Chauburji As someone born in the closing year of the 40s, my parents fed me stories about how Pakistan came into being and the bloody events of 1947. These experiences were all the more real because they had taken place just a few years earlier and memories were still vivid. The partition of the Indian subcontinent into two independent dominions was characterised by a great exodus of refugees heading for India or Pakistan as their respective calling dictated. For Muslim men, women and children moving to the new state of Pakistan on foot, in carts and in trains, every moment was fraught with brutal death and rape at the hands of Sikh and Hindu mobs. But on and on they came, leaving behind everything they owned, loved and cherished, offering unimaginable sacrifices because a voice like thunder coming from a tall, thin man had promised them a land where they would prosper and be free. Todays column is dedicated to one such individual, who left behind all that he had to live out Jinnahs dream. Everyone called him Taoo, which is perhaps a corrupt form of the word Taaya. Taoo migrated from India as part of the exodus in 1947. He and some members of his group set up home in a temporary settlement behind our house where he started running a small karyana and general items shop. Taoos establishment soon became very popular with young and old alike. He would frequently entertain his patrons with a song, the lines of which, sought a long lost love. Despite the fact that he had a raspy voice and no sense of melody, his performance was thoroughly enjoyed by those around him. For the children, he always had a free tit bit, which he called a jhunga and they could be seen milling around his shop at all times of the day. There were times when Taoo would call on my father. On these occasions, I would see them sitting on the lawn, with the former doing most of the talking. My father would usually emerge from these meetings in a sombre mood. Then one day, I found the man with a perpetual grin and a twinkle in his eye, sobbing uncontrollably in a dark recess at the back end of his store. It was much later, when I had joined a career that I came to know of Taoos story from my late father, during one of his rare visits to where I was serving. Taoo hailed from a small town near Delhi, where his family ran a small but successful business. He was immensely happy as he had been betrothed to a cousin whom he liked and was expecting to bring her home as his bride a short time later. Then one day his world began collapsing around him and friends and playmates suddenly became his blood thirsty enemies. When the killing of Muslims began, he along with his mother, father and two sisters joined a group of people, who had decided to 'take the road to Pakistan. He managed to sneak past the wolves baying for Muslim blood and went to his fiancs house so that she and her family could join them, but what he found was a smouldering ruin and mutilated bodies. As the train carrying Taoo and his family slowly steamed towards Lahore, it was stopped and attacked by a large body of Sikhs. Severely injured and left for dead, he watched as his entire family was butchered before his eyes. The young man was lucky that a military detachment arrived on the scene and took him to safety. The enigma of Taoos meetings with my father now dawned on me. When grief became too much of a burden, Taoo would hasten to find comfort in my fathers benign presence. I also understood the reason for my fathers sombre mood after these meetings. This story raised Taoo in my reckoning and I decided that I would sit at his feet in abject respect during my next visit home, but fate snatched him forever from the world of the living before I could fulfil my intent. It is, however, on every Independence Day that Taoos face materialises out of the mists of time always asking if his sacrifice was in vain. The writer is a freelance columnist.