Story of Partition
The story is set in the background of India-Pakistan partition of 1947. In the aftermath of political separation, many people had to relocate and uproot their lives.
There were chaos and confusion regarding what actually was Indian Territory and what was the newly formed Pakistan. The situation got even worse for patients and especially the ones in mental institutions.
Once the two countries had held talks regarding the situation of mental patients, it was decided that the Muslim patients would stay or move to Pakistan whereas the Hindu and Sikh counterparts will move to India.
Even though India’s move was slightly undecided, authorities in Lahore started the proceedings of deportation of Hindu and Sikh patients to India thorough Wagah-Attari land border.
The patients were a riotous bunch and were even more confused about partition as there was any coherent information or news available at the asylum. Some pretended to create their own piece of home in the asylum and did not want to leave. Some climbed up a tree and made it their dwelling whole. One person claimed himself to be God and decided that both India and Pakistan belonged to him.
Among these, there was a Sikh named Bishen Singh. He once had a huge property in Toba Tek Singh (place in Pakistan). He had been in the asylum for nearly two decades and never spoke to anyone save some jumbled mumblings.
He was often visited by his family and his daughter who grew up to become a young woman while he remained locked inside. However, since the violence post-Partition, they had not come. Bishen Singh kept asking everyone at the asylum as to which country gained Toba Tek Singh but no one had any clear answer.
Visit by a Muslims Friend
One day, he was visited by his old Muslim friend from Toba Tek Singh. He informed him that Bishen’s family was safe in India and they were waiting for him to arrive in India. He also reassured him that Toba Tek Singh was still in Pakistan.
The day of the exchange came and the patients were taken to the border. There was a lot of clamor and noise. When it came to Bishen Singh’s turn, popularly called as Toba Tek Singh, he did not move beyond the buffer zone between the two borders.
No guard could push him and seeing his desperation they let him free for a little while and moved to other patients. However, the man’s legs soon gave way and he fell to the ground. At that moment the narrator realized that Toba Tek Singh (place and person) stood exactly nowhere, in between India and Pakistan.