Sep 7, 2013

A birthday cake from Rawalpindi

Waseem Altaf :  He had commented on a friend’s post where he had mentioned about Rawalpindi, and that was when he captured my attention. I immediately sent him a friend request and he instantly accepted it. Mr.Yashpal Sethi, retired banker from Yumananagar, Haryana, is originally from Rawalpindi, a city in Northern Punjab where I had spent my childhood. Though much younger in age than him it greatly appealed to me to know someone who was born in this city 16 years before Partition, knew about the city as it existed then , and had to leave everything behind in 1947------- just because he belonged to a different faith!

He had to abandon the house in mohallah Shah Chan Chiragh where he was born in 1931; his childhood, toys, storybooks, friends everything that belonged to him and forced to go to an alien land along with whatever was left of his family and never to return------

But he returned. In 2006 at the age of 75 Mr. Yashpal Sethi alongwith his son Rakesh Sethi visited Pakistan. He went to Mohallah Shah Chan Chiragh, Rawalpindi to recollect his childhood. He saw the structure which used to be his house which was then transformed into a commercial plaza; only some remnants of the old house remained. As he told me, he took a couple of pictures of the house but got emotional and hastily left the place.
While we would often chat on the net, he asked me if I could get some clear photographs of that house. He informed me that his 82nd birthday was approaching and he wanted to see the place of his birth on that day.

He indicated some landmarks and the very next day I arrived at the place along with my camera.

I am sure it was not possible for me to locate the exact house in those narrow streets; however I was able to find Sheikh Mahmood, the trader whom Sethi Saab had met during his visit in 2006 and who knew about the location of the house which belonged to Sethi family.
We went to the place and I was able to capture a number of photos of the house; the exterior as well as the interior.
The same day I sent him all the photographs and he was euphoric. He later told me that for several days he remained enraptured in those photographs and would reconstruct his childhood days which were scattered all over those pictures.

Today at 9AM I called my friend Raajan Soni in Chandigarh and asked him to arrange for the delivery of a birthday cake, on my behalf to Yash Pal Sethi Saab residing in Model Town, Yamunanagar in Haryana. At 11 AM while we were on chat Sethi Saab informed me that he had received it. He expressed his profound gratitude and also sent a picture of the cake on Skype.

Today September 7 is Mr.Yashpal Sethi‘s 82 birthday. I request all my friends to send him birthday wishes on his FB page at

In the end let me say Sethi Saab that although there is a border between you and us, we all love you and everybody across the Radcliffe line for mankind has not been able to construct a barrier so far which can obstruct the human connection.

Image details:

1. A recent picture of Mr. and Mrs Yashpal Sethi.

2. This picture was taken in Rawalpindi before Partition where Mr.Sethi’s brothers Vijay Kumar Sethi and Ashok Kumar Sethi can be seen.

3. Left to right, back row: Sisters Nirmal and Kamla, mother with Vijay brother in her lap, cousin Krishan Gopal Anand. Middle row: Brother Ashok. Front row: Brother Inder and his friend Rameshwar. Picture taken just before partition of India.

4. From left to right: friends Rameshwar, Charanjeev Shastry, Sethi Saab and friend Nand Kishore just before partition of India.

5. Picture of Mr. and Mrs Sethi on their marriage which took place on May 6, 1956.

6. Mr. Sethi and notables of the area. This picture was taken when he came to Pakistan in February 2006 just outside the backdoor entrance to the house.

7. The front of the structure, where once there was a house, is now a commercial building.

8. A view of the backstreet from the top floor of Sethi Saab’s house.

9. Another view of the rear street where some of the old houses still exist.

10. A view from the rooftop where some very old structures can be seen in their original shape.

11. Another view from the rooftop where a temple can be seen. In one look I spotted at least 5 temples in the area which point to the fact that there was a sizable Hindu population in Rawalpindi city before Partition.

12. A picture sent to me via Skype of the packing containing the cake sent to Sethi Saab……from his old home, Rawalpindi.

From Waseem Altaf FB wall.

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