Baljit Dhillon Vikram Singh evacuated from Pamerabad near Lahore to Taran Taaran near Amritsar in 1947
As a little girl, Baljit Dhillon Vikram Singh would accompany her father to the India-Pakistan border where he would stand and weep silently by the rail line. He would point towards the west and say, "Oh! Everything is over there, on the other side. Lahore, Lahore! Nanikie, Nanikie!"
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Mrs. Vikram Singh was born Baljit Kaur Dhillon in the early 1940s in the village of Nanikie near Lahore. Her father was a prominent landlord. The family owned horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens as well as mango groves. Mrs. Vikram Singh was a fair girl and was lovingly referred to as "Cheena Bawa" (Chinese Doll). She was the eldest of the three children, with two younger brothers. She attended the Queen Mary School for a few months in 1947. But the social tension in Lahore kept growing.
One night she was woken up by her mother putting all her jewelry, money, and valuables in a vault that was located between the walls. She put all three children in the family jeep and they headed for Amritsar. On the journey, Mrs. Vikram Singh saw the dead lying in ditches along the road and floating in the canals. She clearly remembers the limbs of the butchered bodies. Even now, she says, the images are vivid. Her mother tried to cover her daughter's eyes with her dupatta (muslin scarf) to protect her from the scenes.
They reached her maternal grandparent's house in Amritsar safely. Later, the family settled in Chak 5A, Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. Her father had left everything in Nanikie, her ancestral village, expecting to return in a few days. But that day never came. Her father was allotted a small amount of barren land in the Punjab, in lieu of the hundreds of acres left behind. Overnight her family became refugees living off the land, eating turnips and saag, wearing simple clothes and riding bullock carts and camels instead of in jeeps and cars.
The family worked very hard to make ends meet. Her father was a great believer in education and sent all three of his children to boarding school in Nainital. Mrs. Vikram Singh completed her matriculation from All Saints School in 1958 and was married in 1959. The match was made by her parents. Mrs. Vikram Singh and her husband have four daughters and migrated to United States in 1969 when her husband, who was a researcher, lost his job. Mrs. Vikram Singh babysat for 50 cents an hour while living in California with her daughters.
Today, she continues to reside in California, working in home renovation, running her businesses and caring for her ten grandchildren. Her father, a strong proponent of education for all, would have been very proud, she says, to know that all four granddaughters have graduated from top universities. All ten grandchildren continue to pursue higher education and professional careers.
This interview was conducted by Farhana Afroz.