Fazilka

We moved to India a few years ago and I still remember the exact date – August 28th. Today,on August 28th, 2013, I was thinking about our various experiences over the past few years. One that I found completely fascinating was when, on January 29th, 2011, we visited my father’s hometown – Fazilka. I have always had an interest in ‘roots’ and genealogy (have traced our family tree back ten generations…), and had always been interested in visiting Fazilka.

My father, Mr. Vinod Kumar Gupta, grew up in Fazilka. His father, Dr. Brij Lal Aggarwal, was the first (MBBS) medical doctor in Fazilka, and his mother’s name was Mrs. Isri Devi. My father had not returned to his hometown since moving away in the 1960s, and the visit  brought back many wonderful memories to him. My father met with his very close old friends and their children, and they all showed such wonderful warmth and hospitality towards us.

A bit about Fazilka: Fazilka is a relatively small town located in the state of Punjab. It is extremely close to the border with Pakistan – approximately six miles or ten kilometers from the border. It was established in the mid-1800s when a Mr. Oliver purchased some land from a Mr. Fazil Wattoo (and thus the name ‘Fazilka’…). At one point it had grown into India’s largest wool market, but after the partition of India in 1947, Fazilka’s economy was impacted significantly because many of the main suppliers and customers were now in Pakistan. The major landmark in Fazilka is it’s famous clock tower, which is the tallest clock tower in North India. Recently Fazilka has taken the lead in various environmental initiatives such as setting up India’s first ‘Car-Free City’ (in the main area near the clock tower) and India’s first Ecocabs (dial-a-bicycle-rickshaw) service.

We found the city of Fazilka to be absolutely charming! We visited places such as my father’s high school and where the house that he grew up in used to be. We also saw the Clock Tower, the Asafwala War Memorial, and the Border Ceremony between India and Pakistan at the Sadqi border (where people could actually meet across the border fence). We really appreciated the Car-Free Zone which offers a unique walking environment.  We also went shopping and bought traditional tilla jutti (specialty shoes from Fazilka) and tosha (an unbelievably delicious specialty desert – still enjoyed across the border also: http://navdeepasija.blogspot.in/2007/06/tosha-still-favourite-sweet-among.html)

But one of the most special memories that we took away from visiting Fazilka was the warmth and friendliness of the people of Fazilka. Everyone we met was very friendly, welcoming, and talkative, and this made our visit even more memorable. Hope to be able to visit Fazilka again soon!

Special thanks to Mr. Surinder Ahuja and his family, Mr. Anu Nagpal, Dr. Bhupinder Singh, Mr. Navdeep Asija, Mr. Gurdeep Kumar, Mr. Ashok Rai, and Dr. Kewal Pujara, for all of their help and support both during this visit and during our preparation for this visit (apologies if I missed anyone’s name). And an additional mention of thanks once again to Mr. Navdeep Asija for his very active leadership in many excellent activities and initiatives for Fazilka over the years.

And now some pictures…

IMG_0278

My father in front of where he grew up – the house has now been converted into small shops next to each other.

Sadiqi border ceremony where people from both sides can meet each other

Sadiqi border ceremony where people from both sides can meet each other

IMG_0269

First high school graduating class after Independence in 1947

Tosha

Tosha

Jutti

Jutti

Building exactly 100 years old.  Notice the languages - Urdu was the primary Indian language in Fazilka when my father was a child.

Building at the high school that is exactly 100 years old – sign is in English and Urdu. When my father was growing up, everyone learned Urdu in school.

My grandfather

My grandfather – Dr. Brij Lal Aggarwal

My grandmother – Mrs. Isri Devi

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3 thoughts on “Fazilka

  1. Dear Rohit ,   That is absolutely marvelous.   It might not fit into your scheme of things but because of the trip , with God’s grace , I was able to organize essay contest , with three rewards , for students of my high school regarding Gandhi’s legacy.   I think you will agree with me that Fazilka is underserved.    I really admire your initiative.   Love   Dad 

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