Rashmi Talwar

“Relived my childhood by sleeping in my room after 75 years”

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90-year-old Reema Chibber returns from Pak

Wagah Attari Border (AMRITSAR): Getting a chance to have a sound sleep in your childhood bed room after 75 years that too when the house housing the bedroom is now in another country, is a feeling that can’t be expressed in words.

Yes, Reema Chibber Varma lived this moment as she visited her home in Rawalpindi.

90-years Reena walked across the Radcliff Line, the International Border of India-Pakistan, back to India today wearing a pink Kurta matching with black Salwar and dupatta, it was as if the nonagenarian had brought back a dazzling colour pink considered ‘shagnaa wala rang’ (auspicious bridal color pink) from her original home in Rawalpindi on the Pakistani side.

When Reena crossed over to the Pakistan side on 16th July she was wearing a black and white salwar suit.

She was overwhelmed by the love she got from Pakistani people and minced no words while saying, “We are same, here (India) or there (Pakistan).

Talking to the author in Amritsar, Reena said, “Let children of partition visit without a visa, let they be freely moving across on both sides as both countries are their homes. Give them a chance to visit in their twilight years.”

She couldn’t have asked for a better or more exalted gift on her milestone (90th) birthday than crossing the border and inching nearer to her childhood home in Rawalpindi.

“It was a dream gift to  revisit my childhood home, walk in the city of my teen years,  relive my childhood days, in the home of my family, in the house that my father built, in the place I was born,” said Reena.

When asked whether she found anything of her childhood in the house to bring back, she said: “No. There was nothing of ours in that house that I could bring back.”

“Staying and sleeping one full night in my own (childhood) room, in my own house after 75 years was a fulfilling experience,” Reema said in an emotional tune.

The present owner of the house, Dr Muzamil Hussain gifted Reena a solid name plaque with the words “Reena’s House” and “Don’t ever give up!”

The home and four other homes in the lane named after her father as ‘Prem Gali’ were intact while most of the other structures had changed beyond recognition.

Her home ‘Prem Niwas ,1935’ located in lane ‘Prem Gali’  both named after her father Bhai Prem Chand Chhibber on the DAV college road, Pindi, have changed a bit in words but pre-partition impressive three-storeyed facade and interiors of the house remained quite familiar and unchanged. Renamed, now “Kashane Imtiaz” or home of Imtiaz, the lane rechristened as “Gali Ghulam Fareed” is still remarkable in structure as was left 75 years back in 1947.

Reena was delighted to meet Iqbal Sahni a relative of  renowned film makers Balraj Sahni and Bhisham Sahni. The Sahnis were family friends of Chhibbers.

Earlier enroute to Rawalpindi, Reena visited Katasraj Hindu shrines in Chakwal district of Pakistan, organized by Faraz Abbas Secretary of the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) of Pakistan. She was welcomed by Ravinder Kumar Chhibber, one of the seven lineages of Mohyal Brahmins, the head of the lone Hindu family of Chakwal. Incidentally, Reena too belongs to the Chhibber clan of  Mohyal Brahmins.

In Lahore she visited the Forman Christian college where her husband studied and which had IK Gujral former Indian PM, former Pak President Pervez Musharaff and Kuldip Nayyar lawyer and journalist as alumni.

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