NOTE: This first chapter is dedicated to both my grandfathers. I’ve never really had the chance to get to know them better as they left my world early, but judging by the stories told by my mum and dad, they were two of the very courageous people I’ve ever heard of. This chapter, was inspired by them and is dedicated to the both of them.
हिजड़ियां दे घर मुंडा जमिया, चुम चुम मार सुटया
“A son is born in the eunuch’s house and they kissed him to death.”
~Meet The Dhillons~
A cyclist carrying haystack slowly cycled his way into a rustic village. He passed by a group of young adults wrestling. Curious, he stopped cycling and stood watching the wrestling match that was unfolding before his eyes.
In the middle of the noisy Punjabi crowd, there stood a tough looking Sikh man, shirtless, with only his shorts on, covered in mud, he bellowed for his next challenger.
Someone from the crowd made his way into the circle to accept the man’s challenge.
It was a boy who looked barely 18. He removed his shirt and with only his pants on, he folded them and made his way into the mud filled arena.
Everyone cheered. Some booed at the boy. The rest watched attentively.
The mud covered challenger grinned at the boy.
“You’ve got balls” he said in Punjabi.
The boy said nothing.
“I like people with balls” and as he said that, the challenger moved swiftly and pulled the boy down from the neck.
A scuffle broke. People cheered. The cyclist laughed to himself.
The boy was losing the battle as the mud covered challenger was over powering him. The challenger struck vicious blows on the boy’s face and ears.
People started chanting the challenger’s name. Everyone clapped. They were amused to see yet another victory for the challenger and yet another person with a broken nose.
But suddenly, without any warning, the boy dodge a blow and using his arms, he wrung the neck of the challenger from the back.
There was a sickening crack.
Everyone went silent.
The challenger groaned and as his eyes rolled upwards, he fell to his death.
The crowd gasped. The boy stood stunned, amazed at first and then fearful. The cyclist was shocked to witness a fun event turning into a tragic disaster.
With the bag of coins and notes tied around his body like a Brahmin, the young murderer ran from the village at the crack of dawn. With his wife running along behind him with his baby son, he kept looking back to make sure she was following him.
He wanted her to be safe. He wanted the baby to be safe.
The both of them ran past houses, past crowing chickens and sleeping cows. Past bushes and finally onto the rail tracks.
At a distance he saw the train station. Just a few more meters’ and we’ll be out of this place, he said to himself.
He held his wife’s hand and they both ran away from the village. Away from the past. Away from prejudice and accusations and into a whole new world.
The train moved as the young murderer, Karnail Singh Dhillon looked out of the window to take a last glimpse of his beloved village.
The very village where he grew up, had his education, worked and slogged in the fields. One moment of disaster had turned everyone he befriended into enemy of his. One moment of mistake.
If only he did not partake in the wrestling challenge.
He bent his head and sighed. How life takes an unpredictable twist. He looked to his side, his wife lay on his shoulder, the baby resting on her bosom.
At least they’re fine.
Nearly six hours ago, Karnail’s grandfather, the one who brought him up ever since the death of his parents, passed him all his savings and begged him to leave the village. In fact, leave India because if he stayed on there, the villagers and police will find him and kill him.
The challenger had been the son of a very influential Zamindar.
With teary eyes, and with a heavy heart, Karnail had to leave his grandfather and his beloved village.
The train chugged to a halt. Karnail woke up from his slumber and took a peek out of the window.
From below, he could see a couple of men with brown uniforms climbing onto the train, each one holding a poster of a man.
That man in the poster was him.
His wife looked at him with fear in her eyes. The baby, surprised by the sudden halt of the train starts to cry.
On seeing the commotion, the newly boarded policemen struts over to the both of them.
As he walked swiftly to them, he points his baton at Karnail accusingly.
They were found.
“Arey! What kind of father are you? Your son’s tired. Give him some milk, that will quiet him up” and as he said that, he tapped the baton on the shoulder of Karnail, pretending to give him a beating for his mistake.
Karnail took the baby out of his wife’s hands and rocked him back and forth.
“Sometimes, fathers too need to know the art of taking care of the baby” the policemen said, as he stared at Karnail.
“No sight of him sir!” another policemen emerged.
“Okay, let’s go. I knew he won’t be on this train. I suspect he has ran off to the next village. Let’s go!” with that, the police officer turned and made his way out of the train.
But just before he alighted the train, he turned back and said, “Suno! (Listen!)”
Karnail looked up. His wife gasped. There was silence as both men looked into each other’s eyes.
The police officer broke the silence. “Take care of the baby. He will grow into a strong kid, believe my words” the police officer smiled and alighted the train.
The train chugged, the seats creaked, the passengers snored back again. The baby slept soundly.
"What shall we name him?” the wife asked.
“Jetinder. Jetinder Singh Dhillon”
“Jetinder” the wife said as she stroked the baby’s cheeks.
They both held hands and watched little Jet Dhillon sleeping peacefully oblivious to the events that had unfolded.
The Dhillons are coming to the UK.