By Kamran Rehmat
My father, Rehmat Ullah Khan, was born in District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India. He came to Pakistan on the last train, a boy of 14, orphaned by the worst carnage known to modern history. His father and more than a dozen close relatives were killed in the communal frenzy that followed the partition of India in 1947.
My father barely survived the horror, with an attempt made by one frenzied individual to set him alight in a room full of haystack, which was then locked. Fortunately, he managed to escape from a broken window.
What kind of memory and thought-process would that leave a young boy with?
And yet, remarkably, he chose not to pass on the burden of acrimonious history to his children, when it would have been perfectly understandable to do so. He put down the greatest genocide in an exodus that claimed the lives of his father and family to a mad frenzy. It was the consequence, he explained, of the worst face humanity could present in circumstances beyond its control.
I have never in my life seen a more forgiving man. While serving in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was posted to New Delhi in the late eighties, returning for the first time to the land of his birth. However, both India and Pakistan stymied his attempts to re-visit his birthplace or his father’s grave, because each respectively deemed him as going into or coming from the “enemy” country.