My name is Khairdeen. My story began in 1947 when I started working as a watchman. I had worked as a well digger or a farm labourer. In 1947, there were innumerable instances of bloodshed, looting, and sexual violence against women. Similar incidents happened in the nearby village, Tola Loona Zaildar Wala. The leaders of the village forcibly converted many Muslims to their faith. It was relatively safer in Malerkotla region.
In our village, a Muslim woman was forced to live with a drug addict Jatt who was also the village watchman. Then the government came to its senses and started liberating such women to reunite with their families in Pakistan. The police appeared at the doorsteps of the drug addict. He cried that his home was being devastated. The policeman thrashed him well and asked, “Which home? From where did you marry her? You have forcibly kept her. You will have to part with her.”
The police took the woman away and he quitted being a watchman and moved to his sister’s village. The village leaders appointed me as the new watchman. I have been manning the village since then. It has been 71 years now. Back then I was paid 6 Rupees per month. It has become Rs. 1200 (800 from Punjab government + 400 from the panchayat) in 71 years. I got every birth and death registered at the Tehsil office. If an officer visited the village, or there’s a community event, I informed and announced it to the villagers. I still do it. I help the police and election officials on the days of polls. I make arrangements for their refreshments and meals. My salary was stalled from some time; I have received my dues recently.
I used to work as daily labourer too, and as a tender and herder of the livestock. I have seen so many colours of the world. I was forcibly converted into a Nihang Sikh during 1947; I was named Preetam Singh. I was formally initiated into Sikhism by drinking the Amrit.
I am unable to do much work these days. My son helps me out. I have lived my whole life watching over this village.
Story by: Satdeep Gill
Text: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor