Sometimes, when two nations are not too friendly towards each other, they have two options … One is to focus on the differences between the viewpoints of these nations, and the other is to focus on the common ground. Which option the nations choose could decide which way they go. Such is probably the case with Pakistan and India. In finding the common ground, there is one name which emerges, and that is why this post is named the way it is. Common Name has a meaning very different. And this is what they were talking about the other day. This name is Sir Ganga Ram.
One can read about Sir Ganga Ram, so that’s not what we need to go into here. Suffice it to say that he was a learned man, with ample enterprise and intent to benefit the common people, who contributed immensely to a shared heritage.
There is, though, a story about Sir Ganga Ram which needs to be told here. At the time of Partition, there was a statue of Sir Ganga Ram in Lahore. This is a story written by the inimitable Sadat Hasan Manto. In this story, which is based on a true incident, a Muslim mob, venting their anger against Hindus, were pelting stones at the statue of Sir Ganga Ram which stood at the Mall Road in Lahore. Not satisfied with this, they proceeded to put a garland of shoes. In the meantime, as the police came, they started firing on the mob. People got injured in the firing, and one of those who got injured was the man holding the garland of shoes. With these people injured, the rest decided to take them to hospital. The Sir Ganga Ram Hospital was the one they wanted to take them to.
What an irony.
Sir Ganga Ram, who is known as the father of modern Lahore, stands as a towering figure who could cement ties between two nations. A man, upon whose death, part of the ashes were immersed in the Ganga (after whome he was named) and part are kept in his Samadhi which stands on the banks of the Ravi, a reminder to the possibility of friendship between two nations. And a man after whome two hospitals are named, on in Lahore and one in Delhi.