Thursday, February 16, 2017

For ~ imaginary garden with real toads ~ Artistic Interpretations - Immigrant Portraits~ Carried Across Barbed Wires ...

...In response to this wonderful historical prompt I am sharing an excerpt from my unpublished book on Hasan Family History...Migration from Kashmir to Pakistan 1930s-1950s

About grand Father, tell us about him… 
Grand Father Maulvi Mohammed Hasan was born in 1892 in Jammu Kashmir.Migrated from Kashmir due to famine.’‘Famine?

Here I have brought in information about the Great Famine which caused many Kashmiris to leave
their land.Many shifted to Amritsar Gujranwala in Punjab and to Sialkot near the border.Dr Ernest Neve’ writes in his book ‘Beyond the Pir Panjal’ Famine 1877-1879.In some parts of the valley including Srinagar it is said that population reduced by more than half.Heavy rain fell in Autumn before the crops were gathered in. The rice and maize which are the staple foods, rotted.During the Winter the rains continued.The cattle died from want of food.’

Spring harvest failed due to bad weather. The authorities made a fatal mistake and ordered a house to house search for seed grain.People hid the seed grains for their own eating,this aggravated the situation. Famine continued til October 1879.

There is a Kashmiri saying ‘Haki’mas ta hakimas nishh- tachhtan khodayo’ O God save me from physicians and rulers’.The rulers heavily taxed the local people taking from their produce ,earnings and wheat, etc which left hardly anything for the peasant worker or the agriculturist. In the famine,people ate oil-cake, rice, chaff, bark of elm and yew and even grasses and roots.They became absolutely demoralized like ravenous beasts,Those who died could be seen as corpses lying in the streets and open spaces, or pulled and dragged into holes where dogs kept wandering sniffing and eating.’Pestilence and cholera broke out and whatever edible stuff was available was extremely expensive, prices were sky high’.
1888-1892 Srinagar was a City of Dreadful Death’ it was previously known as ‘the Venice of the East’but now small pox spread all over killing many children…thus child population became the most affected. (Contributed)

Father continued the historical story and I was all ears for it.

‘Yes,the Famine affected large areas of India for two years.In the second year it spread towards the North. Yes, and he went to Shakkar Garrh Tehsil Sialkot.After some time,do not remember exactly how much,  he started living in Mohallah Dabgran ..Street Dabgran. My Grandfather Mohammed Azam was a Religious Teacher and a Muslim.He taught Religion –mainly the Quran to soldiers of the J&K State Army. Father Mohammed Hasan passed his matriculation from Jammu and graduated from Prince of Wales College Jammu.Had the honor of being the first Muslim Science graduate of Kashmir. His subjects were Geology Mathematicss and English. He passed the B Sc exam in 1913. Then went on to get his degree of Batchelor of Training from Central Training College Jammu.

And when did he start teaching Father?
‘Oh after he passed his training course he was immediately employed by the State Government.he was posted to Gilgit as Head Master of the Anglo Vernacular High School in 1914 for three years. After completing the term he was posted back to Srinagar as Second Master.His next posting was again to Gilgit in 1917 the World War was still going on…Father became a widower with two children Aziz Firdaus and Sakina Bibi…

‘when did he marry grand mother, Father?
Well, there was a good honest educated officer working in the PWD (Public Works Department) Mr Abdul Qadir Qureshi he was an Overseer, he had a daughter Wazir Begum…Father married Wazir begum and they both lived in Gilgit till 1930, when they left for Jammu….

Father your birthplace is Gilgit isn’t it?
Yes…Father was promoted to Assistant Inspector of Schools Jammu in July 1931. My mother Wazir Begum,your grandmother whom you never saw, was not happy to live in the hot weather city.She mentioned this to one of her friends, whose father happened to be  the Education Minister Sir Syed Hussain and one day Father was posted back to Kashmir. It was learnt later that Grandmother Wazir Begum had requested for transfer help…

1932 Father Hasan posting came as Asstt Inspector of Schools Mirpur, yet the weather played its part and Father came back to Islamabad Anantnag Kashmir in 1933
Why is it that Kashmiris cannot bear hot weather, Father?
‘well, perhaps they have always lived in colder regions more that is why…Father’s pay was just Rs150 per month, then. Alas, general poverty prevailed in Kashmir at the time…still not fully recovered from the famine….

Please, what happened then….My father lying on his bed kept talking slowly,telling me in bits and pieces, in short phrases,taking in deep breaths at times… how much he must be missing his childhood home, his town his friends and his native land…I was slowly realizing that feeling….

‘Father(Mohammed Hasan) served  in the capacity of Town Inspector in the field of Education in the State.Further to this he was appointed Special Inspector of Schools for the Mohammedan Education…the founder of this was the Ferozesons Group.

Father Mohammed Hasan soon made a mark in the field of education by his dedicated work and competency in teaching.He was selected to attend the ‘Conference on Habba Khatoon’ at Banares India,  where he presented a Seminar. This program was relayed on the radio as well.
Father was quiet for some time.I kept sitting for I had promised myself to know as much as possible about the early years of migrating to Pakistan. This was a golden chance.


  1. This is wonderful, and presented in an intriguing way. You must be very proud of your family.

  2. Thank you Friend Sara.I am so encouraged by your kind words

  3. It is wonderful that you are the keeper of all this history, so it can be passed along.

    1. Oh what a lovely surprise I am so honored by your visit and sincere encouraging words and thoughts Thank you so much Dear Sherry

  4. You have to capture the stories before it's too late... so good that you do.

  5. Let it not be said that no one cares. You've taken a noble task, Anjum


  6. I am finding famine played a part in my family tree as well... and yes, we must sit and listen and write down the stores - how I wish I had been smarter when my Grandmother was alive - what I'd love to ask her. My mother is doing the best she can, but it isn't the same as from a true source. Fascinating read - thank you.

    1. Dear Margaret Thank you for sharing your sincere thoughts and kind encouraging is a chance that the Divine powers gifted me with the love of writing..I was too young to ask my grandmother though she lived for quite a few years with us after we migrated..and I got very little opportunity for conversations with I made sure that I sat with Father and kept asking him...he passed away two years after our last long meeting..I never got the chance again in those two years....