Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies

A journey from Lahore to Hyderabad
Posted:Sep 13, 2017
increase Font size decrease Font size
By Mohammed Shafeeq
Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227
Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who went on to become one of the first officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
The autobiography of Narendra Luther, now 85, is a gripping story encompassing heartrending events of partition, the life of a migrant on the Indian side of Punjab, his struggle to fulfill his dream, his experiences as an administrator and his love for Urdu, Hyderabad and humour.
This is the 14th book in English from the man considered to be an authority on Hyderabad's history and culture and a symbol of the city's 'Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb'.
He has dedicated the book to his Budha Goraya ancestral village in Sialkot district, now in Pakistan. Born in Hoshiarpur in 1932, Luther recalls how his father Mela Ram, a government teacher, used to translate 'ayats' of the Quran and 'slokas' from the Gita and explain their contents.
Luther did his primary schooling in Dharam Pura, a suburb of Lahore, with Urdu as the medium of instruction. He grew up in the Muslim majority area of Punjab, where people used to live in communal harmony till it was strained by heightened political activity in the run-up to India's freedom.
In 1947, his father was transferred to Rawalpindi when Luther was in Class 10. He was witness to the mayhem and bloodbath which began in March that year. Armed with a broken and rusted sword, he was one of the youths who were asked to do night patrolling in their Krishan Nagar Hindu locality.
It was a Muslim officer who gave shelter to the family. Luther recalls that he took a Muslim name Akram while his brother Vijay became Aslam to save their lives.
The author presents a bone-chilling account of the family's escape along with many others by a train from Rawalpindi to Amritsar. The travellers survived hunger and thirst and, most importantly, the killings by riotous mobs en route to the Indian side of Punjab.
Despite losing all the property, the family drew comfort from the fact that none of its members was killed and no woman from the family was abducted or molested. The author recalls that they did not lose the secular values in which they were nurtured.
The book details the struggle by the young student, who later rose to become the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh before retiring in 1991. At university, he fell in love with Bindi, also a migrant from Pakistan, and later married her.
When Luther was allotted to Andhra Pradesh, a new chapter began as the newly married couple reached Visakhapatnam.
With a lot of anecdotes, the author explains the socio-economic and political environment he experienced in Pakistan, later in Indian Punjab and subsequently in different places in Andhra Pradesh and finally in Hyderabad, where he settled down.
It's no easy task to be candid while writing about what all one has gone through and even more difficult to write about the trauma the near and dear ones had gone through. Luther has done all this and much more.
He intertwined the description of evolving socio-political environment and administration with life on the personal front.
He poured out his heart when his only son became a drug addict during his college days. The story reflects the helplessness he felt when his son slipped back into addiction every time it looked he would come out of it.
When transferred to Hyderabad in 1958, Luther wondered whether it was compensation for the loss of Lahore. "It was a popular saying in Punjab that one who had not seen Lahore had not yet been born! Coming to Hyderabad I felt twice born."
He fell in love with the city for its cosmopolitan culture, Urdu language and poetry, rich history and heritage and became part of the social circle even while discharging official duties in key positions. As special officer at the municipal corporation, he used to act on petitions received in Urdu.
It was in Hyderabad he turned a humorist. He narrated an incident when he arrived at a dinner at 8 p.m. and was told by a servant that "saab paani nahaa rahe hain". "It meant that our host was taking bath with water -- a saying peculiar to Hyderabadis. I asked the servant if I was at the right place. He replied that there was going to be a dinner, not evening tea."
Towards the end, Luther expresses his joy over his son Rahul not only overcoming the addiction but setting up a rehabilitation centre for other addicts.
In sum, a good read.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)
increase Font size decrease Font size

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
spotlight image Relations between India and Peru  are united by El Niño and the monsoon yet separated by vast distances across oceans.  Jorge Castaneda, Ambassador of Peru to India, talks to INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS exclusively about what is bringing the two geographically-apart countries closer.
Indian judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice on Monday as the UN General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of force that made Britain  bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate.
Those with a resolve make a big difference to the society. They inspire others to make the best out of a bad situation, steer out of morass with fortitude. Insha Mushtaq, the teenage girl who was pelleted to complete blindness during 2016 emerged as a classic example of courage.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have "great potential" and they could work together at a "practical level".
This week a major United Nations gathering on climate change gets underway in Bonn, Germany.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's efforts to build India's global appeal for investors seem to have finally yielded returns in terms of the country's performance in the World Bank&rsquo...


Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699


Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...


Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...


As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.


Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.