Amritsar, a historical city wrapping all famous historical monuments in its vicinity while holding a few infamous chapters of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in its core, has been a home to many unsung heroes who have given new avenues to the city while leading a silent life.
One such dignitary was Pt Bihari Lal Sharma, a renowned astrologer who followed all virtues of a good human being and serving the society in the best manner for around 105 years.
This man of principles was none other than my maternal great grandfather whose stories kept coming to me via his granddaughter and my mother Asha Sharma many times.
During Jallianwala Bagh massacre which shook the world in April 13, 1919 Pt Bihari Lal Sharma was very much at the location when there started reckless firing on innocent, this was told to me by my mother quite frequently. Every time we heard the song, Jallianwala Bagh yeh dekho yahi chill thi golian Vande Mataram, she used to remember him and tell us (me my sister and brother ) how he jumped off the Shahidi Kuan and helped save lives of many innocent who were standing as a part of the silent protest.
Shahidi kuan is a well inside Jallianwala Bagh in which many Indians jumped when British force started firing indiscriminately on children, young boys and girls, women and men, and old people too without giving them a chance to think twice.
At times, she had tears while narrating these incidents.
“My dada in fact helped many locals reach at the safe location and also extended medical aid to many. There were small kids, females, youths, senior citizens who had come empty handed to go back home after making a presence in the silent protest; but the scene changed soon after incessant firing started. Everyone started running helter skelter. Some jumped in the well which is now called as Shahidi Kuan while a few others jumped off to go into silent lanes reaching to outer side of the park,” my mother said often.
There was pool of blood and bodies stacked around. Those who lived helped lift them, she narrated.
This time in the year 2022, I went to Amritsar to attend engagement of my niece. It was after a decade when I made this visit to the place where my parents were born. Those stories shared by my mother, I knew, were incomplete as I wanted to know more but my mom had passed away in an accident. Now, I wanted to go to the root to know more.
After years, I met my mom’s aunty whom she called as Rani Aunty and we called her as Nani since our childhood days
So here I asked her about my great grandfather and she said, “His noble deeds have no end. In fact, he was the part of the pandits who performed Kar Seva of beautiful Durghyana Mandir. He was the first one to have poured water into the holy sarovar of this temple for the first time.”
In fact, my maternal uncle Upendra Sharma said, “Our Dadaji was known as Jyotishacharya for he trained many youngsters in the field of astrology. During those old days, he had a long list of his followers which included renowned politicians and all who’s who of the state. Even today many shopkeepers and veterans have put his picture in their business units as they consider him as his guru”
“Among those who came to seek advices from his astrological acumen were IPS Kiran Bedi’s in-laws. The family members of Pt Sharma says that Bedi’s in laws had come for her matchmaking before her wedding. Dadaji was quite happy to see her horoscope and told them that their daughter in law will attain zenith heights and shall make a mark in the world.
Former president Gyani Jail Singh has also been one amongst his followers. Even many aspirant MPs and MLAs before starting their campaign visited him to seek his blessings. These include veteran leaders like Congress leaders Raghunandan Lal Bhatia, Darbarilal and BJP leader Dr Baldev Prakash among others.
When asked if the family had any of his writings, pictures or books, the family said, “there is just one picture being placed in his room since years.”
They showed that picture and I remembered that this was the picture we have been seeing during childhood days. Every time we went to his room, mom often used to bow her head and pass ahead silently climbing wooden stairs.
So this time, when I went to this house, around 100 years old, stacked in narrow lanes of Amritsar, I did miss those childhood days where my mother used to tell us how his grandfather came from Jallianwala Bagh crossing these roads. While passing through those compact lanes, there came a broad picture of my childhood and it seemed as if am back as a baby holding my mom’s hand and walking off silently hearing all those stories which I often heard from her.
But alas! She is not here to read them, but I wanted to pen down these as a mark of respect and inspiration so that next generation mothers should continue this tradition —narrating tales of unsung heroes of their family to their kids so that bonds of relations go stronger and are not missed in this hobnobbing world which seems busy running to find something which they themselves are unsure of while leaving their family, emotions and bonds behind to come first in the race but end up being lost in the world…!