Usha Kashyap, 72, was seven years old when the Partition happened. She recounts her days after the family moved to India.
When I was unmarried in the late 50s, I used to talk less and less with my neighbours and relatives as I was not sure what they would tell my parents behind my back. You see, I was one of the very few girls doing her MSc from Delhi University. We were only two girls in a class of 18 boys.
My father, a lawyer, had to start his practice from scratch as he had left everything in Gujranwala. We owned a small village/tehsil in Pakistan before the Partition and my grandfather was the tehsildar of that place.
I had no issues with the government then as I got an equal opportunity to study. I got a job in the Agricultural Ministry but my dad got me married and did not allow me to work. I had trust issues with my in-laws as they would expect dowry. And then slowly my faith in the government officials faded as my husband, who was in railways, did not get promoted despite his talent and hard work. The key requirement was to be “in the darbar” of the boss who would invariably spoil the confidential report of my husband who refused to pander to his sycophantic whims.
Today when I am 72, my husband is no more, my children and friends are my trust anchors. I have lost faith in the entire system — the judiciary, executive and the legislature — as we saw a lot of hardship. We fought for our house from a tenant who refused to pay rent or vacate the premises. The tenant was a high-ranking official in a PSU and he misused his power and harassed us. He used the powerful lawyers of his company to buy out lawyer and judges. Things were so bad that one of the judges passed a verbal ruling in our favour which on paper was not what had been pronounced in court! We fought a 17-year legal battle. My husband did not live to see the house free of any unlawful ownership when we won our third and last case in the high court in 1996.
It was déjà vu for me when I had to get the leasehold land converted to freehold in 2000. I kept going to Land & Development Office to make sure my file was read by the seniors till I was asked to pay up. I am not ashamed to say that I did. After that, the process that took me eight years to follow up, got completed in two days. At least the officials did not let me down after taking the money.
I do not trust anyone, outside my family and friends. The circumstances have made me the person I am. But such is life. If you push me to name someone or something whom I trust outside of my family and friends, it would perhaps be my bank (a PSU and not a private bank).
(Usha Kashyap spoke to Shalini Rawla, managing consultant, Key Consumer Diagnostics Pvt Ltd)