Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ode to Fazilka - by Dr Meeran Chadha Borwankar

Dear Fazilka

Dear Fazilka, it was a great moment when I visited you after a long time. Yes I agree this was a huge gap and highly avoidable too. Considering what you have done for me and my family, this long wait to befriend you again is unpardonable indeed. I apologies Fazilka.

It was most heart warming to be greeted by citizens and receive a photograph of my father, a Punjab police officer of repute, awarding a student for his brilliant academic performance that saw him through BITS Plani. The student had turned grey and my father is no more. He held the citizens of Fazilka in the highest esteem and valued their bravery, their steadfast fortitude in holding on to the  last inch of land as a sensitive border town. As the commandant of 22nd battalion of BSF, he had steered the border during 1971 Indo-Pak war and watched many of his young colleagues from 3rd Assam and 4 Jat loose their lives. He mourned for them deeply but duty came first for him and his team, so BSF fought the enemy with all its might.

Fazilka town had been evacuated. But soon came back the hardy citizens and took charge of their lives again. While constructing ' Asafwala' war memorial for the martyrs, they restored the prosperity of the region by tilling their land with that extra vigor  for which they are known all over Punjab. I admire you Fazilka, for your capacity to bounce back be it after a border conflict or an agriculturally disastrous year. Your love for innovation in agriculture, in water management,  new crops and cropping patters has earned you the place of pride in the country.  You are most deserving,  Fazilka.

Meeting with my Hindi teacher was overwhelming indeed. She has turned eighty and I have greyed too. But the pride she takes in all her students has made us what we are today. Fazilka, you should be proud of the fact that one of your daughters became the chairperson of Central Board of Direct Taxes. The honesty you grilled in her made her the most efficient tax collector in the country, so that we can invest in our infrastructure and upgrade the lives of poor and needy. As early as 1960s you had believed in equality of genders and invested in educating your daughters, I am so proud of you Fazilka.

How can I forget our teachers who went around house to house encouraging children to enroll in schools and excel in studies! Today if one of your sons has graduated from IIT and Wharton USA and another from Purdue USA it is because of you Fazilka. The culture of rigorous studies and a dedicated teaching community shaped future leaders. The air filled with inspiration, the right balance between studies and recreation was bound to develop versatile personalities. How can we forget our baths on tube wells, open green fields with us running all around, the hide and seek and 'chor sipahi'? The ludo and snake and ladder? You inculcated right values and encouraged creative thinking, credit rightly belongs to you Fazilka.

Can I share a small secret with you? I had cried when my cousins from Delhi mocked  at my vernacular school, calling the building shabby and there being no chairs in our classrooms. We sat on the ground and learnt How was I to understand that it is the quality of education and not mere infrastructure that matters. I was so young. Pardon me for under-estimating you, Fazilka.

But were you not  greener and cleaner? More open too. I did not hear the usual birds chirping in the morning nor the peacock chanting, I was so used to as a child. Where have the birds disappeared? I remember the heaps of cotton and groundnuts on the sides of roads. We would cycle our way to school passing by them. I remember the only cinema hall,  outside which we would buy goodies in paper bags. Women weaving ropes from our house in the BSF campus till the town. Roads were better too and parking not an issue. The area around 'Ghantaghar' was broad; spic and span too. Yes I do remember the bazar with lot many cycles. Why are you choked with polluting traffic today?  Restore your cycles and become pedestrian friendly. Go back to the green, clean town that you once were Fazilka. I am told many young and old are trying to restore the beauty, plant trees and ban plastic, strengthen their hands. Get your trees and birds back Fazilka.

Local industry has done well and shops are full. The enthusiasm is palpable. Fazilka heritage festival showed me the spirit. I saw high energy Bhangra, heard classical music, admired the local art and craft. Met the men and women who are interested in academics and environment, who have formed forums to invigorate the local administration with fresh thoughts and initiatives. Do not let selfish leaders kill your spirit Fazilka. Let the youth take over. Let them revive your spirit and reconstruct your broken roads and electric poles. Shun the selfish and value the ones who love you and take pride in their heritage. They are proud of you, we are all proud of you.

I am sorry I have been so late in showing my love for you but I am sure you were always aware of this deep affection that we all have for you. You are our roots, how can we not value you Fazilka!


Meeran Chadha Borwankar

Former Commissioner of Police Pune. Currently Director General Bureau of Research and Development BPRD, is Maharashtra cadre IPS officer.

The writer (and her family) spent her childhood in Fazilka. Her sister, Anita Kapur retired as Chair Person CBDT

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