Rashmi Talwar in Pakistan meets PM’s friend ……….with Pix
Lahore (Pakistan )February 27, 2007———Even as India and Pakistan struggle to achieve sustainable peace it is still not easy for a common man to get visa to each others country –be it the PM’s childhood friend….
Raja Mohammed Ali (75) a schoolmate friend of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh from his ancestral village ‘Gah’ the birthplace of Prime Minister in Pakistan is longing to meet his childhood friend but is awaiting his visa for travel to India .
Having studied with the Dr Manmohan Singh from class I to IV, Mohammed is restless to convey his desperation to meet his friend ever since they heard the first radio announcement declaring him PM of India in 2004.
Before that the villagers never came to know the fate of the ‘Kohli’ family who had left the village well before partition , says Mohammed as he expresses his ignorance over Dr Manmohan’s stint as Finance minister.
The first words Mohammed uttered when he met this Amritsar resident –a place where Dr Manmohan Singh grew up –was “sadey Mohney ney jutti pai key nahi” (Did Our Mohna wear the shoes or not) made me wonder what he was talking about till he explained that he had sent a “tilley walli jutti” as a present to PM who had a childhood nickname ‘Mohna’.
Reminiscing the celebration in the ancestral village when Dr Manmohan Singh became the 17th PM of India Mohammed says “the whole village was agog with cries of “sada Mohna Hindustan da wazir-e-azam ban gaya “….. The same year the blessings continued as the village was declared a model village by Pakistan government.
Hiding his overwhelming joy and nervousness Mohammed almost six feet tall, turned-out in his best ‘wasket’ and salwar kameez complete with a turban, shyly says—”I had especially come to meet the Indian Jatha that arrived in Katasraj with help from the only Hindu member of Zila council of Chakwal district, Pakistan Mr. Ravinder Kumar Chibber” and added “I was hoping to meet someone from Amritsar the hometown of PM”.
Recalling the time when he sent a “Tilley wali Jutti” to the PM with the 29-member delegation of Pakistan local council that crossed over to India in August the same year (2004) Mohammed said joyfully, “I had made the estimate of his (PM’s) foot-size from his television appearances that we collected together to watch in houses of friends and relatives in adjoining townships”.
Mohammed who lived merely 100 yards from Mohna’s house says after ‘Mohna’ became PM he (PM) wrote to him asking about their “only girl” classmate Baqt Bano. She was the only daughter of her parents and since there were no sons to send to school, therefore her father had enrolled her in school where she became ‘special’ with all boy classmates, recalled Mohammed shyly.
“I was distraught to tell the PM that she had died years ago and was married to one Khizar Hayat. And it was touching to note that ‘Mohna’ wrote back to the aggrieved family expressing his condolences on the demise of ‘Bano’.
Mohna called me ‘Ali’ and we were zamidaars while Mohna’s family were dry fruit agents in Gallah mandi… “Mohna was very fond of marbles, gulli danda and often we used to play kabbadi “, recalls Mohammed.
Ravinder Kumar who had accompanied Mohammed and claims to be from the family of Bhai Mati Das of Delhi who was beheaded with an ‘arra’ as he defied Aurangzeb and fearlessly propagated Sikhism said, that the ‘village ‘Gah’ that falls in his district declared model village was now being inter-chained with the main Motorway to Islamabad .
The school at which the PM studied was being renamed as “Manmohan Singh High School” He further informed that the Kohli Family’s kachcha house was washed away; a remaining structure is being renovated. “The only girls’ school is being upgraded, also a guest house and rural health centre have been established while the roads of the village have been metalled”, he added.
Interestingly, the schoolmate has also kept a carefully laminated photocopy of the primary village school register in which the name of Dr Manmohan Singh is written in Urdu son of Mr. Gurmukh Singh. His admission in Class I was recorded in 1937. The date of birth is registered as February 4, 1932 (4-2-1932) and the admission date is March 31, 1941 (31-3-1941).
Mohammed said that along with him there were three other classmates of Manmohan Singh namely Ghulam Mohammed , Shah Wali Khan and Mohammed Ashraf and all were eagerly awaiting his arrival in their village to give him a “King’s welcome” ………………………………..eom………………….