Surviving the Partition: Becoming the Architect of Your Destiny
To begin, I grew up in a very small village in India. In fact, I think the total population was two hundred. The village had no running water, electricity, telephones, nor paved roads. Thankfully, it did have an elementary school. Fortunately for me, and for that village, my father was the headmaster. Little did he knew how important a role he would play in the survival of so many in that village and beyond. All because of one particularly powerful teaching: “You are the architect of your destiny.” India had earned its freedom from the British Raj in 1947. The British made their Declaration of Independence on the evening of August 14, 1947. The declaration made India an independent nation. Unfortunately, the freedom came at a price. The declaration divided India into two nations… India and Pakistan.
Forced Into New Territory
Suddenly, this new division forced Hindus who were living in the territory that became Pakistan to immediately move to the new India territory. Conversely, the Muslims were to go to Pakistan territory. What resulted was over 17 million families leaving their homes by force overnight on the fateful night of the Declaration of Independence. Soon, communal riots broke out, ultimately killing over a million people who were trying to migrate to their new country. Our extended family consisting of my parents, siblings, uncles, and their families all fled their homes overnight. So, my family traveled over 40 miles, by bullock carts, to India from the Pakistan area with nothing but the clothes on their back. Like so many other families, ours was in the caravan of bullock carts. Each filled with poor, desperate, and scared people with no belongings, no prospects, and no hope.
To make matters worse, the government of India was ill prepared. It was incapable of taking care of the massive influx of refugees. In addition, the monsoon season was setting in. More torrid rains and high temperatures. These conditions, combined with a lack of sanitary facilities, brought diseases, death, and misery for the refugees. People escaped from the rising flood waters on dry places including on top of the train cars that were stuck on tracks. Nobody knows how many people died from the floods, malnutrition and the diseases; the estimates range from several hundred thousand to millions.
Amongst all these people, was a man who would go around consoling and inspiring people.“This is a test of our resolve and mettle;” he would tell them. “We will come out of this situation better and stronger.” This man was my father, Kanshi Ram Arora. He subsequently became a teacher in a little Indian village. Kanshi Ram advocated tirelessly that the freedom of India from the British Raj was a blessing for the people of India. “Freedom provides us the opportunity to decide our own destiny; achieve our unrealized potential.”
You and you alone are the architect of your destiny
Unexpectedly, whenever the people of the village complained about the lack of facilities or the inability of the government to help, he would counter, “You and you alone are the architect of your destiny. You can accomplish any goal you choose through good education and hard work. I offer you and your children the educational opportunity. I send your children to school and get them the education and I promise you that they will create a brighter future for your family, for this village and even for India” he went on.
Architects Of Their Destinies
Eventually, many of the children of that small Indian village got their elementary education from his school. Several of those children who graduated from that elementary school have gone on to lead successful lives. For example, some held high positions in the Indian government, others thrived in the business community. Additionally, a number of them, including me, have gone on to higher education in other countries including the US. They have even been recognized for exceptional contributions in their host countries. India has just celebrated its 72nd anniversary of Independence. India has made excellent progress on almost all fronts from the days of British Raj. Thanks to the empowering beliefs of people like Kanshi Ram, many learned to live as the architects of their destinies. I am happy to say, the people of India are on their path to achieving their well-deserved place amongst the top nations of the world.