I could, I would.

Excerpted with permission fromLove Migrants”, Jannat Bibi’s story, from The Speaking Window: Tales From a Bloodied Timeline, Sandeep Dutt, Faisal Hayat, and Ritika, Oxford University Press.