A few days ago I learnt that there are Indian passports that show ‘undivided India’ (also known as Akhand Bharat) as the country of birth. This is an account of how I discovered this fact. Even now I don’t quite know how to process this but one thing that helped was being mindful about the struggles and stories of people who come from here. My bedroom window overlooks the park in the society I live in. When I am leaning by the window sill in the evenings, I tend to let my eyes wander and observe the usual happenings: children playing under the watchful gaze of their mothers, ladies power-walking, tiny droplets of water falling from the floor above mine, and cars snaking through driveways. In the chaos of it all, I often observe a group of old gentlemen sitting on benches. It draws a smile on my face, always thinking of them as a cool squad.  This week I had a story to write for world senior citizen day. While I was working my grey matter on what to write about, the visual of the old men laughing in the park struck me. They looked like men who lived a good life and I thought of them as a treasure trove of stories. The same evening I went up to them nervously wondering if they’d be open to a conversation. I had already prepared a monologue in my mind but what I should have realised sooner was that I didn’t need any. They couldn’t have been more welcoming towards me.  We spoke at length under a sky that grew darker by the minute. I was able to get the content I needed for my story but I also managed to learn a few things. One piece of information that left me stunned was that some of them own passports that state their birthplace as ‘undivided India.’ They must have seen the shock on my face, and couldn’t be more amused. ‘I was born in Multan’, a voice spoke. I looked up at the source, to find a pair of eyes that were staring into the distance. They were not looking at any of us, but were possibly dreaming of a town he had to abandon at the tender age of 13 because of the Partition of India.  Despite not being born at the time, Partition has been a pivotal event in my life. In the last year or so, I have been studying and breathing in the history of it. I credit this catastrophic event as the foundation of my interest in writing stories that matter.  So, to discover a truth that is seldom spoken of, I was a little bewildered. Here, I came to talk to a few unsuspecting souls about a story that I had to file but through the sheer power of being a good listener, I was walking out of the park with knowledge that I doubt I would have discovered by myself anytime soon.  Needless to say, I soon got into a research mode to find a solid proof that proves the existence of such passports and I’m glad that I found it. The passport form that many of us fill, clearly states that if you were born at a place which is now geographically a part of Pakistan or Bangladesh, you must write ‘undivided India’ as the country of birth.  I kept staring at the words that spoke to me from the illuminated screen of my laptop. It made me recall the evening I walked behind a bent back that left me with a piece of knowledge. To me, he isn’t just an old man, but a living memory of a time when our nation was one. An India that was undivided.  Illustration by Ranak Mann.
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