As a young child, Angela Aranha lived through the attack on St Joseph's mission hospital and convent at Baramulla in Kashmir on 27th October 1947. Her mother, Greta Barretto, was the doctor at the hospital. Her father, Jose Barretto, was killed in the massacre and is buried in the grounds of the mission. The attackers were an armed tribal forces from Pakistan and the tragedy was an important and defining moment in the turbulence in the Kashmir Valley in 1947. It is the central event in my book A Mission in Kashmir.
Angela Aranha was born in October 1943. She was interviewed by my colleague Charlie Haviland on 8 February 2003 - a full transcript is posted below. I later had the pleasure of meeting Angela at her Bangalore home.
The interview was for a radio documentary I made about the Baramulla tragedy - it's posted here.
Transcript of Angela Aranha interviewed by Charlie Haviland, Bangalore, 8 February 2003
I’m Angela Aranha nee Baretto. My parents were Jose da Gama Barretto and Greta Neri, Dr Greta Neri. My father was born in Goa and educated there, his primary education in Portuguese, and he was taken by an uncle to Chennai where he completed his studies in St Bede’s school, and I think after his matriculation he joined the Telegraph Dept of India. And my mother was a doctor, in those days it was quite a wonderful thing for her to leave home, and she went to Lady Hardinge Medical School in Delhi and I think it was affiliated to the University of Lahore, and she completed her studies, her MBBS, and went off to work in Simla.
… WHAT WAS SHE DOING IN SIMLA?
She was a doctor and I – probably her first job, it was I think an American mission hospital but I’m not quite sure of that. And that’s where she met my father. My father had – was already married and he had a wife who was quite sickly from what I hear, and she had a little baby of one and a half and my mother was, like, very friendly with this family because the mother was ill, and she used to visit them, and they got to know her very well, and she was very fond of the baby, and when the baby was one and a half the mother died. That person, she was an Anglo-Indian. Her name was Iris Scott, and she died I believe of Tuberculosis. And my father was left with this family and this little baby. The other children were all going up.
THERE WERE FOUR OTHER CHILDREN AS WELL AS THE BABY …
Four other children. The baby was Ann, and she was also alive, she’s in England now. And my mother had made up her mind she’s not going to get married. She’s about 28 years old at that time. And the priest in Simla – in India it’s the custom to arrange a marriage. Now she was a very sort of – she’d made up her mind she wants to work, devote her life to being a doctor and not get married, but the priests arranged this match seeing my father was left with this little child. So they were married, and four years after their marriage, I was born. So, yeah …
WHEN WERE YOU BORN AND HOW OLD WERE YOU AT THE TIME WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IN THIS PROGRAMME?
I was born in 1943 and at the time of my father’s tragic death at Baramulla, I was just four years old. In fact I’d just had my birthday just a little before that, and there was a party and all that, I remember. Yes.
TELL ME WHERE YOU LIVED IN THOSE DAYS AND ABOUT YOUR MEMORIES OF BARAMULLA
Yes. Before we went to Baramulla, we were living in Rawalpindi, which was then – that’s Pakistan - before the partition. And my father was about to retire from the Telegraph Dept of India and we were planning to come back to India proper where my mother would pursue studies, further studies, medical studies. My mother was offered this job to stand in locum for a nun doctor who was going back to Europe for a holiday and we were offered a cottage there and we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to see Kashmir before we come back to India. So –
SO THIS WAS JUST A SHORT TERM, TEMPORARY JOB, IS THAT RIGHT?
Yes, it probably was a duration of about six months. I forget when exactly we went up to Baramulla, but I have a letter of my father’s … I should have got it out, but I don’t know exactly where it is at present … so
WHAT CAN YOU REMEMBER ABOUT GOING TO BARAMULLA?
Yes, before we went to Baramulla, we went to Srinagar and we had a lovely holiday, I remember that, on the Dal lake on a houseboat, and I was really intrigued with these houseboats and I remember an incident where in the night they said that the houseboat – the little boat which was our kitchen sank, I believe, I remember that. But I remember I was intrigued with these houseboats … (6’50) And then probably shortly after this, we left and went up to Baramulla. So … well, I just have wonderful memories before this tragedy took place of a beautiful place with the mountains in the backdrop, huge trees and being able to run wild and free while my parents were busy. My father had to look after me while my mother worked. And I would run wild with the Kashmiri children in the tall grass, my father always had to track me down, and I would throw away my shoes and he would have to look for them and I would get a good scolding when I came back. I still remember I had to kneel down, a lot of punishments because he was a very strict man, but very kind, very loving. And my memories are very pleasant. It was just a beautiful place. I was spoilt by everyone around me – the little daughter of the lady doctor – my father and I would visit the hospital every day. We were staying on the premises in a little cottage and we would go sometimes while she’s doing her rounds, and the nurses would come out and spoil me, and they would have these little boxes of biscuits and take them out of the cupboard and give me – and I would beg for these crusts of bread which were black, and my mother would say don’t you dare give that to my daughter to eat. And it comes later on into the story that we had to – this was our only food, our only form of food, for eleven days that we were hold up in that ward. Ninety people. So we always remembered how she forbade those nurses to give me that food, and that was the only food left in the cupboards. The little Kashmir children were given those biscuits when they were admitted into the hospital. So, I remember that.
DID YOU EVER GO INTO THE CONVENT? …
I can’t really remember the convent itself. But I remember the nuns, and more the nurses I think. But probably some of the nuns were nurses. And …
WAS IT A FRIENDLY COMMUNITY? …
Oh, yes. Yes, I think it was a very friendly community, very close-knit. And my mother was very happy there. And my father too, with nothing to do except look after me. I think the nuns were very good to us, very kind. The Mill Hill fathers, I think, had a mission there, and it was all in one compound. And there was a Rev Father Shanks, and a Father Mallett who I remember, who my mother visited some years later in England. And every evening I would go to the convent, to the chapel – I don’t think it was the interior of the convent, it was the chapel – and they had benediction. And I still have it in my letter from my father that Angela loves benediction because of that lovely incense, and it was such a holy and solemn ceremony and I used to say I’m joining the nuns and I want to be like my sister, who was a novitiate in the same order in Sri Lanka at that time, it was Ceylon, she was in Colombo, Ceylon, and awaiting her final vows ad the day she would get her habit and become a nun.
SO SHE WAS ALREADY A NOVITIATE AT THAT TIME … ?
YOUR DAD HAD RETIRED YOU SAID FROM THE TELEGRAPH SERVICE … CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR MEMORIES OF HIM?
Yes, he was a very wonderful person, full of fun and humour and wit. And I think I had a lot of fun with him – although he was very strict with me and for running away, if he had to punish me, he’d make me kneel down and I still remember, bang your head in the wall. So I think in those days he had a little bit of his – probably had a Victorian upbringing or something. He was very strict with my sisters. I remember them even mentioning that he would belt them – if they did anything that displeased him. He was a very tidy person, clean, neat, you couldn’t touch his cupboard, he would know. He was that sort of person. But he was full of humour. My parents always kept an open house – friends. Those are the sort of memories.
WHO ELSE DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THE CONVENT AND HOSPITAL? YOU HAVE MENTIONED QUITE A FEW PEOPLE. ANYONE WLESE YOU’D LIKE TO MENTION? I’M WONDERING PARTICULARLY ABOUT THE DYKES FAMILY. THEY CAME TO THE HOSPITAL WHEN SHE WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY. DID YOU KNOW THEM ALREADY FROM SEING THEM AROUND THE TOWN?
Well, being a little girl, my memories of them – I don’t remember them as a family. But my mother did tell me about them, about the terrible tragedy that took place that day. And later on I’ve come to read and know more about them. … My mother that they were murdered, slaughtered, and thrown into a well. And that is what I heard. I didn’t know that until later that they were surviving. … I didn’t know who there was in that family. I didn’t know how many children there were. But if they were living close to the hospital and around the hospital and their mother was admitted there, I would definitely have known them and the children, and played with them too.
YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY REMEMEBR PLAYING WITH THE CHILDREN?
No. But I did have a birthday party and I don’t know who they would have – I was born in the 14th October, two weeks before my father was shot. So they mentioned that I was to have a party, so I - probably if they were there, and their mother was admitted to hospital, I think she was there for about ten days
THERE WERE TWO BOYS I THINK, BEFORE THE BABY WAS BORN …
Yes, there were two boys. And I seem to remember this name Douglas, now I don’t know if anyone has told me about it, he’s probably the younger boy. But that name always came back to me when I thought about the Dykes people. I can’t be absolutely certain about it.
I ASSUME THEY WERE LIVING THERE IN BARAMULLA, THEY WERE STATIONED – HE WAS STATIONED THERE AS A MILITARY MAN?
Yes, but I believe the father wasn’t there at that time. Not quite sure. But the mother was there, admitted, to have her baby. And I don’t know – I think he was Colonel Dykes, I’m not quite sure, but I’m not sure when he came. Before that tragic day, he must have come there. And how long they were there at the hospital, I don’t know.
CAN YOU TAKE ME THROUGH OF WHAT YOU REMEMBER OF THAT TERRIBLE DAY – IN DETAIL IF YOU CAN?
You want my memories? Well, I remember that morning that – now you must understand that I was a very little girl, and probably a lot of it has been told me, so I’ll try to remember it as best as I can – but I remember it was just quite a normal day, and my father was trying to get me to eat my breakfast and my mother was all in a hurry to get to the hospital for her rounds, it was probably around 8 in the morning, and she left. And I remember later my father – wait, I think I have to go back a little here, slightly confused. I’ll just say something about – [INTERRUPTION]
It was a very normal day. My mother was getting ready to go to work, and we were having our breakfast. And after she, when she was about to leave I would say, there were some shots being heard in the, somewhere around the town or in the hills around, and my father said: don’t worry, oh, that’s nothing, that’s just the Raja’s men, they are having their routine target practice.
THAT’S THE MAHARAJAH –
Yes. My mother was a little worried, and anyway she left the house and she went for her rounds. Then, probably it was our normal routine to go to the hospital a little later – I don’t know what my father died, but probably went for a walk with me. And so we were going to the hospital and everything was going on as normal. But there were more shots being heard in the background, and we were not quite sure what this was, when all of a sudden a lot of noise, and screaming and shouting. And these men came from all directions, climbing over the compound wall, and then I don’t know exactly what happened but probably everyone, seeing this, was trying to run to safety, get in the wards, or close the doors. And these wild men, I am told, they went and the choppers and axes, and breaking down all the doors around, especially in the convent. They smashed everything in sight. And they actually attacked people in their beds. Any adult person they just stabbed or shot, and there were screams and cries and – I don’t know, I remember being pushed into a room, and some frightened nurses were there. Probably my father took me there when he ran searching from my mother. My mother I believe was somewhere near the convent, helping an old nun who couldn’t walk come down the steps, I don’t know what she was doing there but probably trying to get her to safety. (2’40) And that’s where my father found her. But I was in this ward with a cupboard pushed – these nurses had pushed a cupboard, I remember that, and people were thudding and banging, and they were trying to push this door open. And I was in that room.
YOU WEREN’T IN THE CUPBOARD, BUT THE CUPBOARD WAS PUSHED AGAINST THE DOOR –
No the cupboard was pushed – there was a big cupboard and they had pushed it against the door to protect themselves. These fellows tried the room, but they rushed away – the voices went away and they went to the next ward. And what they were doing I don’t know but we could hear the cries and shouts and the hammering and screaming all around us. And these nurses were there with me, comforting me and they were scared themselves. We were in that room. And in the meantime – now all this is told to me – these wild Afghan tribesmen had got to the convent, they got all the nuns out – I believe there were nuns of seven nationalities over there – and they got them all lined up, and my father was there trying to tell these men to get away from them, that these women are holy women and they’ve been looking after all the people in this area, giving their lives for them, and they are not going to harm anyone. So he was trying to get them away from the nuns and my mother when they got infuriated at the sight of him. He was a very calm, tall and imposing sort of person and he was like upsetting them. He didn’t want them there. So they told him – get out of here, go towards that tree, there was a tree standing over there in the corner, it was a tall fir tree, I believe and – this was told to me by my mother – and he walked knowing that, I think, they were going to kill him. He walked towards this tree and he opened out his arms and they shot him, dead. As he was walking towards there, he said – have mercy, leave me, I have a child, I have my wife over here. But they had no mercy. And the nuns were also pleading for his life. But they shot him. And as he fell, my mother ran up to him and she knew that he’s going to die. So she asked him to say some prayers. I don’t think he died immediately. I think he was taken to this hospital ward. In the meantime, another young Spanish nun had been shot because she threw herself across the body of the Reverend Mother. And she was shot and the Reverend Mother was also shot. They were critically wounded, because there were no medicines or any way to help them. And they lay dying for hours in agony. They were literally bleeding to death. So after this, all these people were probably herded into one ward. And all the remaining people in the hospital – everything was looted, all the medicines, everything, there was nothing left. These were wild men, like dacoits and plunderers. They were not any army as such. In the meantime, as they had just shot my father, the Captain – he was probably in the Indian army, I don’t know what army – but he came along, and he had been educated in –
WAS THIS COLONEL DYKES?
No, no. This was a Pakistani. Probably a Pathan … they were probably trying to get together, since it was the partition time, they were probably trying to get together sort of an army for the Pakistanis. I’m not quite sure about that. But this Captain was probably a Pathan. And he had been educated in a convent school, and he remembered the nuns as being very kind to him, and he knew this was not the right place to be plundering and killing. So he stopped his men from further – They were just about to kill my mother. She was the next in line. So he came along and he saved the other nuns. Two had been shot. He saved the others from being killed, and my mother too. And he told her he had been educated in a convent school. So that’s what saved us actually at that moment, else my mother would have been killed too. [INTERRUPTION]
SO ANGELA, IF YOU COULD JUST RETELL THE STORY OF THAT CAPTAIN BRIEFLY.
Yes. Just after my father was shot by these wild tribesmen, and he fell to the ground, an army captain came rushing along. And he told his men to stop whatever they were doing, they were just about to shoot my mother and some of the other nuns who were still lined up over there. He was probably a Pathan in the Indian army, I’m not quitre sure what army he belonged to. But he was a Captain. And he told his men that this is not the place to be killing people. That these are good people. And then he told my mother and the nuns around that he had been educated in a convent school, and he always remembered the kindness of the nuns and the priests and all the other Christian people around him. So he stopped the shooting and the killing of the nuns, and that’s how my mother was saved and the remaining nuns and nurses of that convent, and probably all the others too. So that’s how the killing was prevent, further killing was prevented.
NOW HIS PRESENCE THERE WOULD SUGGEST THAT THEY WERE A QUITE WELL ORGANISED GROUP. SOMEBODY WAS ORGANISING THEM QUITE WELL, THESE KILLERS.
Yes. What I feel is and what maybe I have been told before is that they were quickly trying to get together an army because the only army that was there probably the Indian army and the British army. So they were probably trying to get together an army because of the political situation and the partition which was going to take place. So I don’t have much idea about the political background at that time.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OF YOUR OWN MEMORIES OF THOSE TRIBAL MEN?
For eleven days we were holed up in this hospital ward. And it must have been terrible for the adults. But was as the children who were around, we managed. And these tribesmen who were also there – because some of them were being treated for cuts and wounds – they were very kind to us. They loved little children. They wouldn’t harm us in anyway. And they knew that we were starving. And we had nothing to eat. And some of them even gave us apples to eat – I don’t know where they got them from, but I remember that, that they were trying to be very friendly with the children. I don’t know about the adults. But my mother, she had to stitch up the nose of one fellow whose nose had got torn. And then, it was the very same day that my father had been killed, and she said to him – you shot my husband this morning. So he said – yes, we had to do it because in time of war, everything is fair. [INTERRUPTION]
SO YOU’RE TELLING THAT THESE SAME TRIBESMEN, ONCE THEY WERE ORDERED TO STOP KILLING, THEY STOPPED KILLING AND YOUR MUM STARTED TALKING TO THEM AND THEY STARTED ACTING QUITE KINDLY?
Yes. Until they left the hospital premises – after that we don’t know what happened. Probably some of them were left around, or they stayed around. Because in the town of Baramulla there was the Rajah, the Maharajah of that area, and he had his own little army. And when these tribesmen came in, they were all fleeing into the hills. And those were the shots we could hear in the distance. And the screams and cries we could hear were not only at the hospital. They were shooting people outside too. And probably the Rajah was of the, was a Hindu Rajah.
JUST TO GO BACK TO EARLIER IN THAT DAY THOUGH, WHEN THEY WERE COMING AND LOOTING AND KILLING, DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF THEM APPEARING ON THE SCENE. OF THESE MURDERERS?
The memories I have were of these fellows with beards – this is what I remember. Because these nightmares used to come to me later on. I would get up in the night and I would be terrified. And they came over the wall, that I remember. Because I was small, and before I was pushed into this ward, these horrible fellows were coming over the wall, that’s what I remember. You know, big beards and guns - maybe some had turbans and things like that, but they were all shouting and they were very unruly. They were not like anybody from an organised army. That was what they appeared to be – that is now my sort of memory. Yes.
SO THERE WAS A KILLING SPREE THAT DAY. OBVIOUSLY –
Yes, they were looting, killing and taking everything for themselves – from someone who they killed, they would take their wristwatches, they were real thieves and murderers. They were not decent human beings, so I don’t know how this Captain quietened them down and what control he had over them. Probably some agreement they had.
SO YOUR MUM WITNESSED YOUR FATHER’S KILLING?
Yes. My mother was there, and that’s how she was able to tell me how he walked up very calmly, although everyone was shouting. He had pleaded, he did a little with them, when they would not listen, he did walk towards the tree very calmly, very quietly, and he stood there – because he knew the end was going to come – and he spread his hands out and they shot him and he died.
CAN YOU REMEMEBR FINDING OUT THAT THIS HAD HAPPENED – THAT YOU’D LOST YOUR FATHER?
I don’t know when exactly, I came together with my mother, and we came out of that other ward in which we were hiding behind the cupboard, which was pushed up against the door, what I know is that we did come together and it seemed like towards evening – and we were in this ward, and I came to my mother, and she was trying to tell me what happened. And from my memories there were like the dying and dead all also lying on the ground over there with the other people, this was one ward which probably held at the most ten to twenty people – there were 90 people herded into that ward, nuns, nurses, and patients. And I remember that everyone was praying, some were sobbing, the nuns were probably trying to keep us – to comfort us and keep us quiet and try to get us to pray for those who were still alive and not yet dead. Two of their nuns, beautiful Spanish nun, I still remember her, beautiful face, and the Reverend Mother, she was an older lady – this nun must have been about in her late 20s and she was exceedingly beautiful to look at, and even though she was suffering and there was no painkiller, nothing to give them, she was just suffering and bleeding and bleeding to death, and I was, I had not known what death was. But my mother told me about my father, that he had died, and I remember her telling me that she knelt near him and told him to say his act of contrition – we are Catholics – so that was one of the prayers taught to us to ask Jesus for forgiveness of our sins. And I remember her telling me that. And then towards night I think this young nun, she was dying, and before she came out to India as a missionary, she wanted – it was her earnest wish to die a martyr, and so her last words were that she was dying as a victim for the people of Kashmir. And then she died. That’s what I heard from my mummy. I always loved this nun and still have a picture of her –
WHAT WAS HER NAME?
AMONG THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO DIED THAT DAY WERE COLONEL AND MRS DYKES – WE’VE ALREADY TALKED ABOUT THEIR SONS AND IN FACT WE’VE ALREADY INTERVIEWED ON THIS PROGRAMME THE CHILDREN OF THE DYKES, PROBABLY ABOUT YOUR AGE. AND ONE OF THEM SAYS THAT A GIRL CAME UP TO HIM AND TOLD HIM: YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER ARE DEAD.
Well it’s quite probably that it was me. Because most probably the other little children may not have known English that well and wouldn’t have been able to tell these boys anything about their parents. But I vividly remember my mother telling me that Colonel Dykes and his wife had been killed and that these wild men had butchered them and thrown them into a well. That’s all I remember. But it most probably was me speaking to Tom and Douglas. And I remember – in my memories, that name Douglas comes back to me.
ONE OF THE SONS SAYS: I THINK IT WAS THE DAUGHTER OF THE LADY DOCTOR –
Probably he has – he might have been a little older than I am. I was just four. So that’s how he remembers who I was. So – I think it was most probably me, speaking to them. … I don’t really remember. But I do remember having many friends there before this occasion, this tragic occasion. So probably I was playing with these little children. And especially as they spoke English, and we too spoke English at home, so probably related to each other and were able to play together. They probably knew who I was, and I most likely met them that day.
THIS WAS A SCENE OF CARNAGE RATHER LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A SHAKESPEARE TRAGEDY – DID IT STAY LIKE THAT FOR DAYS? … WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DEAD PEOPLE?
From what I was told, all the dead people, they dug grave – I don’t know if it was one grave but I know that my father was buried in one grave with many other people. And my mother felt a lot about this later on, that she could not have put him into a separate grave. But there was nothing that could be done about it. So I remember years later, when we were in India – she worked in the missions after that, in the Catholic missions in Andhra Pradesh – and she sent money to this convent at Baramulla, St Joseph’s convent, to put up a large crucifix over the altar in the chapel. And that was in tribute of all those who died that day, and especially my father. Sp that crucifix is still there in the chapel. But we were not able to have a separate grave and, my people have been there and many of them have seen this grave.
NOW I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS HIDING, HOLED UP IN THE HOSPITAL FOR 11 DAYS. WHY?
Well, it was actually because we couldn’t get away from that place. There was no way we could leave. I don’t know what the danger was but –
THE KILLING HAD STOPPED?
Killing – the actual killing in the hospital had stopped. I don’t know about all around, of all the other people in the town of Baramulla. Because I do know that Rev Father Shanks, later on we heard that he was protecting people. He had protected I think it was a Sikh person and some other Hindus. He hid them in the priest’s home. But the priest’s home was burnt down in a few days, so I don’t know exactly what was happening but I – We were protected, we were sheltered. We were in the hospital ward and all those who were in the hospital were given protection. But I don’t know what happened around the town.
HOW MANY WERE YOU FOR THOSE ELEVEN DAYS – TELL ME AGAIN?
They tell me that there were 90 people holed up in this ward.
AND YOU REMEMBER NOT HAVING VERY MUCH CHOICE OF THINGS TO EAT
Yes, I don’t remember anything much. I don’t remember suffering much either, because I was small and I told you there were giving us little snacks and fruit and things like that. But most probably the grown-ups did suffer a lot. But we managed somehow.
AND YOU REMEMBER THE BLACK BREAD AS WELL
Yes the black bread. … When I would visit the hospital wards, my mother would get horrified when the nurses would take out these tins of black bread biscuit, like rusks of bread, and given them to me. And I loved them. I used to munch on them and she would come in and say, don’t you dare give my daughter that bread. And that was the bread that we were subsisting on for – That’s what she told me afterwards, that that was our only food. And that was what got us through. Because there were tins and tins of this which they used to give the little Kashmiri children.
IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH YOUR MUM WAS AN INCREDIBLY BRAVE WOMAN
She was. She was wonderfully brave. And in the years following – she did suffer – but she gave her life for the missions. She was wonderfully brave that day I know. But she was able to certify that she was the only doctor there so to certify all the deaths and the death of her own husband. And she was very calm. And I do remember something, that she could not cry. It was years later – She never cried for anything – she had become sort of, I don’t know what to say or to call it, but she couldn’t give in to her emotions. Her emotions were always like very well under control … It did change years later when her own mother died and that was the first time I’d seen my mother breakdown and cry. And that must have given her tremendous relief, and all those years of pent up – she kept is, she was, kept everything under control.
AFTER THE 11 DAYS WHEN YOU WERE NOT ABLE TO LEAVE THE HOSPITAL, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? DID YOU STAY IN BARAMULLA, YOU AND YOUR MUM?
I’ll tell you about that because something comes to my mind now – That night, or the next morning, my mother told me: Angela, you stay here, I have to go back to the cottage. And I couldn’t quite understand but she said: I saw Daddy, I saw Daddy’s face, and he was telling me go back, go back, and get the papers. So she had no money at all. But there were some papers probably that would enable us to get some money or get some money to live on. So she was an incredibly brave person. She didn’t know what was going on around there in the compound. But I think she took someone with her, probably someone sort of paeon or helper. And she went back and got those papers which later on we were able to get some money from that. That’s some sort of memory that I have and what she told me. And I remember her telling me on the way back that she saw everything was destroyed – the convent, the chapel, everything was totally destroyed, they were – no-one could understand what was wrong with those fellows, what were they doing, why were they bringing such destruction to such place. Where sick people came for refuge. They had smashed everything in the chapel, all the statues of Jesus and all the statues around, except there was a little statue of the baby Jesus, they’d left that in tact. So that’s what she told me later on when she came back.
YOUR MUM MANAGED TO GET THE PAPERS. AFTER LEAVING THE HOSPITAL DID YOU STAY IN BARAMULLA OR DID YOU LEAVE?
Well, you know, as I was telling you, these planes were going overhead. We were terrified especially as the adults were terrified every time the planes came over. We didn’t know what planes those were. But I remember my mother getting someone, the nuns to climb up the hospital roof and paint a huge red cross over there. And I remember that the priests themselves and some of the men around were digging trenches all around because they said they were going to bomb. I don’t know what exactly was going on, but there were planes going over head. Whether they actually bombed Baramulla, I’ve no idea, I can’t remember about that. But all this was going on during these eleven days. And then we were told that a Pakistani convoy was leaving for Srinagar. And we were told that we would be put into these trucks and we would have to keep very still, very quiet – I remember probably my mother went on telling me not to make a sound when we were stopped at the borders, or as we went from one town to the other we would be stopped so we had to keep quiet and we were told that we had to be like pretend to be dead bodies. (18’50) And I remember them stopping, it was the middle of the night and they were going to come round checking. And probably in Urdu they told them that these are dead bodies and they lot us through, because we got through. And we reached Srinagar. And in Srinagar my sister was in the Presentation Convent over there. We picked her up and then we were handed over top the Indian authorities, the Indian army probably or airforce. And we were transported to Delhi in an army or airforce plane. I remember that – and I remember in Srinagar we had no clothes, we had nothing with us, so we were given somebody else’s old things. We were real refugees. We were left with nothing. And we were taken to Delhi, and from Delhi my mother probably told them that we had my father’s relatives in Nagpur, so we were taken to Nagpur and we stayed with them for some time. That’s how we got away.
SO YOU HAD TO PRETEND TO BE DEAD?
Yes, that I can remember. I remember her telling me to keep absolutely still, and probably they were – Pakistani authorities were telling us that we would have to be very still otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get through. So they probably would have shot us, most probably – these people were all over the place. I don’t know what army you would call them, but there was a lot of conflict, a lot of danger.
SO THAT WAS GOODBYE TO BARAMULLA –
NOW YOU’VE NEVER BEEN BACK. DID YOUR MOTHER GO BACK?
No, my mother didn’t go back. But we went back to Karachi. She was offered a job there. She came down south and left me with my grandmother in Mangalore. And she took a job with the same nuns, and served them in Trichy – they had a hospital in Tiruchalapally it’s called now, it was Trichanapoly in those days … So she worked there with the nuns, and then – these were the FMM, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. And she probably felt that she would like to serve them because she had decided to give her life now to the missions. She had been a doctor in the army, but now she wanted to give her life totally to the missions, not even pursue the higher studies she wanted to do. And she worked for the nuns for some time, and she was offered this job opportunity to go back to Karachi and to work on the then Mitchells Farms, which were somewhere near Karachi I understand, Mitchells is now known I think as Kisan in India. They are the manufacturers of all the jams and jellies and things. So we were going to be on their fruit farms near Karachi –
THIS WAS IN THE 50s BY NOW?
This was probably just after that, I feel it was 1949. She went back very soon after that because the nuns had told her they’re opening s hospital near these Mitchell Farms –
YOU DID GO?
Yes we went, we went back.
DO YOU THINK YOUR MUM FELT UNEASY ABOUT GOING TO WHAT WAS BY NOW PAKISTAN AFTER WHAT HAD HAPPENED IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY?
Well, I don’t really know what she felt, but I know that for some reason she wanted to go back up there. And that’s why she took this job … And she took me too. She could have very well served down south. She wanted to go back there, I don’t know what it was in her. But that didn’t last long. She stayed there a year, she wasn’t very happy, there was no proper hospital, she couldn’t really do the work she wanted, and we came back. And when we came back we had another bad experience, there was a lot of chaos in India and Pakistan at that time, people were still moving, the Hindus were coming back to India and people were going back from India to Pakistan, and we had just bought all the things that we had lost she had replenished and everything and we were coming back with these suitcases, and we were herded into this crowded second-class compartment, and in the night we made friends with these people coming back with us, probably people who had lost all their stuff themselves. And in the night, she trusted them completely and we had fallen asleep, and they got down at some remote place, they took all our luggage with them, so we once again lost everything. But I think she was quite used to all that by then.
HOW OFTEN – OTHER THAN WHEN THE BBC RINGS YOU UP – HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK BACK TO THOSE DAYS AT BARAMULLA, THOSE FEW MONTHS?
Well, quite often I think – whenever I think of my parents, it’s always Baramulla which comes to my mind. And if ever at any other time I got slightly irritated with my other over anything I would think, oh, no, she’s been so tremendously courageous and brave and lived her life in spite of everything that happened and given us the best, both my younger sister Ann who she had to look after and myself. She gave us a wonderful education. She sent us both to England to study. We were there and my sister is still in England. I came back as a teenager. But she did the best that any mother could.
AND WHEN YOU THINK BACK TO BARAMULLA, WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF IT? DO YOU THINK BACK WITH SADNESS OR WITH HAPPINESS, OR A KIND OF MIXTURE?
Well I think that the blood of the people that was spilt that day was not spilt in vain. Because the blood of the martyrs will not be spilt in vain. And something good will come out of it and some day there will be a solution to the Kashmir problem. … Thank you for trying to preserve these stories. I was actually thinking oh my goodness, I really don’t want to carry on with this too much any more. Yes, my mother and father they were brave people, and I’m proud to have them as my parents, and all the people who were there then, the Dykes family, when I hear of there story and that those children have been found, and those two little boys finding their brother –
YOU MEAN THEIR BABY BROTHER …
Well, I wouldn’t have known about this until I read an account … written by Mr Andrew Whitehead. I was astounded that he had got in touch with them again. And I said what I have been through is nothing compared to what those little children in a strange country losing both their parents, seeing those dead bodies, not knowing where their parents are. And I feel terrible to think that I had to tell them, if it was me, that their parents were dead. I think that reading about them in that account, they’ve lived their lives in the most normal way and I’m sure it’s because of the terrible suffering their parents went through that day. Their brave mother who’d just had a baby – and their father who must have had such a terrible shock to come back to this to see his newly born child, to see all those terrible men plundering and ravaging – I don’t know who died first, his wife probably, seeing his wife die and then – the children had to live with those terrible memories. And they’ve lived such wonderful, normal lives. I was astounded to hear, and very happy to know, that they’re well and happy and normal happy people, living in this world.
… DID THEY RESCUE THEIR LITTLE NEW-BORN BROTHER?
Yes. From this account which I read, their little brother was found on a heap of dead bodies. And they rescued the brother and they were put in the charge of a missionary lady. That’s what I read. And they were taken away to safety. And the little baby was too small too travel, so the older boys went on to England where they stayed with an aunt and the baby followed later with the missionary lady. That’s what I read in the account.