I’ve descended from a family of Refugees. My grandparents came to Delhi from Lahore, Pakistan during the Partition. I always knew this, never really gave it much thought. This Independence Day we had a family get-together, as always. My Badimamma(Nani) cooked for us, Badepapa(Nana) watched the news and made us listen to various speeches, my aunts and uncles chatted and my cousins and I hung out and had fun. We decided to make this Independence Day a little different so we all sat down in a circle and asked Badepapa what the Partition was really like since he was 11 years old at that time and remembers parts of it very clearly. Badimamma was just 5 years old at that time, she doesn’t remember much.

Badepapa explained to us his journey from Lahore to a small village in Punjab (he doesn’t remember the name) to Amritsar to Delhi. A Muslim man who knew them helped his family get to the border from where they continued to a relative’s house and then ended up in Amritsar in search of livelihood. They didn’t get any luck in Amritsar so one of their well-wishers in Delhi called them to the city to manage a small grocery store. So they moved to Delhi immediately but they had nowhere to live because all their belongings and money had been left behind in Lahore. Badepapa’s father decided that the family will take shelter in the Refugee Camps set up in Anand Parbat till they earn enough to buy their own place. The conditions were bad, the work was hard, the travel was tiresome but this didn’t coax his father into putting the children to work too. Badepapa and his siblings went to school every day with the motive to learn and one day be able to earn so much money so as to get all the comfort of a home that they longed for. I really admire this quality of my Great-Badepapa, the fact that even though times were tough and money was tight he didn’t succumb to the pressure and force his children to work.

Soon after, they purchased an apartment in Patel Nagar and all his children got married and had kids. The importance of education was ingrained in their brains, they made sure that their kids went to the best schools that they could afford and were good human beings. My Mom, has two siblings, a sister and a brother. She heads Muskaan, an NGO for differently-abled adults and my Masi(her sister) was a Hindi teacher before she left her job to look after her children’s education a few years ago. My Mamaji(Mom’s brother) is a Laparoscopic Surgeon, one of the best in Delhi. I’m not stating all of this to brag about my family but to show that the roots of their success actually lie in the fact that my Great-Badepapa stressed so much about the importance of education. Had he not done that, I wonder if my family would be the way it is right now.

Education is important for all of us but some of us need to work hard to get it. My Badepapa worked hard all those years with the support of my Great-Badepapa to get to the point where he could educate his own children. I consider myself very lucky, I was born in a family of literates and this enables me to enjoy the comforts that come with a good education. Everybody, however, is not that lucky. There are wars waging all over the world, emotional, physical, political, civil, etc, etc. People everywhere are being displaced from their homes all the time. There are tens of hundreds of Refugee Camps in and around Delhi at the present moment. With this huge amount of Refugees constantly moving and settling, there needs to be in place a better system for their education.

I believe that if you educate the woman of the family, you educate the whole family. I remember my Mom telling me stories about how my Badimamma would always help her and her sister and brother with their homework so that they never had to pay for extra tuition which saved them a lot of money. It was possible only because Badimamma had been enabled to study rather than work for money in her childhood. With all the money that they saved, they were all able to go to college and earn respectable degrees and also do further studies. Most of the Refugee families get sucked into the vicious cycle of earning money rather than educating their children. This is mainly because it’s an expensive world and survival is given more importance than living. If only they would understand that when they educate a child, the next generation of the family would be better off and live well.

The whole purpose for me to write this was to get through to people that education in emergency situations should be given utmost importance. It makes the world a little better place. It’s because giving education to even one child creates a ripple which keeps expanding. Just because my Great-Badepapa believed in the importance of children’s education, I sit here now with a laptop in my hand trying to make people understand why they should educate their children even in the hardest of times because it will help them evolve and bring them better times. I am so grateful to him and his elders that taught him these values and made it possible for me to sit and actually think about important issues.

I want to emphasise that it is possible to create a better world only if we educate our children and youth and teach them values that propagate positivity and curiosity.


Prakriti Chawla

Picture Credits: Kunal Raj