The Golden Generation

I call it the golden generation – the generation of my grandparents. Born in the late 1920s-early 1930s, they witnessed so much, that we today read as history in school books. They saw the demise of the British rule, and later witnessed partition in 1947, one of the most horrific massacres in the Indian history. A country was born by splitting their beloved state of Punjab into two. They relocated, having left behind what they had always known as home and as ones’ own. The golden generation, resilient as it was, started life from scratch. They studied once again, began working and made the ‘other’ part of Punjab their home.

However the golden generation did not have an easy life for too long. They battled riots, militancy, extremism for several years later. They emerged victorious, albeit tired, a little wounded.

We, their grandchildren, knew nothing about their struggles. We were bereft of the legacy they carried. Who knew the wrinkles under those deep set eyes had borne so much? Who knew those wise words stemmed from years of pain and experience? Who knew that their knowledge and wisdom comes not from academic degrees or books, but from proactively being a part of the generation which has seen the most turbulent history?

This golden generation had so many precious stories. However, frivolous as children are, we were too busy playing with marbles and dolls to even fathom what we were missing out on.

Today, years after both my grandfathers have passed away, I regretfully think of all the conversations we could’ve had. My paternal grandfather had come from Nankana Sahib, the historical birth place of Guru Nanak, situated in Pakistan. My maternal grandfather had witnessed the tumultuous political scene in Punjab from close quarters. There is so much that I would’ve asked them, recorded their voices, captured their thoughts and expressions. It would have been my way of preserving a small part of the golden generation for all times to come.
Every time someone from their circle of friends falls ill, I feel that same uneasiness and remorse of not having had a real conversation with them. Why did I not go beyond the innocuous greetings? This beautiful generation will take with it, all those stories of grit and struggle, that we remain bereft of.
A couplet penned by my mother is befitting for our golden generation of grandparents:
Kinne he registaan apni hond ch jazb kar
Eh samundar jihi shaqsiyat, Duniya de nazar kiti hai

(By soaking in many a barren desert
I have presented before you, a man much like the sea)