Major Balwant Singh (1911-2004)


When, at last, the War ended, “Peace broke out”!

I was born in June 1941. The Great War had been raging for nearly two years, but since the bloodshed was confined to Europe, it did not affect us. Then, on 7 December ’41, the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor, and two odd months later they stormed and captured Singapore. Their advance through Burma was swift, and soon they were knocking on the Indian border. Our revered father, Maj Balwant Singh ji (1911-2004) volunteered to join the army. After a few months training, he was commissioned and allocated to the Intelligence Corps of the Royal Indian Army. In December 1942, he was posted to East Bengal. We addressed him as ‘Pitaji’ and you see his picture above.

During the next four years, we saw little of Pitaji, except for his picture in the family photograph taken in Karachi, just before he left for the war. If you like the child sitting in the front, it is me. If not, then I do not know who the hell he is. Our fourth brother, Surinder, was not yet born.

Picture of the Family-Karachi, Dec 1942

Picture of our family taken in Karachi, Nov 1942

The Japanese  surrendered in Sep 1945. After that, Pitaji was posted in Burma as a warder in a ‘Prisoners-of-war’ camp in Maymyo, from which he was finally relieved in Jan 1947. All through his long and eventful life, Pitaji maintained a diary. Towards  the end of his life, he summarized the entire text of all his memoirs in three little volumes, which he left for posterity.  They contain a detailed account of his life and times.  The diaries are written in Punjabi, and contain answers to some of the questions which have bugged me all these years.  Given below is a picture of one page:

2A.Burma 47-47

Picture of a page from Pitaji’s diary

The Japanese were the sworn enemies of the Allied forces, and they resolutely fought some dreadfully gory battles. The Allied forces succeeded in defeating them with the help of Indian troops, but within months of their famous surrender, we discovered that we had another foe, right inside our own house.

We had been simultaneously fighting the war of independence with the British colonizers for many decades. We won that, too. But what lay ahead of Pitaji and his peers was something far worse than what any one could imagine. Our victories turned into a monumental defeat. The Punjab and West Bengal were partitioned and that unearthed an enemy concealed  within us!

We lost our ancestral homes and became refugees in our own country! The war had ended, but so soon after that, ‘Peace broke out’.  This is a story of what our family went through during the next two tortuous years. The tale is told in pictures.  However, before, I begin the narrative, it is necessary to give a brief introduction to my personal life during those early years, because that has a bearing on my interpretation of events. I find that the views on this portion of our history have a great deal of subjectivity. Even my own brothers feel differently on some of our experiences.


I did not go to school; I was sent!

When Pitaji was away, we went back to our ancestral village, Faruka, which was about 32 kilometers west of Sargodha. It already had a High School which was founded by our illustrious grandfather, Bhai Hira Singh ji. The school was adjacent to our house, and logically, I should have been admitted into it in 1946, when I turned five. But at that time.  Pitaji’s posting was due, and therefore, this event was postponed. In Jan ’47, we shifted to Jhelum and I am told that I was admitted to a school, and a ‘tonga’ was organized for me. But soon after that, communal riots broke out, and so I stopped going to the school. Instead, a ‘maulvi ji was hired to teach me at home. He got me a ‘takhti’ (see the picture below) and I learnt Urdu alphabet and a bit of counting.

3.takhti kalam

Picture of takhti, kalam and dawaat

By July ’47, the situation deteriorated so much that Pitaji was advised to proceed on leave, and stay away from West Punjab, until things ‘settled down’. We later learned that partition of the Punjab had been agreed, and 15th August had been decided as the crucial date. However, it was generally believed that both the countries would have people of all faiths. Pitaji’s boss suggested that we go on leave to a ‘safe’ area during the transition. Consequently, he was granted 60 days leave. We packed our stuff and left it in the garage of our neighbor, Capt Nazar Mohammed. We boarded a train to go to Dehradun on 12 Aug 47 with a few suitcases. The story of the next few months is lucidly told in Pitaji’s diaries, and I will come back to it.

We moved to Meerut in Sept ’47, and were allotted a huge house. In Oct, Pitaji made a perilous journey to ‘Pakistan’ to rescue our relatives and also to fetch our belongings. He needed a lot of luck to return safe and sound.

Meanwhile, time kept ticking. My elder two brothers got admitted into a Government school, but my schooling became a bit of a problem. By early 1948, I was nearing seven, and until then, I had never been to a regular school. St. John School, Meerut Cantt accepted me, but it seems that I refused to sit in the school unless Pitaji sat with me. I was mortally scared that he would again go away, and leave us alone. Despite all that my parents tried, I stuck to my guns, and refused to go to school.

Thereafter, the process of my school education is a sordid story. Between 1948 and ’57, I was sent to eleven schools, which ranged from the famous St Joseph’s Academy, Dehradun to the Refugee Camp School in Prem Nagar, near the IMA, Dehradun. I studied in Meerut, Dehradun, Delhi Cantt and Allahabad, with Hindi as the medium of instruction, most of the time. I left St Joseph’s Academy one month after the admission, because I was caned for speaking in Hindi. After that I developed an incurable and nasty aversion to English language.

4. ruler punishment

Picture of caning with a foot rule

On the positive side, this experience taught me how to adapt to different environments, and make new friends in every school. I learnt how to ‘manage’ the class bullies, who usually targeted newcomers. I also developed empathy for children from the weaker sections of the society. I saw how difficult it was for them to acquire even books and stationary. At home they were required to help their parents in housekeeping and rarely had a place to study.  In our schools, it was generally believed that Hindi would very soon replace English as our official language, and that at the end of the day, we would be better off. By the time I completed my matriculation, I knew five languages: Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Sanskrit, and some English.

At home, I played with the friends of my younger brother, Surinder, who was studying in a Convent School. So I had two sets of friends; one at home, and the other in school. However, all this notwithstanding, I did quite well in the matriculation examination, with a cent in mathematics. I even earned a scholarship, and had no difficulty in sailing through to the National Defense Academy. At the NDA, I took up French as a foreign language to take the total to six.

The years in Meerut and Allahabad were my ‘impressionable’ period. The Hindi movies of the period, coupled with what the teachers said, caused us to believe that the British were tyrants, who had looted our wealth. Stories of Jallianwala Bagh and life imprisonment in the ‘Kalepani’ (Andamans) aroused strong feelings of revulsion and hatred, and in our youthful manner, there was a desire to take revenge. In the museums we saw pictures of callousness and cruelty. We were told that Gandhiji was thrown out of the First Class compartment just because he was an Indian and despite the fact that he had a valid ticket. Similarly, Jamshedji Tata was not allowed to entertain his European guests in a hotel in Bombay, for the same reason. Indeed, the ultimate shame was the picture of a signpost, which said,

“Dogs and Indians not allowed in this Garden”

I have gathered a few photographs of that era, to tell the story in pictures.


Mutineers blasted from guns in 1857

 6.Public Hangings

Public hanging of Freedom Fighters

7. jail andaman

The Cellular Jail, Port Blair (Andamans)

 8. Prisoners kalepani

Prisoners in the Cellular Jail

9. Flogging kalepani

Lashing of a prisoner for failing to produce the desired amount of oil

10 prisoner Andaman

Some more Freedom Fighters in the Kalepani


The Jallianwala Bagh

12 Jalianwalabagh

A painting of the firing at innocent civilians in Jallianwala Bagh

14.Bullets JW bagh

Bullet holes in a wall in Jallianwala Bagh


A notice board in the Jallianwala Bagh


Simultaneously, the lifestyle of the British officers is depicted in the following two pictures:

Tennis Club for the British officers and their ladies.

16. horse carriage Raj

The family of the Sahib returning home in a two-horse cart.



 The Mogul Period:-

So much for the British period. What we read and were told of the Moguls, who preceded the British Raj was equally disgusting. We read about the Rajputs like Maharana Pratap, who had crossed swords with Akbar the Great. And then there were detailed accounts of Shivaji who challenged Aurangzeb. In the Sikh history, we were told about the assassination of Guru Arjun Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadur. The story of the live burial of the nine and seven year old younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh ji left us livid and furious. Here are some pictures:

17.Rana Pratap ed

Maharana Pratap

18.Shivaji 1627-1680

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj


Guru Tegh Bahadur

 20 sahibzada

The nine and seven year old younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh


We are now ready to read an extract of the translation from Pitaji’s diaries.




 The Partition Story, as Told in Pitaji’s Own Words

I was re-united with the family after four long and tortuous years. Just when we were settling down in our lovely bungalow on the bank of the River Jhelum, communal riots erupted. I was born and brought up in Faruka, where ninety percent of the people were Muslims. Our ancestors had lived there for several centuries, and there had never been an incidence of violence. Later, I taught in Peshawar for nine years, which was dominated by Pathans, and we lived in complete amity. In Faruka, the Kalyar family had the largest land holding and they were highly influential. Their ‘Mukhia’ had assured our mother that come what may, they would not let any one even touch us.

Notwithstanding all the assurances from our Muslim friends, the British Commander of our Sub Area, Brig Mace called me and advised me to proceed on leave to West Punjab and stay there, until things ‘settled down’. Those days, it was believed that the two parts of India would have common defense and external affair ministries. The division would be for administrative purposes only. Consequently, we packed our luggage and put it in the house of our neighbor, Capt Nazar Mohd and left for Dehradun. There we joined my younger brother,Agya Pal who had already reached there with our mother. We left Jhelum on 12 Aug 1947, and it was during the journey, that we realized the gravity of the situation. Punjab was on fire, and the scale of violence was much more than anything which I had seen during the War. It became clear to me that we would never be able to return.

In Dehradun, my leave was getting over, and I was also running out of money. I went to the local Station Headquarters, but the boss there told me, “Go back to Jhelum and seek a posting I thought that would be unwise, and decided to go to Delhi, to seek a more sensible order.

The pictures which we saw in the newspapers made me wonder whether what we had won was ‘azaadi’ or ‘barbaadi’ On the one hand there were celebrations in Delhi, on the other end, we had trains massacred on both sides. It was a bizarre situation. A contrast, which we had never seen before.


24crowd 47

Crowds in Delhi. Notice that the Indians were lean and trim those days. No obesity. 

 25 train to india

Train to India. It could not get worse than this!



Delhi was in deep turmoil. I managed to get an audience with a British officer, Col Asher who was the Director of the newly formed Army Education Corps, into which I had been transferred in 1946. He gave me a patient hearing and called the personnel officer, Capt Bannerji. After some discussion, he told me that the best he could do was to post me to Meerut Cantt. The posting was issued immediately. I joined duty the very next day, and found that my predecessor had left for Pakistan, on leave like me, and was unlikely to return. There was a large backlog of work. I plunked my meager belongings in the Mess, and got down to the Desk. Within a few days, I had cleared all the papers and also found some old acquaintance. The most important being Capt GS Gujral, who was the SSO. Around that time, I was called by the Commander, Brig JL Murray, and he asked me if I had any problem. I listed three:

  • I have no money.

  • My family is stranded in Dehradun.

  • My household stuff is in Jhelum and the relatives are in Sargodha and Layallpur.

The Commander was a typical British Officer. He immediately asked  his Staff Officer to give me Rs 600 from the imprest account against my salary, and to detail two vehicles to bring my family from Dehradun. There was no house vacant for a Captain or Major. But just look at how he solved that problem. The Flagstaff house earmarked for a Brigade Commander  was lying vacant since the Brigadier was away, and due in only after three months. He directed the SSO to allot half of that bungalow to me for three months, and whispered into his ears to let me use the whole house, since a lot of my relatives were likely to come!

When I returned from Dehradun with the family, including my brother and mother, I sought permission to go to the newly created Pakistan to fetch my kinsfolk. I was told that the Army had created a ‘Military Evacuation Organization’ (MEO) at Jullunder. The Commander sent a signal asking them to give me three vehicles with armed escort. There was a bit of a risk, but my service in Burma had given me enough courage to take the risk.

On 10 Oct 1947, I left for Jhelum from Amritsar, which was the Transit camp of the MEO. Given below is a map of  Pakistan to get an idea of time and space.


22.punjab pak

Map of Pakistan

I received a very warm welcome in Jhelum. All my erstwhile colleagues were happy to see that no harm had come to me. Capt Nazar Mohd called his orderly and told him to tell his wife that I would be staying with them. He directed her not to cook ‘gosht’ and to ensure that washed bed linen was used in the guest room. I found that he had already got to know about my posting  and sent my household goods on a special vehicle under the escort of a JCO of the Dogra Regiment who had been posted to Meerut. He then charted out the rest of my program and gave me a detailed list of security precautions to observe. He also sent signals to the military units in Sargodha and Layallpur (now called Faisalabad) to ensure my safety and comfort.

As if all this was not enough, he stayed with me all through my sojourn in Jhelum. After dinner, he came to my room and handed over his pistol to me, and said that he had no other weapon. He wanted to ensure that felt safe. He said, “the tempers are high and I want to guard against any of my orderlies misbehaving”. He then told me to latch the door from my side, while his side would be open. Overwhelmed by his hospitality, I left for the other two destinations, and picked up as many people as I could in the trucks allotted to me. Given below is an enlarged map of the Punjab (Pakistan) It may be noted that the distances of Jhelum, Sargodha and Lyallpur from Lahore are a mere 290, 211 and 181 km respectively. And since Lahore is only 48 km from Amritsar, I did not really cover a great distance. 


25mappakpunjab cropped

It is a clear case of, so near; and yet so far!!!


26Jhelum Oct47Snapshot of my diary about my stay with Capt Nazar Mohd 

On the way back, at Lahore, I went to a decent restaurant for a cup of tea and snacks, for old times’ sake. I gave money to my companions to go to a ‘dhaba’ for refreshments. After I had placed the order,  a bearer came to me and whispered in my ears that a few  wicked young men were waiting outside the restaurant, and he feared that they would try to snatch my pistol. Upon his advice, I left the place,  escaped from the rear door and joined my companions. It was a close shave.




Back home, we gave shelter to everyone who had come with me, but to our good luck, each one of our kinsfolk found a shelter, and within a few months, they had also found  jobs or vocation. I handed over the house to Brig Daulat Singh, and shifted to a house of my entitlement.

As for myself, I was detailed to attend an ‘Instructors’ course in Pachmari in Feb 1949, on which I did very well. Based on my performance, I was posted to the Indian Military Academy (IMA) , Dehradun in Aug 1949, and also granted the Permanent Regular Commission.

At the IMA, I faced one more challenge. Apart from having to learn new subjects, we had to attend many social functions. I am a strict tea-totaller, and cannot tolerate cigarette smoke. I also have an aversion to ballroom dancing and, therefore, I skipped social functions at the slightest pretext. A colleague told me, “You are a misfit for the Academy, and will soon be posted out”.

I told my family to delay packing up, until I was sure that I was ‘accepted’ by the Academy. Meanwhile, I prepared my lessons as well as I could, and also re-wrote some précis. The Chief Instructor attended some of my classes, and seemed pleased. One day, I mustered the courage to go to the British Head of Academics, Col WW Wright, and asked him point blank, “Sir I like my job, but I am a bit of a recluse, socially. Do you think I will be able to fit in your team?”

Col Wright smiled and said,What makes you entertain such misgivings? You are a good instructor. The cadets like your classes. I have got some money sanctioned for you to upgrade the laboratories. Give me a detailed plan and get down to your work!” 


Part Three – Reflections and Summing Up

Pitaji’s tenure in the IMA was extended by one year, since they could not find a suitable replacement. And after a gap of six years, he was posted back to the IMA for another three year stretch during 1959-62. He continued to abstain from drinks and in the later years, he did not even eat the western food served during the dinner nights. At the end of the party, he used to rush back for his ‘dal-roti-saag’


 27pitaji IMA 50

AEC Staff, Indian Military Academy,  Dehradun. Dec 1950

Seated :Majs Sapatnekar and LEG Smith, —; Lt Col WW Wright,(British Army, HAD), Majs Som Dutt, Balwant Singh, and AL Sethi

Standing (First row) Captains —,SS Nakra,HS Chandele, Harbans Singh,RML Bhatnagar, DS Sahi, —,Daleep Singh, Gautam

Standing (2nd row) — Capt Sobjohn, —

(The picture is signed by Col HS Chandele, the father of Ajay, who retired as the DGEME recently. The dashes are for the officers whose names we have been unable to find so far)



As I was going through the diaries, a few questions arose in my mind.

  • How do we know, who is our friend and who a foe? We have never had any enmity with Japan and yet we fought the bloodiest battles with them in Imphal and Kohima . Let us also remember that some of the soldiers with whom we were fighting were Indians, who had surrendered in Singapore and joined the Indian National Army. The Thimaya brothers were pitted against each other. Isn’t that bizarre?

  • The Americans destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Atom Bombs. The japanese  re-built the two towns and also re-established cordial economic relations with the US, within an incredibly short time.

  • Brig Gen Dyer did, indeed, fire indiscreetly in Amritsar. But the British officers whom Pitaji accosted were thoroughly professional, and remained committed to their jobs, even when they very well knew that they were due to leave India shortly. In fact as administrators, their decisions were admirably quick, judicious and unbiased.

  • Auranzeb may have been zealot and imbalanced. He was cruel, not only towards Indians but even his own brothers. He killed three of them and imprisoned his father for the throne. Should his actions make us hate all muslims? Pitaji’s diaries seem to suggest that the great majority of mohammedans with whom he lived were thorough gentlemen. In our family history, there is extensive mention of Mian Allah Yaar Kalyar, who was a close friend of our grandfather. Despite being a Muslim, he actively supported the creation of a Khalsa School in Faruka, in 1908. His grandson, Fateh Mohd Kalyar still remembers our family with the same warmth and respect.

  • There are several instances of Muslims joining hands with us in various fields of activity. To begin with, Mardana, who was a close associate of Guru Nanak was a Muslim. A Sufi saint, Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, and the Baani of several Muslims Saints like Kabir and Farid is included in the holy Granth, which we worship.

  • Similarly, in the Andaman Islands, the light and Sound show depicts the British jailors as cruel and heartless. And yet, most of the Islands are named after British Officers! Is that an irony, or our acceptance of their contribution towards developing those islands?

Our friends and foes change as quickly as seasons. The nations behave like primary school children; they fight one moment and become bosom friends the next day. There are no rules to war, and it is said that “All is fair in love and war” But I think that even when a war is on, the people in power must draw a line, and abide by the following Urdu couplet:


​दुश्मनी जम कर करो पर यह गुंजाइश रहे

फिर कभी जब दोस्त बन जाए, शर्मिंदा न हों

I am also tempted to quote a famous proverb: 

    Anybody can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and  it is not easy.

This also applies to the use of force. If you have a gun in the hand, it is easy to pull the trigger, but to do so at the right moment, against the right person, for the right cause and in the right way, is not within everybody’s power. And it is not easy!


I think Abe Lincoln has said something very profound about power. He observed,

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.


This idea has been converted into a song which goes as follows:

ओ सारे जग के रखवाले

निर्बल को बल देने वाले

बलवानो को दे दे ज्ञान

अलाह तेरो नाम इश्वर तेरो नाम


The Tail Piece

I am tempted to end this rather long essay with a brief quip


A lively old man rose and proclaimed loudly, “I have no enemies in the world. They are all dead!”               (He was ninety-five) 


  1. Rajat says:

    Dear Sir,
    I am working on a heritage hall for Joint Services Wing at Dehradun, which we are creating at Dehradun. Would you please assit me in Doing the same with some contacts of that time who would provide me pictures, insignias, details and incidences related to those glorious days. I shall be highly grateful,


  2. Harman Preet says:

    dear sir,
    very touching. grew up listening stories of partition from revered nanaji and other relatives who had migrated from the other side. now story telling is thing of past as no one has even time for bed time stories. a pity indeed!
    recently saw ‘BMB’ with family, a commendable effort to bring out the unknown story behind the glorious successes and the one most noticeable failure of the legendary ‘flying sikh’.
    feel hunger to know more from pitaji’s diaries. please do share. partition will remain a permanent scar on psyche on all those who migrated loosing near dear ones or even otherwise. the many atrocities committed on freedom fighters by the Indian staff of the british may be attributed to ‘pappi pet’ or to cook favour with white masters(as they were atleast better fed than common poulace that time).
    with warm regards,

    • surjit singh says:

      Dear Harman,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Yes, indeed, Pitaji’s diaries are an invaluable treasure house of information. His description of people and events is objective, true and highly readable. We did at one time think of printing them as they are. But, since they are in Punjabi, very few out of the next generation will be able to read them. Secondly, they contain names of a whole lot of people and that can make sense to only those who knew all those persons.
      So, I think we will continue to carry excerpts from the diaries, with relevant details, in installments.
      Love, and hope to meet you in Chandigarh, when you come up North.

  3. Surinder Singh says:

    The tribute to Pitaji was extremely touching.He deserves all of that and much more.
    The most precious thing we inherited from him was his set of values.If we can pass down even a fraction of these,we would be highly pleased.
    There are many more inspiring stories which could find their way into

  4. Gul Dost says:

    Dear Sir,
    That made interesting reading.
    Even in day to day life, one finds that relationships swing from warm to cold and vice versa. There seems to be no way to find how a person will react when we meet him next time. Is there a method to identify friends and foes?

    • surjit singh says:

      No. As far as I know, there is no way to distinguish between friends and foes. However, it shows in the eye, and wise men are able to make out.
      Now do not ask me, how one can gain wisdom!

  5. M B Jauhari says:

    I read the whole blog in facination and admiration for your parents. regards

    MB Jauhri

  6. Isha Kooner says:

    Dear Uncle,

    I tremendously enjoyed reading your article.

    In addition to learning about what transpired during the partition days, you brought out another very important point through this article. That of not judging people based on stereotypes. Be it the Englishmen who were part of the British Empire or your father’s Muslim friends. The part about Capt Nazar Mohammed was very touching.

    Thanks for sharing. It is such a pleasure to read your articles.



  7. H Ramanathan says:

    I finally got to read the entire diary…..fantastic recounting of the life of a bygone era..thanks……I happened to be in karachi recently for the first time…….I am yet to come to terms of how the mighty empire of the sikhs changes hands……….unbelievable….and even more the sad stories during partition…………..Thanks again …regards,

  8. Ghansham Ahluwalia says:

    to me

    Dear Surjit ji,

    The real story of the life and migration from Pakistan of your respected father and his family has been so well depicted by you

    that I have no words to say ,because not only has it reminded me of my own story of our migration but also the truth and the pain experienced by us

    during those difficult times.

    We were in Model Town ,Lahore at that time and I was only 13 years old in 1947. My father ,who was Civil Surgeon,Jehlum in 1940, when he

    fell sick and had to be hospitalised in Lahore , where he passed away, leaving my mother with me about 6 years old, and with

    six daughters to look after. At the time of partition we were in Model Town,Lahore which is about 15 miles south east of LAHORE.

    We were suddenly asked by our relations to leave for Delhi on the 10th of August 1947 and which took two gruelling days to reach by a special

    Hindu Staff Train of Northern Railways.Thereafter the massacare started on the trains and everywhere, and there was no going back,and so

    we left all our property and belongings there, never to return back.

    Last but not the least the song which you have added at the closing, and your own couplet of wisdom, is simply great,

    and Char Chand Laga diye. But I did start weeping thereafter on hearing the poignant voice of Lata and the feelings which had welled up in me.

    Hats off to you.

    Ghansham Singh

  9. JPS Suri says:

    An excellent piece of research of our immediate past history. Pagris off to you.
    Col JPS Suri(Veteran)
    Sent from my ASUS Pad

  10. Lt Gen RK Gaur says:

    Very interesting. Thank you Surjit.

    R K Gaur

  11. Col Veermani says:

    My dear Gen Surjit,
    A wonderful article. Very well written and nicely edited. Thank you so much for sending this to me. Please keep sending such articles to me, I will be thankful to you for that.
    I am an EME Veteran commissioned on 30 Jun1963 and took Premature Retirement during Aug 1989. I do not know how you got my e mail id.
    Thank you once again.
    Col Veeramani

  12. Lalit Mathur says:

    Very many thanx for sharing these fascinating mails with me. You and yours have pleasant attachments with Dehradun. I too joined Welham Prep School at age 5 in 1941, moved on to The Doon School in 1946, and thence to the JSW in Clement Town in 1952. So my ties with Dehradun are also quite strong even though my parents were never stationed there !!

    Lalit Mathur

  13. Virender Kapoor says:

    Dear Sir,
    This was a real treat to watch.
    I looked at Pakistan’s map and realised that Lahore looks so close to the border. My Parents moved from Lahore to Delhi during the partition. If the border line had somehow moved slightly- only slightly to the left.. life of our entire family and so many more would have been totally different.
    I was told that Lahore was traded for Calcutta at the last minute!
    This is destiny.
    Warm regards
    Virender Kapoor

  14. Narinder Sapra says:

    Dear Gen,

    I read with great interest the deatiled account though I wish it could be more detailed primarily because our families experienced similar problems and as it happens from the same area. In fact all brothers of me respected father he including himself had studied at Farukha.

    I am passing on the write up to some of my relatives since all know respected Maj Balwant Singh ji and would love to read contents of his diary.

    Regards, Sapra

  15. Surinder Singh says:

    I appreciate the research you do, I wonder how you get time
    Loved reading it

  16. Yoginder Sharma says:

    Enjoyed your ‘sentimental journey’ and stimulating writing- profound and philosophical as behoves our stage of life.

    Could identify with so much.

    ‘ Lage Raho Munnabhai’, best wishes.

    Warm regards.


  17. Viren Bajaj says:



  18. Anil Bhalla says:

    Dear Surjit
    A Most touching narration. many thanks for sharing this Gem.



  19. SS Malik says:

    Respected General,

    The ESSAY demands no further comments. It is overwhelmingly clear, loud
    and hits the soul in us. This world would also loose its significance if there were no living beings. Especially the humans!!!

    great narrative compilation


  20. Parminder Singh says:

    That was very interesting and touching.Thanx forr sharing.

  21. Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh says:

    Dear Surjit JI,

    Excellently written indeed.

    We also belong to Sargodha. Studied a few years in Khalsa High School Sargodha. Our Chak was 4 miles down stream of the Canal. Had heard about Farouka but did not travel west of Sargodha.

    Reverently remember your respected Father who mentored us. Best wishes.

    Harbhajan Singh

  22. Lt Gen Sushil Pillai says:

    Dear Surjit,
    Thank you so much for mailing the Diaries of your father and the prayer from “Hum Log”. What a fine man your father was and an equally a noble gesture of yours in sharing it with us. Congratulations for the selfless work you are doing.
    Warmly, Sushil Pillai

  23. Maj Gen MS Kandal says:

    Dear Surjit Jee,

    SSA. May the Lord Almighty continue to shower HIS grace upon you & your family and bless you all with good health,long life,unbound prosperity,unending happiness,utter closeness to HIMSELF in Thoughts,Speech and Actions. It was a matter of great pleasure to read through your very richly worded Essay,as you call it. Matchless. The Eternal Father has particularly blessed you with extra ordinary Genes,one can see that on reading through your respected Father’s Diary. I normally do not get time to read through the mails, but Today, was a special day.

    I end by thanking you and your inspiration,the most charming Lady. Our very warm regards may please be conveyed to her. Any service?

    As always,your veer,

    MAJ GEN M S KANDAL,Veteran
    +91 9316131566
    +172 2620038

  24. Maj Gen Satbir Singh says:

    Dear Gen Surjit Sir,
    An excellent reading Thanks .It fills one with lot of sense of pride and honour to read the soul thoughts of a
    Soldier-saint and a good humanbeing.

  25. MANJIT Singh says:

    I have read this today.It is very well written.And so accurately.Congratulations!

  26. col Mani says:

    My dear Gen Surjit,
                               A wonderful article. Very well written and nicely edited. Thank you so much for sending this to me. Please keep sending such articles to me, I will be thankful to you for that.
        I am an EME Veteran commissioned on 30 Jun1963 and took Premature Retirement during Aug 1989. I do not know how you got my e mail id.
       Thank you once again.
        Col Veeramani

  27. shyam shrivastava says:

    Res Sir,
    A great piece of work. Tnx for sending it to me too. Tnx for all your blessings, help and sp.
    I am very fine.

  28. Yashvir Tuli says:

    Dear General,
             You have been doing an excellent job by narrating stories of the good old pre-partition days. May God bless you, sir.
             I am also doing a similar thing by narrating “Tales of Bygone days” and sending them to my Batch-mates and to those who had servd in EME and are known to me. Since I am about 11 years older than you, had my basic education upto Matriculation in Karachi, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore, joined the Corps of IEME in 1948, and retired therefrom in Aug 1987, some happenings of your pre-birth days, and also pre-entry into the Corps of EME, may interest you. In case you so desire, then I can start sending them to you as well.
            Colonel Y V Yuli (Retd)

  29. Satish Manocha says:

    Dear elder brother : I was moved by your excellent writing, and recalled memories of that time as told by my elders.. Especially I re-read since I was also born in the same place Faruka(Sargodha). My father, uncles, relatives all knew your family well. Later, I was fortunate to be in the same class in Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi during 1961 to 1966 with brother Brig. Surinder Singh. Much earlier, I do remember well I had visited you home near Delhi airport, in Cantt. when Russian President & others were being received for visiting India. I had gone with my elder first cousin Shri Shiv Lal Minocha who was a good close friend of your family. Our father’s and grand father’s families then in Faruka were in cotton business with huge ladholdings. IN the riots of 1947 my father( Shri Wazir Chand, who was youngest amongst his brothers), his elder brothers( including father of Shri Shiv Lal, ie Shri Ladha Ram Minocha) were all murdered by business people amongst Muslims . All our families had then left Faruka and Silanwali for Delhi by whatever different means and called “Refugees” in our our country, and reunited and life restarted from a great grief time after struggle. Myself and my brothers and sisters and their spouses and children were brought up and taken care of by my eldest brother Shri Inder Nath Minocha. He was a graduate from Lahore. He was more than any God one can wish for. In memory of ancestors, we used to hold Akhand Path every year in Sept. in Roop Nagar Delhi, where many friends, relatives of Faruka and Silawali would come and meet. Wish we meet sometime. Please pass on to Brig Surinder Singh. Best wishes. Thanks and kind regards, Satish Manocha, Bangalore (M) 09448061434

    • Surjit singh says:

      we are delighted to hear from you All the names are familiar Uncle Shiv Lal used to meet us often God willing we shall meet soon. I was in Bangalore recently and might go there again some time. Surjit

  30. Lt Col H.S.Bedi says:

    Surjit, a very well written piece. I found it most interesting and didn’t get up till I had finished reading through it completely. Reminded me of my and my family’s own experience of those days. What a pity that Partition had to occur.

    One of your pictures where some Sikhs are seen tied to mouths of cannons. These martyrs are actually Sikhs of the Namdhari sect called ‘Kukas’ who had revolted against the British some time in the 19th century and not during the 1857 uprising. This happened before that. They were the first to shun foreign goods and services – even before the the non-cooperation movement started by Gandhi ji in the 20th century.


    • surjit singh says:

      Harindar ji,
      You are right. The picture of the men being shot through canons are ‘kookas’ who made the supreme sacrifice in protest.
      How is dear Sarabjit ji. We wish her speedy and complete recovery. And hope to see you soon.

  31. Lt Col H.S.Bedi says:

    Surjit, a very well written piece. I found it most interesting and didn’t get up till I had finished reading through it completely. Reminded me of my and my family’s own experience of those days. What a pity that Partition had to occur.

    One of your pictures where some Sikhs are seen tied to mouths of cannons. These martyrs are actually Sikhs of the Namdhari sect called ‘Kukas’ who had revolted against the British some time in the 19th century and not during the 1857 uprising. This happened before that. They were the first to shun foreign goods and services – even before the the non-cooperation movement started by Gandhi ji in the 20th century.


  32. Lt Gen Dr Mohan Bhandari,Veteran says:

    Great & excellent write up Sir.So many things to learn & emulate from the life & thoughts of your reverend father.Indian Army has had such illustrious sons who placed Service before Self always & every time.
    I have one observation.The map of Pakistan is the one Pakistanis claim.The official Indian Map shows Northern Areas & POK ( being integral part of J & K) belonging to India.The boundary is much to the West.
    With Distinguished Regards.

  33. Col Arun Joshi(Veteran) says:

    Absolutely Fascinating.
    Please do continue and bring out nuggets for us youngsters to know what we Indians really are.

  34. jagwant says:

    Excellent. Very well written and absolutely engrossing. Reminds one of another one of our great writers – Khushwant Singh. And to think that you were not exactly a fan of English! The pictures and sketches, add on not a little to create a tremendous interest in the piece.

    Friend or foe? Some thoughts.
    There is no friend or foe, it is thinking (and circumstances) which makes it so.
    There are no permanent friends or foes, there are only permanent interests –
    a quote.
    Finally, there is no friend or foe because all is One, but there is a role for each to play.

    The quote from Abe reminds me of another very common, and perhaps apt one-
    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Last but not least thanks for incorporating the lovely and nostalgic ‘bhajan’.

  35. brig a s bhatti says:

    first of all sir let me compliment you on such an essay which is down to the earth in every word.i was born 24 oct 47,just after independence and my pitaji being in air force was at rangoon.i have heard a lot of the happenings then in that has been a great reading and to your credit it goes that it is ab initio from your PITAJI without any changes and that makes it a great reading.please keep enlightning us in the future as well.may WAHEGURU bless the entire family with good health.

  36. Sir,
    After reading,I went back in memory by 65 years.I distinctly remember 15 Aug 1947.I was in 1st standard.There were many functions held including our school.I had taken part in a play,which gave me my 1st prize of life.In my class,I had a mix of all class,religion and caste.I used to go to the house of my Muslim friend.Both of us used to visit the Temple as well as the Mosque.We used to eat as well at each others place.Come 1997,after my retirement,when I went to my home town,my Muslim friend was a changed person.He now attends the Friday Namaz at Mosque with out fail.He did not accompany me to the Temple.He avoided me to entertain at his house,as his people don’t like other Religion people coming to ther house.SO YOU RIGHTLY SAID.IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO KNOW THE FRIENDS AND FOES.

  37. DEAR SIR ,




  38. Brig PT Gangadharan says:

    Dear Sir,

    As usual you have penned down events succinctly.It is an eye opener to all born after 47.The partition story is indeed very painful.You have also beautifully depicted the life of a soldier,through Pitaji,s diary.It is indeed very fascinating.Your painstaking effort will certainly admirable.

    • surjit singh says:

      Thanks. You are a source of great inspiration for me. Your mails have become a part of my life!

  39. Brigadier B Narayanaswamy EME (Retd) says:

    Thanks for the sharing . We were at Karachi during pre partition when my father commissioned in the Army Postal Service from the Postal Department was posted to the Base Air Postal Depot at Maripur . His friendship with Brigadier DS Virk who was later the Director Army Postal Service continued for a longtime .

    Another real happy thought is our association with Chandeles . Ajay and me had a happy association serving in the same EME Workshop Company and he has done us proud as the Director General of EME . As a gentleman cadet at the IMA I was taught by his father .
    Ajay touched our hearts with the the spirit of fraternity and Camraderie during our Corps Reunion

    • surjit singh says:

      Dear Narayanswamy,
      Thanks. They say, “once a soldier, always a soldier!” The camaraderie is lifelong.

  40. JS Oberoi says:

    A beautiful essay on the contradictions in our journey through life – this time through the eyes and feelings of your revered father.So much like “Perfectly Imperfect” – “Friends & Foes”
    In his “Ode to a Skylark”, the great poet PB Shelley says,
    “We look before and after and after and pine for what is not ………..”
    Many congratulations on crossing the milestone of a 100,000 hits !!!!!
    The baby you created is well on its way to becoming a “vibrant” adult – a life of significance indeed!!
    Jaggi Oberoi

    • surjit singh says:

      We were away to Gurgaon for 18 days. Do drop in when you have time. And hope to see you at the EME party on the 13 April Surjit

  41. If anyone can send me down memory lane, it is you….that too
    without distorting or twisting the tale.No wonder there is always a desire to revisit Dehradun.

    It may be possible for me to tag the names of all the officers in uniform by digging out the original photo, but offhand I can recognize Maj Duleep Singh, Capts DS Sahi & Harbans Singh, Maj LEG Smith,Maj.AL Sethi and, of course, Chandele uncle who was in touch with Pitaji till the very end.

  42. ';colls'' says:

    First sight excellent….. as usual.
    Shall have plenty of time now in Canada… to read in details .
    Well done the country will be proud of you.
    EASY ”…

  43. Ajay chandele says:

    Dear Sir,
    Well written.
    The group photograph has many known faces,but can you tag all of them for me please.
    And I noticed at the bottom right corner,in a very familiar handwriting, ” With love,Hakim”
    Warm regards,

  44. J Thomas says:

    A fascinating story.

    British rule over India was always a joint venture. For eg the display at Cellular Jail about lashing shows an Indian administering the lashing. The shooting at Jalianwala Bagh was done by Gurkha troops. The 1857 conflict had Indians on both sides.

    • surjit singh says:

      Indeed, Our own father was sympathetic towards the freedom fighters, and did take to ‘khadi’ for a brief while. But during the war was totally loyal to the Crown.

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