Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 5, 1985 p. 67.


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Rajinder Singh Bedi

LAJAVANTI

' This is the la/avanti plant so be careful If you so much as touch it it will wither —

Punjabi folk song

The Partition of the Subcontinent was carried out Countless people rose up and washed the blood from their wounded bodies, and gathering together turned their attention to those whose bodies were whole and without wounds but whose souls were scarred

In every lane and neighborhood "resettlement committees" had been formed At the very outset programs such as "Resettlement of the jobless " "Resettlement of the landless ' and "Resettlement of the homeless" had been established with industry and devotion

But there was one program to which no one paid much attention the program which dealt with the resettlement of women who had been abducted from their homes during the partition madness The slogan of this program was "Take them to heart " The orthodox element of the Narayan Baba temple and the conservative residents in its vicinity, were strongly opposed to this program

In a neighborhood near the temple known as Mullah Shakoor, a committee was formed to activate the "Take them to heart" program Sundar Lal Babu was elected secretary by an eleven vote majority In the opinion of the high court lawyer, as well as the aging clerk of the octroi post and other trusted figures of the community, there was no one else who could fulfill the duties of this position with as much energy and commitment as Sundar Lal Perhaps because Sundar Lal s own wife had been abducted Her name was Lajo—Lajavanti

That s why when Sundar Lal Babu and his friends Rasalu and Neki Ram got together before dawn to make their rounds of the neighborhood, Sundar Lal would choke on the words when they began to sing "This is the lajavanti plant so be careful If you so much as touch it it will wither" And walking along he would quietly wonder about the fate of his own Lajavanti Where was she now9 How was she9 Was she thinking about him9 Was she ever coming back9 And his steps would falter as he walked the cobbled streets

In fact Sundar Lal had reached that stage where he stopped thinking only of Lajavanti his personal grief became a universal grief In order to forget his own pain, Sundar Lal submerged himself in the service of the people In spite of this, he sang along with his friends and thought—How fragile was the human heart, it could be hurt by even the smallest thing Just like the lajavanti plant which wilted and drooped when a hand

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