This Week 1947 Stories – Suraj Talwar recalls the Rawalpindi of his childhood


Suraj Talwar recalls the Rawalpindi of his childhood. “Everyone knew of each other’s time of worship and would peacefully engage in religious activities. There was a very strong ‘we’ feeling,” he shares.

Suraj Prakash Talwar was born in Rawalpindi in 1923. He grew up in a five-storey house located opposite a mosque in the Bhabra Bazaar area of Rawalpindi, also known as Jain Bazaar. They had a tandoor (clay oven) in the verandah. “It was almost always that our verandah was bustling with sounds. Most of our neighbors would come and bake flat breads at our tandoor throughout the day,” he remembers.

At the time of Partition he was married and was helping his family with their business as government contractors and army suppliers. Mr. Talwar studied at the Sanatan Dharm School until fourth grade, and then at DAV College. He remembers Rawalpindi as a very serene city, with many libraries, including a Jain library and a Sikh library. Within the Sardar Bagh area there was a gurudwara located next to a temple. “People would not interfere at all those days. Everyone knew of each other’s time of worship and would peacefully engage in religious activities. There was a very strong ‘we’ feeling,” Mr. Talwar shares. Mr. Talwar distinctly remembers the Baisakhi mela in Sehatpur, which was about eight miles away from the city.

When riots had started taking place during March of 1947, Mr. Talwar was returning home from his family’s supply depot. “It was clear that things were not stable in the city,” he recalls. Mr. Talwar remembers two young boys who they had stopped their car just before the crossroad to Chachi Mohalla. They warned them not to go that particular way, as riots had broken out. Taking their advice Mr. Talwar took another route and reached home, realizing later that the market area had been looted and plundered.

After this incident Mr. Talwar’s father-in-law suggested that it was time to leave, which was followed by discussions of relocation to India. They booked train tickets for August 10th for six seats in total. Mr. Talwar’s family took the Frontier Mail train from Rawalpindi Station at 12 noon, and reached Delhi the next day at 1:00 pm.

At Lahore station, Mr. Talwar had off boarded to get some milk for his child and at the station, only to step foot into chaos on the platform. People were running frantically about the station, and he had to be quick to make special request to the tea vendor to give him some milk. He ran back to the train compartment amid the disorder. Although Mr. Talwar and his family had several other strange encounters during his journey, he says, they made it safely to Amritsar. “We had never thought that we would not return back to our home, work and life in Rawalpindi,” Mr. Talwar relates. “The shift and the forced movement in a way was all so overwhelming and haphazard for us.”

Suraj Prakash Talwar presently lives with his wife in the house he built after stabilizing his business in Dehradun during the 1950s. He enjoys spending time relaxing in the verandah, reading, and visiting with his family.

This interview was conducted by Citizen Historian Srishtee Sethi and filmed by Sanjay Gairola. The summary above provides a brief glimpse into the full interview. The complete video interview is expected to be public in 2017. Browse more stories on the STORY MAP:

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