Conflict, Culture and Creation

An Artistic Interpretation of Religious Challenges in South Asia

Toba Tek Singh-The story continues

Filed under: Uncategorized — alana at 2:12 am on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In the days following Toba Tek Singh’s death, Fazl Din went once again to check in and make sure his old friend has made it safely to Hindustan, not knowing what had happened.

The asylum much to his surprise and discomfort was in shambles. Chairs were overturned, pills spilt on the floor, robes flung on tables, patient files were scattered about, and one could easily spot the stamps on tops of pages marking location for transport. Green for Hindustan, red for Pakistan.

After wandering the halls, Din finally came across a young assistant who was gathering a few remaining papers to be signed off on.

“Excuse me sir, I am enquiring about the whereabouts of my good friend Bhishan Singh?

He replied, “You were good friends with one of these lunatics?”

“Well in the days well before the partition I was indeed. That was before he was a lunatic too. Could you tell me of his whereabouts? His family is trying to contact him in his new residence in Hindustan.”

“Ahh before the partition, things certainly were different then, I feel like we are living in a whole country of lunatics now. Or at least where we’re standing, we’re straddling two countries of nuts. The halls of this place got even more insane when we tried to make these men leave the home they’ve known for so long. Especially since there’s not much else they know about anything, except for each other. They could never understand why the Muslims left for one place, and Hindus must return to another. They were all just the crazy residents of a tiny unified nation of this asylum.”

“I suppose you’re right. I’m not sure my friend understood why he had to be transported, that’s why I’m here. I want to make sure he got there without any trouble.”

“Oh trouble is an understatement, men were running around naked, screaming, what a mess.” The assistant shook his head and sighed.

“Sir, can you just answer me this and I will leave you be. I need to know for his family…”

“I don’t have all the answers here, they left me to clean up the mess-”

“Where is Bhishan Singh?”

“I’ve never heard that name. It will be hard to help you…. Let me think: was he Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, an Englishman or Other?”

“What does that matter?”

“Well you should at least know where his homeland was. Did he come from the Pakistani region or India?”

“In Pakistan—no, no in Hindustan… Or was it the other way around? Um-”

“Okay if you can’t answer, what did he do before his arrival here? Had he ever been able to work?”

“You assume my friend was always crazy, no, no! He has a lovely wife and a beautiful daughter! He was a wealthy landlord before his mind broke down.”

“Hmmm don’t recall anyone who would mumble about money or property, you say he had a wife and daughter… Haven’t seen many of those types around here lately either-“

“Well after the partition, they had to move, they haven’t come to visit in a while. This is what I have been trying to tell you. I have been in touch with his family, they want to visit him now that he should be in Hindustan where they are.”

“Well if you know he has been moved to Hindustan why are you here? Why haven’t you been answering all my questions? He must not be a Muslim, that narrows it down…”

“You assume all these things, sir. There are many Muslims remaining in India, many who serve our society well. And you continue to misunderstand me. You say the transport of these men was a wreck; nakedness and screaming, I want to know if my friend made it. Where is my friend?”

“I’m telling you I don’t know this man-“

“Where is Bhishan Singh?”

“Again, I don’t recognize this person you speak of-”

“Where is Toba Tek Singh?!”

And with the uttering of this phrase the asylum assistant’s eyes opened up, and he was silent for a moment.

“Toba Tek Singh you say? He was Sikh was he not? White beard, swollen feet… I don’t think I ever saw him lay down, that is until—”

“You know him then! Finally! Until when, though? What are you trying to tell me? What does this matter?”

“Sir, please pardon my prior harshness.”

“Yes of course, if you’d only tell me where he is now. Has he arrived at the new asylum in Hindustan?”

“No, he is not in Hindustan.”

“Well then he is still in Pakistan? There must have been a mistake, his family is in India now!”

“No he is not in Pakistan either.” The assistant quietly replied.

“Don’t’ play games with me boy, this a man’s life! Where is Toba Tek Singh?”

“When you arrived here, you must have come from the Hindustani side, but did you see the barbed wire fences?”

“Yes of course… There was a small gap between the two where I crossed, why is there not one fence for the border at that one spot? Anyway, what does this have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with your friend. You see he was from the land called Toba Tek Singh, was he not? That’s why we called him that.”

“Yes-” Din replied, puzzled.

“And as perhaps you too were confused by this, Toba Tek Singh is now in Pakistan, but as you say, Mr. Singh belonged in Hindustan. Having heard that his home was in what today is Pakistan he refused to cross the boarder, and stood on those swollen feet like a statue as the other residents of the asylum were exchanged. We let him stay there during the night, unguarded, but he was found later lying in that spot between the fences you mentioned. Dead.”

With this news Fazl Din made the journey himself to see Singh’s wife and daughter. His child, Rup Kaur, a beautiful young woman now, traveled herself again to the place she where she used to visit her father and weep, but she wept now not for the loss of his mind, but the loss his body too. And at the place of his death, that space between fences, Rup Kaur gave that ground a name.

To this day a small wooden sign is posted. It reads:

“Upar di gur gur di annex di be dhyana di mung di dal of Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan!”

–Translation- “Toba Tek Singh is here!”

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