In Search of a Letter from 1965

7 Sep
nana

Nana (1952) in his Guides Cavalry Formal Uniform

In 1965, my grandfather, Major Ahsan Omar, was fighting in the Battle of Chawinda, near Sialkot. It was one of the fiercest battles in the war; the largest tank battle after World War II. Amidst the heavy tank shelling and artillery fire as guns thundered and planes roared in the skies above, it did not always seem like those who fought in the Sialkot Sector would make it home. Many brave men didn’t.

One night when the fighting was particularly intense, my grandfather also believed that death was imminent. Fearing that he would not see his family again, he began writing a letter to my mother, his only child at the time. He wanted to say a final goodbye and offer some words of wisdom from the battlefield. But he was never able to finish the letter as the fighting resumed. In the chaos of war, the letter got left behind on the battlefield as his division of tanks moved to a different position.

The unfinished letter was soon discovered by a journalist from Jang. Reading what he thought was a dead soldier’s final letter to his daughter, he was moved to submit the letter to the paper which then published it. Since the letter was unfinished and unsigned, the paper published it as “An unknown soldier’s letter to his daughter.” (Ek gumnaam sipahi ka khat apni beti ke naam).

The morning the letter was published, Nana’s father opened the paper to read it. He saw the letter. And while the paper did not name the soldier, the soldier who had written the letter had named everyone in the house. So he recognized the writing and the author and assumed his only son had died in battle. He hid the paper not wanting others in the house to read it. It was not a piece of writing he wished to preserve. So the paper was destroyed.

Later, when Nana returned home, no one cared for the letter he had written. Everyone was glad to have him home and alive. The letter was forever lost.

My mother, who was only 5 at the time and too young to read or comprehend the seriousness of the letter, wishes she could read it now. We have been unable to find it. I am hoping that someone out there, possibly from Jang and Geo will help us access the paper’s archives to locate the letter.

While this quest and letter are both deeply personal, I feel in some ways they are also not. The letter written by my grandfather to his daughter could be any and every soldier who faces death on the battlefield. It is possibly a window into the very personal moments of reckoning that must happen when a soldier chooses country over family. It is, I imagine one of the most difficult choices a person must make but many have made this choice so that we may enjoy the freedom that we do. So this also a request on behalf of all the families left behind who were never lucky enough to get a letter.

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One Response to “In Search of a Letter from 1965”

  1. karammalik September 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    If you find the letter don’t forget to write about it…I’m a bit curious 😐

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