My forefathers, who had lived in Pakistan, were also ironsmiths. They made ploughs, yokes, and other tools for the farmers. It used to be called sepi.
Our village was Baar, near Burewala. I was named after the name of the village. A couple of months before the partition, the village leader sensed the troubles. He asked my father, “do you have some land or a house on the other side.” My father said, “yes, everything is there”. The village leader said, “In three months there is going to be bloodshed, and you should leave with your family”. Our clan took everything from there, the grinding mill, the buffaloes, the dog, and moved here to Singhawala. I was 5-6 years old then. My father worked a lot; he even bought land here. He was 110 years old when he passed away.
I am 80 years old now. When I was young, I met with an accident. We were on a tonga in Moga when I saw a bus speeding towards us. I sensed that the bus might hit us, and it did. The tonga catapulted and I broke my leg.
I started working when I was 25-30; before that, I was a milkman. I tended to the buffaloes and sold milk. I was very fond of animals. But when I got into smithy, it occupied me. I once made 150 ploughs in a season. The work went on till midnight. My wife worked a lot too. We have worked hard and earned well. She has been a work partner too. I would bring the fodder and she would chop it. I would bring corn and she would shell out the kernels. She would pick all even if they were four bales. I would sell the corn kernels in the grain market. I still work but not to that extent.
We had a chimney here, and here was the pit to mould the iron in coalfired heat. I worked standing up, and I have worked quite a lot. But that has paid us well. We are doing well. I can’t complain, we have lived a good life. I have not studied at all, but I educated all my children. We have six daughters and a son.
Everyone wondered why I was wasting money on their education, but I knew the importance of education. I let them study because that was their choice. I have paid 8.5 lakhs for my son’s medical clinic as well. I have put this house on sale now, we will sell it and buy a new one close to my son’s clinic.
Most people underestimate old folks; they think what do these oldies know. But seeing my work, a craftsman of Talwandi took me along for 3-4 months. He paid me a handsome salary. But my children did not want me to take up this assignment since Talwandi is far. I made 20000 a month. We made 10000 spades to deliver in UP and Bihar. The Biharis went through the whole town and said, they could not find a better spade. Initially, the craftsman wanted to refuse the order reasoning that we won’t be able to deliver such a big order. I said, “mister take the advance of 1 lakh rupees and we will make them”. He said, “Old man we won’t be able to make them”. He had his reasons; the electricity fluctuation was a problem. I told him, “I will make them with chisels and hammers”. That’s how we delivered the order. The craftsman also made the money he wanted.
We asked how much they would sell it for. They said they would sell it at double the price. The craftsman gave me an award of 2000 rupees and said it would not have been possible without me. There were not any machines and cutters back in the day. Lord Vishwakarma has ordained five tools, hammer, axe, Tri Square, caliper and sledgehammer. I stamp mark all my tools. I have been able to locate my lost tools even after 20 odd years.
Sukhdev Kaur (wife):
That is why I say, “my parents found a hard working man for me. I have lived a happy life with him. He never yelled at me; he has always treated me with great affection.”
“Either your heart knows this or me. No one else knows this.”
Photographs: Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Text: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor