Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction

My Great Grandfather!

My father used to call his father ‘Papaji’ and his mother ‘Pabhiji’ (punjabi version of Bhabhiji. In punjabi, brothers and sisters address their sister in law; wife of elder brother Pabiji). So like his uncles my father too started addressing his mother in the same way. Later on every one started following it as ritual. Even we the grandchildren followed the same. In this way my father in his innocence started a new way to address our elders. His grandmother and her sister were ‘Beji’ for him.

In 1950 my grandparents enrolled my father in a nearby school in class one. At that time School education in India used to start from class one. There was no provision for pre school education. Roshnara Bagh School was boys school. It was near Roshnara Bagh, tomb of Roshnara Begam, who was daughter of Mughal Empror Jahangir and favorite sister of Aurangjeb. My father was good in studies and Pabiji (his mother) used to teach him at home. She was his mother, teacher and best friend.

My great grandfather was very fond of my father. In evening he used to take him out giving ride to him on his shoulders. He used to tell him all kinds of stories. My father learnt and inherited kindness, softness, gentleness from his grandfather. Mr. Sadh Ram Kohli (my great grandfather) kept his generosity going after partition. He used to distribute food and clothes to needy, arranged marriages of poor girls. He helped many migrated fellow men to start and run their own business in Delhi. Whenever anyone was in need of raw materials, supplies to run business or money etc my grear grandfather used to arrange the same for them even without bringing it to their notice.

Roshanlal was an orphan who lived nearby. He lost his parents at young age. After partition he reached Delhi but lost his family in riots. My great grandfather suggested him to open a tea stall to run his living and also helped him open one. It started doing a good business. Sadhram, my great grandfather was an early riser. He took the responsibility of opening shop of my grandfather every morning. Around 6:00 to 7:00 he used to open the shop. There was no restriction at that time on opening or closing timings of markets. Roshanlal’s shop was two shops away from my grandfather’s shop. My great grandfather regularly checked his tea stall. Roshanlal was little lazy and being young and alone was not too serious about his business. His employees were instructed to open the shop around 5:00 in the morning to start the bhatti (earthen gas stove) to prepare tea for market people and other customers. Whenever the work in his shop didn’t start my great grandfather used to ask his employees and they used to tell him, “Lalaji there is no milk in stock, how could we prepare tea?” Or “we don’t have sugar” etc..and after this He used to arrange milk or sugar or tea and himself used to see if the workers are doing their job or not. People in that area addressed him ‘Lalaji’ as he was royal in every aspect. Not only due to money that he and his sons earned in short period of time but the way he used to walk, stand, talk and pure white clothes He used to wear were very impressive. Roshanlal told my grandfather that he didn’t remember his own father but he never missed having one after meeting my great grandfather. In Roshanlal’s words, “Lalaji is my father who take care of me and my business like his own son. Merits of my pre births are given to me in form of his blessings”.

Not only Roshanlal but He gave shelter to his wife’s younger brother and sister and arranged their marriages too with his own cousin brother and sister. He also helped and developed relations with Nanak Chand Oberoi a fellow man from Shinkiari. Nanak Chand Oberoi used to give him respect him as his father. To my grandfather he was like his elder brother. With time Nanak Chand gained a very renowned position in my father’s paternal family. No decision was finalized without his consent. In return he too had great love for Kohli family.

To be continued…

Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction

Towards Future…

Unlike big Haveli of Shinkiari where there were two large Baithaks (drawing rooms) and several bed rooms, big kitchen, spacious verandas and big Aangan with so much greenery and trees all around, House No 3398 was much smaller and in a very poor condition. There were no drawing rooms, no big veranda, no trees or greenery around the house. In comparison to NWFP, here roads were narrow, busy and noisy. Old Delhi was congested place. There was no provision of water supply in any house. There were just two Municipality taps nearby. Everyone had to fetch water from there. My grandfather’s house had one handpump but it was not in working condition. Other downside of Delhi was it’s extreme climate. People of Mansehra, Shinkiari and Abbotabad were not used to intense heat. They belonged to a cool place with plasant climate. The impact of Delhi’s heat hit many who were above sixty years of age. Many elderly people were unable to bear this extreme climate and died in a short span of Migration.

Rest and young ones adopted themselves to the new ways of life, adjusting their big family in a small city home. The room adjacent to kitchen was given to newly married couple. The other room on ground floor was shared by my great grandparents and their two unmarried daughters. The room at first floor became bedroom of my grandparents and my father, who was around four years old at that time.

The youngest brother of my grandfather started his further studies in ITI near Roshnara Road. Government Of India started many plans for NWFP people, who lost their lands, money, home and migrated to Delhi. Government started giving aid for further studies, jobs and rehabilitation. That’s how Ramji Kohli, youngest uncle of my father got admission in ITI, where he was also provided with free hostel, meals and educational facilities.

Puran Kohli, second brother of my grandfather started selling vegetables in Subzi Mandi. My grandfather was still waiting for some big opportunity to earn his livelihood. As his health was not in a very good condition my great grandfather didn’t pressurize him to start work soon. My grandfather wanted to earn big money as he used to in Shinkiari. Back in Shinkiari after closing his shop in evening he used to bring back money, wrapped and tied inside a big bedsheet, as he had no time counting and arranging it in his shop. Being wholesalers and famous in that area they were earning a fortune. At home all members used to sit in drawing room at night to count the money. It was my grandfather’s dream to bring back the days of royal life they lived once and to earn well to give all comforts to his family.

Meanwhile in 1948 my grandmother and his sister in law Pushpawanti gave birth to two girls in difference of a few days. Both new born girls were very beautiful like their mothers. Everyone used to advise not to show their babies to anyone to protect them from evil eyes. My father was happy to have a sister. They named her Suchintmani. Both girls were astonishingly beautiful babies. But when could angels come to reside for long on this Earth. Both babies died soon after their birth in a gap of a few days. My grandparents lost their second child and the other couple lost their first born.

In 1949 my grandfather met a sufi kind very gentle Muslim man,who had a dry clean shop in Azad Market, Pulbangash. The place was just two kilometers from Kohli residence in old Delhi. He offered my grandfather to buy his shop to continue the already running business. At that time the money left with them was four thousand out of the ten thousand that they had when they left Shinkiari. My grandfather told him he knew nothing about dry clean business. The man who was selling it was very gentle, kind and helping. He suggested my grandfather that he could extend his stay there for a month to teach my grandfather all about dry cleaning business. He also agreed to sell his shop alongwith all the amenities at three thousand rupees. His shop had two portions one was at front or main showroom, which was under commercial area and situated on main road. The backside or factory area was actually a residential area. Both were joined from inside in this way it was a showroom cum factory and was very big area. He told them they had to pay monthly rent for both portions to the government, which was six or seven rupees for front and two or three rupees for factory area. My grandfather decided to purchase the shop immediately.

This way Cleanwell dry cleaners (earlier known as Public Service) established in 1949.( It is still a famous shop of Azad Market. Now my uncle runs it efficiently). My grandfather was a laborious man. It took him no time to take this business to a great height. There were many small dry clean shops in and around that area but no one had a factory like my grandfather owned. So these small shops started bringing their laundry at my grandfather’s factory. In a year or two number of these shops reached to seven or eight. Cleanwell dry cleaners became king of their business in Azad Market Old Delhi.

My grandfather suggested his younger brother Puranchand to open a booking counter in Arya Pura. He purchased a small shop in Arya Pura just outside their residence for his brother and asked him to stop selling vegetables. Puranchand Kohli who had great contacts in Mandi started bringing clothes of many mandi people. Inflow of booking at his small shop kept increasing. From his shop all the clothes were sent to Cleanwell and my grandfather used to manage the rest. Both brothers were now earning well within two years of Migration. That’s how Kohli brothers established themselves in a foreign land with their positivity, hardwork, determination.

To be continued…

Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction · Uncategorized

House No 3398

House No 3398 in Arya Pura was the last house in a narrow lane out of total four houses. All houses were abandoned by Muslim families who fled to Pakistan. It was a two storey house. There were three rooms in it. Two on ground floor and one was on terrace. Entrance of these rooms were open, without any door and used to be covered with a jute sheet. There was a big open kitchen where food was cooked on earthen gas stoves using wood logs known as Chullah. Food was cooked and served sitting on floor. There were no shelves or standing arrangement. Adjoining to the kitchen was a small room which was dark as no sunlight reached there and there was no electricity at that time. The other room opened in veranda. This was also not a very big room. Opposite to the room was a bathroom. Main gate of the house had opening in a small narrow covered path which lead to stairs to the terrace and at right hand side was ground floor portion. The room on terrace was in a poor condition. The roof used to leak in rainy season. This room too had no wooden door. But the walls were so thick that two deep and broad almirahs were built inside them.

The terrace was big enough to accommodate 30 to 35 people gathering. The front side of terrace was adjacent to back side of a Karkhana, a small scale industry. It was a kind of shield between that house and main road. Left hand side faced towards the entrance lane. At right hand side there was another home which was given to cousin of my great grandfather whose wife was my great grandmother’s younger sister. They had two daughters and one son Pushpraj Kohli. Both the houses were connected with a small passage door from inside on ground floor, though entrance of both houses were in two different lanes. The first floor of that house too had one room, where lived one of my grandfather’s cousin, while terrace of both houses were joined together with a single wall between them.

At a small distance and a few lanes away my grandfather’s two married sisters lived with their families. Many other relatives moved in that area. They all wanted to live as near to each other as possible. These simple people were not used to big city life. Afraid and terrified they started the second half of their life in capital of New India.

North West Frontier Province people had an admirable quality that they were true fighters. They were hardworking, honest and lively people. They knew how to live and celebrate life. The harsh and hard times taught them to unbend to any situation and face the reality boldly. They never considered any work small or shameful. From selling lemons to doing laundry they accepted everything and anything and did it gracefully to earn living.

Arya Pura Subzi Mandi was a big wholesale vegetable market of Old Delhi. Without wasting time and losing it to their ego many families of NWFP soon started selling vegetables and fruits. They were good businessmen yet very polite people so it took them no time to establish themselves in new environment. From scratch to wholesaler, even old residents of Delhi admired them for their hardwork, self esteem and dedication.

Starting their day at 4:00 in morning. Men used to leave for work around 5:00 and used to came back at 2 or 3 in afternoon. They all loved to spend quality time with their families. In evening families of all relatives used to gather at my grandfather’s house to enjoy evening tea together. They all were very loving, sociable and fun loving. Women used to prepare different snacks and then chat for long hours, remembering their old life, and beauty of the place left behind. They used to sing punjabi songs and this way evenings were most celebrated time of the day.

The pain of partition and abandoning their land didn’t make them bitter but infused their hearts with great love and compassion for each other. They had seen end and new beginnings so they were aware of true value of life and humanity. It was strength of their character and sanskars that they were able to smile, laugh and celebrate even after witnessing so much destruction and bearing so much loss. True fighters they were…

To be continued…

Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction · Uncategorized



Haridwar-Door of God! This pilgrim city gave shelter to many migrants that reached there during partition of 1947. Leaving behind all that they had. Their homes, jobs, business, cattle, name, fame and all that they saved or earned in their life.


My grandparents like many other families took shelter in a Dharamshala (kind of shelter home) in Haridwar. They didn’t stay there for long as they were used of peaceful environment of Shinkiari unlike the crowded and noisy environment of Haridwar. Secondly they find it hard to earn a living there. Starting a new business in a pilgrim city didn’t excite them much. During their short three months stay in Haridwar two major events took place. First was my great grandfather fixed marriage of his second son Puranchand Kohli who was younger and second brother of my grandfather with Pushpawanti, daughter of a family from Nawan Shehr, Abbottabad. She was also childhood friend and neighbor of my grandmother in Abbottabad. Just like my grandmother she too was stunningly beautiful.


The other major and unfortunate event was death of one year old younger brother of my father. Due to sickness and lack of treatment the child was not able to bear the ruthlessness of those harsh times. After loosing the child my grandfather too fell sick. His condition was getting worse but my grandmother devotedly took care of him.


The family decided to move to Delhi on suggestion of my grandfather’s brother in law who already shifted to Arya Pura, Subzi Mandi in Old Delhi. There were many houses in Arya Pura vacated by Muslim families who migrated to Pakistan during partition. Moti Ram Sahni, my grandfather’s brother in law and his family selected one such house and moved in there. Most of the families now left in that area were baniya or Jain families.


My great grandparents along with their two sons, new daughter in law and two unmarried daughters left for Delhi, while my grandparents and my father decided to stay in Haridwar for another three months due to my grandfather’s health issues. Rest of the family reached Delhi and selected a small house instead of big vacant houses. The reason behind this was the terror they still had in their minds and hearts . Terror of the riots, brutal murders, rapes and looting they witnessed in past few months. To stay secure and close to each other they selected a house which was not visible directly from road. In this way House No 3398 of Arya Pura Subzi Mandi became my ancestral home. The real roots that were in Shinkiari Mansehra still are alive in stories told to us and we could almost see them in eyes of those who are there and never get tired describing the beauty of their birthplace.


To be continued…

Pictures of Present day Haridwar
Source: Pinterest

Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction

Pain Of Separation

My father’s maternal family who lived in Nawan Shehr Abbottabad were also facing similar difficulties during partition time. Abbottabad was even more beautiful hill station than Shinkiari. People of Abbottabad were similar in looks to Kashmiri people. Abbotabad is just few kilometers away from Kashmir. Even the present generation of people who migrated from there have features similar to Kashmiri people. Nawan Shehr was small part of Abbottabad. The families of almost all punjabi, khukrain biradari who lived there, were related to each other. Most families lived nearby sharing neighborhood with each other. There was a very large open area inbetween and it was surrounded by big houses all around. All the houses were inhabited by a big ‘Kunba’ (families of similar clan) of my maternal grandmother’s parents.

My grandmother’s parent’s family was a very big joint family. My father’s maternal grandfather Gyan Chand Anand lived with his two brothers and cousins. Gyan Chand Anand’s wife and one of his younger brother’s wife were sisters. His younger brother’s daughter who was my grandmother’s cousin sister was married to Mr Bihari Lal Sethi (who became my inlaws later). They too were resident of Nawan Shehr Abbottabad. At that time Mr Bihari Lal Sethi’s younger brother was working in a bank in Unnao a small district in Uttar Pradesh near Kanpur. He sent a telegram to his family and asked all of them to leave Abbottabad and to migrate in Unnao. Outside Abbottabad every place was unknown to them so they decided to move to Unnao which was atleast known place due to one family member there. My grandmother’s family too migrated to Unnao with Sethi family. Reason was they all were so scared that they decided to move in group to feel warmth and security of close family and relatives in crucial times.

The Anand family (my grandmother’s parent’s family) and Sethi family had very good relations and it became more strong during partition. Even today both families share a very loving bond.


At another place in Mansehra my mother was born a few months after partition on 9th October 1947. My maternal grandparents were also Anands. My maternal grandfather was a graduate, which was not very common at that time. He was very handsome and belonged to a royal family. Though his education, royal status and high post in a renowned company made him a little egoistic too. He used to work in Hindustan Lever Company as a manager. My mother was first born child of my grandmother Ramdevi and grandfather Manohar Lal Anand. They left Mansehra a few months after partition. Till then they took refuge in a shelter camp. When they realized that there is no use to stay there anymore and they had to move, then they left Pakistan under army protection. My grandmother told us that my mother was two or three months old then and to save her life they packed the baby inside a suitcase wrapped in some clothes and made a hole in suitcase for air. So my mother came to India packed in a suitcase.

When we asked the reason behind this my grandmother told us that they decided to throw the suitcase in river in case of any attack to save the baby from abduction or brutally murdered. But thankfully no such thing happened and they too reached safely to Haridwar. From there stopping at many places they reached Old Delhi Sadar Bazar area and occupied a big home vacated by some Muslim family. My mother’s uncles, aunts and cousins were also with them.

My grandfather again joined the Hindustan Lever Limited in Delhi. Where he got promoted and shifted to Shakti Nagar in a big house on rent.

To be continued…


Some pictures of Abbottabad

Source: Pinterest and Google

Autobiography · Memoir · Non fiction

The Great Migration!

In December 1946 Atrocities against non-Muslims in the Hazara division had started. The murder and arson were committed by gangs of Muslims in Bafa, Shinkiari, Balakot and Mansehra (all of which are situated in Hazara division), during the month of December. Thousands of innocents including women and children were killed or injured by mobs, supported by the All India Muslim League.

Though Muslim families of Shinkiari were never in favour of these cruel attacks, murders or looting. They never wanted the Hindu families to leave the place. It was mob outside of town who was responsible for all this and they all were politically supported and paid to do this. Muslim families of Shinkiari helped saving lives of their loving neighbors. They gave shelter to them during all this.

My grandfather told us that everyone used to believe that this is all temporary and one day peace will come back. But they all were forced to leave that place and moved to camps organized by British government to help them shift from there, when hundreds of dead bodies started reaching nearby towns. Girls and women were raped and abducted. To save themselves many of them jumped into wells or mothers killed their own daughters when they find themselves helpless. Cruelty was in its extreme. There was no other option for Hindu and Sikh families but to leave their homes and run away to save their lives. Many families lost their loved ones. Some got separated from their family. No one knew where they will go and how. Fearful, lost and broken was every heart.

My great grandfather refused to leave Shinkiari. He said he would like to die at his land rather than to leave his home and move somewhere else. Everybody tried to convince him but he was adamant. Though he asked all his children to leave the place as soon as possible. He was worried about his daughter’s safety. My grandfather alongwith his wife, two sons, two unmarried sisters, two younger brothers left his beloved hometown forever. Fortunately they were so wealthy that at that time they left with a cash of Rupees ten thousand and many kilograms of gold and silver. Not only this they burried and hid some cash and gold somewhere in house in hope that whenever they would return in future they will dig it out.

People of that era were so simple and innocent that many families instead of taking gold (which they burried somewhere in their houses) carried utensils and bedding with them so that they could cook and sleep comfortably during their journey. A journey to place unknown!

Our family too carried with them as much utensils, bedding and clothes as they were able to. They all said goodbye to my great grandfather whom they left in protection of Muslim families of Shinkiari, giving them instructions to send them safely if things get worse. The Muslims gave them assurance that they will take care of them and protect them. Not only this they assured Hindu families that they would look after their homes in their absence till they all return back. So sure were they all, that everything will fall in back in place and this is just for time being. Who thought even in their dreams that the beautiful Shinkiari of 1940s could never see them back again.

In all these riots, rapes, murders our family was blessed and very lucky that not a single member of Kohli family or even anyone in relation faced any cruel fate. They safely reached Kashmir and after travelling for long and via many places they decided to go to Haridwar the only well known place in would be India to them. These simple ‘Pahari’ (people of mountains) found it very difficult to live in a crowded city. Soon after my great grandfather and great grandmother too reached there rescued by army.

After that no one heard any news of Shinkiari, their home or shops that they left behind alongwith thousands of fond memories.

They kept missing it till their last breath.

To be continued…

Picture Courtesy: Pinterest


More About Mansehra and Shinkiari


Mansehra (Hindko/Urdu/Pashto: مانسہرہ‬) (elevation 1,088 m (3,570 ft)) is a city located in Mansehra District in the eastern part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwaprovince of Pakistan. Mansehra is one of the largest cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Kashmir lies to the east.

Mansehra is surrounded by verdant mountains. The name of the city is derived from that of its founder, Sardar Maha Singh Mirpuri, who was a Sikh administrator and general in the Sikh Khalsa Armyduring the rule of the Khalsa Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.


Maurya Dynasty

Mansehra Rock Edicts

Ashoka governed this area as a prince, and when he ascended to the imperial throne c. 272 B.C. he made it one of the major seats of his government. The Edicts of Ashoka inscribed on three large boulders near Mansehra record fourteen of Ashoka’s edicts, presenting aspects of the emperor’s dharma or righteous law. These represent some of the earliest evidence of writing in South Asia, dating to middle of the third century BC, and are written from right to left in the Kharosthi script.


Gurudwara of Mansehra

Pic credits:Pinterest

Sikh rule

The fall of the Afghan Durrani Empire made way for the Sikhs to rise to power under Ranjit Singh. The Sikhs gained control of the area in 1818. The town of Mansehra was founded by Mahan Singh Mirpuri, a Sikh governor.There were popular uprisings against Sikh rule, but these uprisings failed and the Sikhs remained in power until 1849 when the area came under British rule.The town is named in Mahan Singh Mirpuri’s honor.

British period

By 1849, the British had gained control of all of Mansehra. To maintain peace in the area, the British took preventive measures by co-opting the local chiefs.

The British divided Hazara region into three tehsils(administrative subdivisions): Mansehra, Abbottabad, and Haripur; and decided to annex it to the Punjab. In 1901, when the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) was formed, Hazara was separated from Punjab and made a part of it.

During British rule, Mansehra was a small town. Its population according to the 1901 census was 5,087.During the British period, Mansehra was the headquarters of Mansehra Tehsil.




Pic credits: Pinterest

Shinkiari Is a Union Council of Mansehra District in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The police station was also established before partition at that time Baffa was police chowki of Shinkiri Police Station (thana) and the second police chowki was Battal these both Chowkies have now became police Stations (thanas)

Picture Courtesy: Pinterest
Shinkiari is located 18 km north of Mansehra city on the Karakoram Highway, it is located at 34°28’0N, 73°16’60E at an altitude of 1019 metres (3346 feet). Due to its strategic location Shinkiari is also a base for the Pakistan Army and a major stop for people travelling north.
It is famous for cultivating the first tea garden in Pakistan because of its natural environment and terrain.

Picture Courtesy:Pinterest


Source: Wikipedia