All drawing room conversations began with this question when I was growing up in the decades after Partition.

'We are mohajirs from East Punjab,' my mother's usual rejoinder, laced with a degree of pride.

Over the years, I learnt that being a mohajir not only meant you had come from 'somewhere else' but also, more importantly, that you had no village to go back to for Eid or vacations, like most other kids in school did.

I grew up building sand castles of the unseen village home lost to me.

Years later, my eight-year-old daughter Khuz, smitten with the sense to 'belong', wanted to know why we could not visit 'our' village on Eid. I was tempted to say, 'Because we have no village to go to.'

Instead, I passed on the stories my mother had told me. I told her about Partition in 1947; how my parents and so many others had abandoned fully furnished havelis in villages across Wagah to make new beginnings in a newborn country called Pakistan. I told her that now other people, strangers, lived in those villages and homes.

I understood Khuz's desire to 'belong'. She was growing up in Pakistan but knew that, to some extent, Pakistan had a past. Somewhere in that past was a village and a house she wanted to explore. Today, the question has lost its relevance with villages merging into towns and cities. So, her children have no questions on the subject.

As for me, even today, when somebody asks me about my origins I, a first-generation Pakistani, get flustered. I yearn for that lost, unseen haveli in a village across Wagah. I take pride in the landlessness, the homelessness and the rootlessness of parents who migrated to build anew.

But mohajir is not a word I would ever use today, given how it has been politically used, but I do feel a sense of emptiness, if not of utter 'not belonging'.

'Meri jaan you should have seen the beds and the dressing table and wardrobe of my trousseau - all Burma Sagwan. Your father just allowed me to carry two armchairs and a Persian hand-knotted carpet to Palampur, in undivided India, where he was posted in 1946. The rest could come later, he had said. I wonder who got to use the dining table Mistri Ahmed Deen had crafted?' Mother's voice would trail off when narrating this story.

She would then describe her handwoven brocade and pure kamkhawab ghararas and pajamas, the boxes full dupattas with beaten silver borders of gota, or the sterling silver cutlery, the plates, the crockery.

Later, Mother tended to forget the...

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