As August approaches, in ritual every year, I invariably turn to a special bookmarked page in the hardcover book about partition, Freedom at Midnight (Collins & Lapierre) and get catapulted back to a time that is bittersweet, hot and sour, khatta-meetha. Page 341 cites “Braganza Hotel Lahore” as the headquarters in 1947 of the Gurkhas and other British officers.
There is much lost between the lines now buried in history. But Braganza Hotel was also my home where I grew up with my brother and cousins and where beautiful childhood memories were born and flourished.
Situated right across from the historic Lahore railway station, it was a haven for weary travellers for many years (including Rudyard Kipling) but in 1947, as train-loads of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus were desperately trying to flee the barbaric slaughter of a country wrenched apart, our hotel housed a different reality – men, women and children in hiding. It became a temporary refuge.
As the years unfolded, my family became regulars at the Lahore railway station. My mother, one of 10 siblings, insisted on a yearly visit by train to the Colaba family home in Bombay or to Goa where we would spend our summer holidays. It’s where I learned to dream.
I loved the majesty of the monsoons and the looming Gateway of India, the kaleidoscope of dazzling sarees that glided past me on the Causeway, the spicy odours that filled my Nana’s kitchen, roller coaster rickshaw rides that left us giddy. Returning to Lahore, the contrasts were palpable; fewer crowds, tongas and bullock-carts, a subdued landscape, a changed palette.
Childhood memories are powerful imprints. So many years later, as I reminisce in Montreal on a glorious summer August afternoon, a world away, I know that as those memorable days shaped my life, so too did they shape my art. For that I am grateful.
(All paintings by and other images courtesy – Cheryl Braganza)
Guest Author Cheryl Braganza is an artist, poet, writer and pianist. A cancer survivor she resides in Montreal. She wants her art to play a role in lifting people’s spirits, in challenging their assumptions, in provoking thought and thus promoting dialogue between people towards peace.