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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Sher Singh Kukkal, 2014 February 6.
Inline Map:
Oral history with Sher Singh Kukkal, 2014 February 6.
Kukkal, Sher Singh, 1937- and Joshi, Prakhar
Author (no Collectors):
Kukkal, Sher Singh, 1937-, Joshi, Prakhar, Joshi, Prakhar, and Joshi, Prakhar
Corporate Author:
Acton Family Fund
Mr. Sher Singh Kukkal was born in a village in Azara District of West Punjab, now in Pakistan. Since his great-grandfather, there was a tradition of devotional music in the family. They used to indulge in devotional music Raagi, and played in the Gurudwara. His father Mr. Gurbaksh Singh also made sculptures, which got Mr. Kukkal interested in Arts. His mother passed away when he was just a few months old, and Mr. Kukkal was taken care of by his grandmother and aunt. Mr. Kukkal lived in a village Bafa, which was nestled atop rocky hills. There used to be heavy snowfall and Mr. Kukkal remembers they had a bonfire at the centre of their classrooms during the winters. The society in Bafa was very fond of performing arts. There used to be frequent theatre performances and musical shows. Mr. Kukkal explains how they connected all the terraces with wooden planks and prepared a large flat space. Temporary stage was made for performances. Mr. Kukkal mentions attending a live concert of the legendary Indian singer Mukesh. Kite flying was very popular amongst kids his age back then, and also gulli danda, wrestling etc. There were folk tales and devotional music was recited in Pashto language. Mr. Kukkal’s school was a government one, with tin sheets for a roof. He recalls being taught by some British teachers, but otherwise the medium of instruction was Urdu. Punishments became fun in winters, since he loved playing out in the snow. From hearsay, he learnt about some resistance activities against the British Rule in Amritsar and Delhi. There were rare political activities in their region. Once there was some friction between different communities, and the locals Pathan Muslims surrounded their house with gunmen to provide protection. In 1947, many people started changing religions and identities. Before August, one night, there was a drum call and their Muslim friends warned them o an impending attack. They provided a truck and arranged for their transfer to a safe place. Since it was a Pathan truck, it would not be attacked, they re-assured. The Kukkal family adopted disguises and at four in the morning, left. Attacks had begun and some of their distance relatives were killed. The family left all of their possessions locked in the house, not knowing that they would never come back. They had a house in a nearby town, Haripur. Haripur too was attacked and the family continued to live under disguised appearances to protect themselves. Mr. Kukkal describes looking at dead bodies on spears and lots of bloodshed on the streets. After a few days, at the crack of dawn, the family fled and Mr. Kukkal’s father decided to move to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, India. He chose the city because it was a center of metal works industry and there were job opportunities for him. During migration, they stopped over at many Gurudwaras across the Punjab to spend the nights. Settling in Gorakhpur was difficult. Resources were extremely limited. Mr. Kukkal joined school in the seventh started, since he only knew Urdu, learning Hindi was challenging. 1960, he joined Art School at Lucknow University for a five year couse in Fine Arts, and later pursued a course in sculpture and photography. After a stint at teaching in Maharashtra, he went to Kabul, Afghanistan to work for rural development there. In 1962, Mr. Kukkal married Rajender Kaur. Their wedding at Anand Bhawan, Allahabad was attended by Pundit Nehru. When he returned to India, he got busy with spreading an interest in arts amongst the youth. Now he works at the Nehru National Youth Centre, teaches arts and organizes exhibitions. Looking back, he still sees visions of 1947-48, and gets very emotional. He plans to visit his village Bafa in the Norht West Frontier Province. Their relatives who chose to stay back in Pakistan in 1947, visit sometimes. He asserts that the coming together of arts and sciences is crucial for an all-round development of a modern society.
Filmed interviews, History, and History
Physical Description:
5 video files
Publication Info:
New Delhi (India)
New Delhi (India), February 6, 2014
Filmed interviews