Who will call the PM ‘Mohna’ again?….. By Rashmi Talwar

PM Dr Manmohan Singh Classmate from Gah Village Pakistan at Khalsa College Amritsar

PM Dr Manmohan Singh Classmate from Gah Village Pakistan at Khalsa College Amritsar


Who will call the PM ‘Mohna’ again?
by Rashmi Talwar

I look at the golden shower cassia tree in my garden and I am reminded of two such cassias growing in far-off Gah village in Pakistan, that I had presented to the late Raja Mohammed Ali, a childhood classmate of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“Meinu mere Mohne nal milva do! Meinu Hindustan da visa mil gaya hai!” was one call I received in May of 2008 from Rajaji alias Babaji. I was aghast! ‘Mohna’ was the nickname he used for the Prime Minister. In March that year I had met Babaji the second time in Katasraj (Pakistan) and carried copies of an article by me in The Tribune about him and his friend ‘Mohna’. I gave a copy to a senior officer of the Indian High Commission at the Katasraj shrine, urging him to issue Babaji a visa.
After four rejections, three months later, Babaji was ready to come to India and elated in anticipation of a meeting with his illustrious classmate – albeit without any appointment!
I looked for ways to fix that seemingly ‘elusive’ appointment, on the Net. I wrote on the PM’s website, even found an IAS officer, seemingly by divine intervention, who helped script a letter and fax to the Prime Minister, but to no avail.
Meantime, a thrilled Babaji, unaware of the ‘trials and tribulations’, called everyday and we agreed on ‘priceless gifts’ for the Prime Minister comprising ‘soil and water’ of the PM’s school and ancestral home in Gah besides ‘tilley wali chakwali juttis’ and a 150-year old ‘resham ka lachcha’ made by Babaji’s grandparents.
A week left, and still no reply! Finally, media had to become my ‘sole-mate’. There were renewed media contacts in Lahore, Amritsar and Delhi. A foreign news agency in Lahore filmed the story about preparations to meet the Prime Minister, and ended it with a question –‘Whether the Pak friend would meet the Indian PM?’ It was featured on BBC just prior to Babaji’s arrival in India. Still no reply!
On Babaji’s arrival a local school gave him a thumping welcome with bhangra by kids at the Wagah Indo-Pak border. The press grabbed bytes of the dancing children, gifts of soil, water and juttis!
The same night an official of the PMO called! More relieved than elated, I requested for accommodation and conveyance in Delhi for them, besides security during travel to Delhi, the following day.
Babaji reached Delhi and was whisked off to a five-star guest house and given a chauffeur-driven car. Two days before the meeting, Babaji urged me to accompany him but my refrain was “this is the time for only friends, not me”.
It turned out to be a most poignant moment between India and Pakistan. Later, a tearful Babaji left India carrying the cassia saplings, a booklet with publications of his visit, a large photo with the Prime Minister and him wearing the chakwali juttis, gifts by the PM of a pair of watches, suits, shawl, dry fruit and Assam tea and even a doctor’s prescription, as live proofs for his village-mates.
Even though Babaji is no more, the entire village safeguards these prized possessions and has even framed the Indian doctor’s prescription — as a historical memory of Gah’s priceless connection with India.


Publications in India of PM Friend in Pak

Times of India & Indian Express Publications in India of PM Friend in Pak


3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Who will call the PM 'Mohna' again? « Saanjh Amritsar-Lahore The marigold rivulet like strings on the border gates–a witness to millions of passersby over the past 63 years to either side of the Radcliff line- today looked in 'merry' celebration, as if on the entry of the girl back to her . Singh was shot dead while an eve teaser Sonu @ Maninder Singh was injured by a bullet injury as he and two of his accomplices tried to flee from Pizza hut restaurant in Amritsar, after an exchange of fire with the police, in the heart of [. ] . […]



  2. very nice put up, i definitely love this website, carry on it



  3. Manmohan Singh’s birthplace in Pakistan in a shambles 23 aug 2012

    LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE: Development projects have come to a standstill, say Gah villagers.

    Gah, August 22
    For years, Ghulam Muhammad Khan thought his brilliant classmate had been killed in the bloodbath that gave birth to India and Pakistan in 1947, the deadliest end to British colonial rule in history.

    But when the world’s biggest democracy elected the softly-spoken Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister in 2004 and he told an interviewer he had been born in a remote Pakistani village, Khan was over the moon.

    “He was our class monitor and we played together. He was a gentle and brilliant child. Our teacher always advised us to get his help if we couldn’t understand something,” Khan recalled, striding through village maize fields.

    Even more incredibly, Manmohan wanted to help the 2,500 villagers in Gah, on a plateau of muddy rock and bushy forest 100 km southeast of Islamabad near the ultra-modern motorway that runs almost to the Indian border.

    “I never imagined Manmohan would one day bring so many blessings to our village. He did what our own government still refuses to do,” recalled Khan, who is Manmohan’s last surviving classmate left in the village.

    But the last eight years is a tale of generosity, squandered opportunity and political short-termism that leaves Pakistan with an embarrassing predicament now that President Asif Ali Zardari has invited Manmohan to visit later this year.

    The model village that Manmohan dreamt of lies in tatters. Buildings that cost tens of thousands of dollars stand empty and unfinished. The only question is what, if anything, will Pakistan do to fix it? Not long after taking office, Manmohan wrote to Pakistan’s then ruler, Gen Pervez Musharraf, asking that Gah be earmarked for development.

    Musharraf, at the time working on peace talks that he hoped would resolve India and Pakistan’s conflict over Kashmir, was happy to oblige.

    The provincial government in Punjab built a decent road from the motorway to the village, high schools for boys and girls, a hospital, veterinary clinic and hooked the village up to the water supply.

    Manmohan sent an Indian firm to install solar-powered street lights, solar-powered lights to 51 households that did not have electricity and a water heating system at the mosque close to the site of his destroyed home.

    But the project stalled after elections in 2008 swept former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party to power in Punjab, booting out of office Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Musharraf stepped down.

    The high schools and hospital stand empty. No teacher or doctor has been appointed, because the villagers say, credit for the development would have gone to the previous regime and not the new government.

    “We contacted the district administration and members of the ruling party time and again. They say there are no funds for the facilities and that they are trying to get it from the government,” said Ashiq Hussein, the mayor of Gah.

    But a Punjab Government spokesman said it was “absolutely baseless” to suggest it had abandoned the Gah development project for political reasons. “No scheme has been stopped anywhere in the province on such a basis,” Pervez Rasheed told AFP.

    “The hospital in the village is still under completion and the boundary wall plus equipment is being provided this year. Staff will be recruited when it’s completed,” he said, referring to plans to open the high schools in September.

    Villagers young and old are united in their hope that the return of their lost boy sometime later this year will be the spur. “Everybody wants to see him (Manmohan) and say thank you.

    We also want him to come soon because we think the abandoned development will be completed for his visit and we will get staff in our schools and hospitals,” Khan said.

    The mayor hopes that if Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former PM Nawaz Sharif, attends village celebrations for Manmohan’s 80th birthday in September, development work will resume.

    Hussein, whose late uncle Raja Mohammad Ali met Singh in New Delhi, is pushing full steam ahead with preparations to welcome home the “great son” of Gah. — AFP



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