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Finding My Family - Partition

Sumayyah, Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya are on the mission of a lifetime to find out what happened to their families during Indian Partition 70 years ago.


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Ten-year-old Sumayyah comes from Watford outside London.

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She loves gymnastics and reading Harry Potter.

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I just love them.

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Sisters 11-year-old Shubhashukla and nine-year-old Kamolpriya

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are from Winchester in the south of England.

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They love karate but can't agree on who's the most musical.

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I know different songs from her.

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What these three girls have in common,

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like thousands of children from the UK,

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is that their families were all caught up

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in an extraordinary moment 70 years ago in India.

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Partition, as it was called, saw India being divided

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and millions of people having to leave their homes.

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Now, these girls are about to go on an amazing mission

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to recreate the journey that their families had to make back then.

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So this is the house.

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It looks a bit dirty and rotten.

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-Would you like to bathe in this water?

-No, there's fish in there.

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-Really?

-Yes.

-I found a piece of the puzzle of my family's history.

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It's an adventure that takes them thousands of miles

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to Bangladesh and India

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to track down the homes

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their grandparents have never been able to return to.

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We've stood on the floor that he crawled around on.

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Now that I know more about her,

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I feel like I have this connection with her.

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70 years ago, Britain stopped ruling India

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and handed it over to become an independent country.

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For many it was a moment of celebration,

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but it also caused huge hardship and loss.

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One of those people who went through that hardship

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was Sumayyah's great-grandmother.

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Sumayyah wants to know more about her.

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My grandmother, your great-grandmother,

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she had to leave everything behind in India, her house,

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all her possessions, and move to Pakistan with nothing.

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So Sumayyah's mum is setting Sumayyah a challenge.

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I want you to go to India and find out what you can

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about our family history

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and exactly what happened to my grandmother,

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-what she left behind.

-Yes.

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What I am most looking forward to

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is just discovering where my grandparents come from,

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where my great-grandmother came from.

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Sumayyah's mum Sabeena will be joining Sumayyah

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as she attempts to track down the house

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her great-grandmother, Amina Begum, left behind in India

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as she had to move to Pakistan.

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Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya's grandfather

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is called Subratabhushan.

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His home is in Calcutta in India

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but he didn't always live there.

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70 years ago his family moved to Dhaka which is now in Bangladesh.

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The girls decide to call him.

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Have you ever been back to your old house?

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I have never been back.

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Do you have anything that belonged to the house?

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I have only some letters.

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You go to Bangladesh and find my old home for yourself.

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Once we find it, we will tell you all about it.

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-BOTH:

-Thank you!

-Bye.

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The sisters have been given their mission

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to find their grandfather's childhood home.

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It will be really fun because we'll be uncovering

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what our grandfather did and where he was, like, born.

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For all three girls to complete their challenge,

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they must leave their homes in Watford and Winchester

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and travel nearly 5,000 miles.

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Sumayyah is heading to the city of Rampur.

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It's the first time she's ever been to India.

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We are in Rampur. It's very hot.

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It's different to England because there are lots of rickshaws

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which are like open cars.

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And they have a lot of beeping.

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HORNS TOOT

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And sisters Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya are off to Bangladesh.

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After a 12-hour plane ride,

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the girls touch down in the capital city Dhaka.

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We're finally in Dhaka!

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Yes!

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It's a huge, bustling place with people everywhere

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and trucks, trikes and trains coming at you from all angles.

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The city is where the sisters' grandfather was born

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and where he lived with his family until he was a year old.

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Local guide Tanjeel welcomes the girls

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with a Bangladeshi-style breakfast.

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I have brought you here because you have told me that your grandpa

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loved a very special cookie and this is the cookie.

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It is called bakerkhani.

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In Old Dhaka, people really like it in the morning

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with their milk tea because it's a little bit dry.

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These traditional biscuits would have been a popular treat

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for the girls' grandfather and his family,

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but Partition meant he has never been able to return here

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to snack on them.

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-This is nice.

-You have a little bit here.

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1,000 miles away, Sumayyah has begun to look for traces of her family

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in Rampur in India, a city which is home to monkeys,

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kite flyers and some pretty impressive buildings,

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including this one,

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named after Sumayyah's great-great-grandfather.

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He was an important Muslim leader

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who wanted Indians to run their own country.

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This is my great-great-grandfather, Mohammad Ali Jauhar.

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For nearly 200 years, India had been ruled by Great Britain.

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Then in August 1947, the wishes of millions of people,

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including Sumayyah's great-great-grandfather, came true.

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But the country was split apart into two brand-new countries

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called India and Pakistan.

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East Pakistan became Bangladesh later on.

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This was called the Partition of India.

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Cities, towns and villages were divided

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and up to a million people died.

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Others were forced to move,

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including Sumayyah's great-grandmother Amina Begum.

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Amina told her story to her family

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who wrote it down for future generations to discover.

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Rampur was my home for 20 years.

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It was a friendly, peaceful place.

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I loved it.

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People from all backgrounds lived alongside each other.

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By the time of Partition, I was 31 years old

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and my husband was away working in the army.

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As the country divided,

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suspicion grew between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim neighbours.

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One evening I was home alone with my children

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when I heard an angry mob outside.

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I feared for my life.

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I woke my children and we fled in the middle of the night.

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I left everything behind

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and I buried my wedding jewellery in the dirt,

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hoping one day I would return to find it.

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We walked alone through the dark night

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which was lit up only by the fires of people's homes

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being set alight in the distance.

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When we finally reached the train station, it was packed with people.

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Lots of families became separated.

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We squashed into an overloaded train heading towards the new border.

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The heat was suffocating.

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During the journey, the train stopped suddenly for a long time.

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Everyone became scared.

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We were afraid we would get attacked by mobs.

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Thankfully, there were soldiers on our train

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so we were able to continue our journey,

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but then the attackers managed to separate the last three carriages

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of our train and set them on fire.

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When we reached Lahore, we were placed in a refugee camp

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with many other people and lived there for over a year.

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I never returned to my home in Rampur.

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How does hearing that make you feel?

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It makes me feel upset that she had to go through all that

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and never go back to her home and where she lived.

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But it also makes me feel happy

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because now that I know more about her,

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I feel like I have this connection with her

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and I feel closer to her, and it's kind of strange

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because I've never met her.

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Hearing her great-grandmother's story

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has made Sumayyah even more determined

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to track down the house she left behind.

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Meanwhile back in Dhaka, sisters Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya

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have swapped their car wheels for wagon wheels.

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The girls hop off in Qayet Tuly.

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It's the street their grandfather used to live in.

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Now they need to find house number nine,

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but 70 years on, everything looks different,

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so the girls ask Tanjeel for help.

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So we have this letter that was sent to our grandad to Old Dhaka in 1942

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and it has the address on it.

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So we were wondering if you could help us find the old house.

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We are in Old Dhaka and this is Qayet Tuly

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which matches the address,

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-so let's go in and we'll find out what we find out.

-OK.

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Amongst the maze of stalls, alleyways and rickshaws,

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there's just a tiny metal doorway marking the entrance to number nine.

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It doesn't look very promising but inside,

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it's like stepping back in time.

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So this is the house.

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Now it looks old and torn down

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but when your grandfather used to live here,

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this was one of the posh houses in this area.

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Does anyone live here now?

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Some university students live here and also some small businessmen.

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Where did our grandpa and our great-grandpa used to sleep?

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That would be the first floor,

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one of those rooms were your grandfather's bedroom. Let's see?

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It might look rundown now,

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but this courtyard for washing and playing in and the bedrooms upstairs

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tells us the girls' grandfather would have been quite well off.

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What would life have been like for our grandparents' families?

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For growing up as a kid, it would be a fantastic place actually.

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Right now, can we imagine that this is your bedroom?

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Right now I wouldn't because our bedroom is much more different.

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There's more technology and it's a bit bigger.

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We all know that the last 70 or 80 years, the technology

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and the way of how we live has changed a lot, a lot.

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I couldn't believe that my grandpa's old home

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is still there after 70 and 80 years.

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It looked a bit dirty and rotten.

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I bet in olden times that it was really posh and fancy.

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I was thinking how it would be like if my grandad was there

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and he was like... As a baby and all his siblings

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just playing there and having fun.

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I think he might have crawled around the courtyard floor

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and it would have been cool because we have stood on the floor

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that he crawled around on.

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As well as this house in the city,

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Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya's grandfather also owned a farm

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in the countryside.

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But 70 years on, will they be able to find any clues

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as to where it once stood?

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We will see you later.

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Back in the narrow twisting alleyways of Rampur,

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Sumayyah and her mum have found the house

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that Sumayyah's great-grandmother used to live in.

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Sumayyah, can you believe we are finally here?

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No, it's amazing.

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-What does it feel like?

-It feels awesome

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because knowing that my great-grandmother used to live here,

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and my great-great-grandfather.

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How do you think she felt leaving it behind?

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She must have felt very upset and nervous

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because she didn't know she would be leaving all her stuff behind

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but also she'd feel nervous

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because she wouldn't know what would become of her

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after leaving the house.

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How do you feel, Mummy, being here?

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I feel sad that she had to leave it behind.

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As the sun sets over Rampur, Sumayyah takes a moment

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to think about what her great-grandmother went through.

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We are on the top of the roof of my great-grandmother's old house.

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I think my great-grandmother would have stood up here

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and it would just be amazing if she stood in this exact same place.

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I feel as if I've found a piece of the puzzle of my family's history

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and I'm willing to find out the rest of this puzzle.

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Next morning, Sumayyah boards a train to travel across India

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to Amritsar on the border with Pakistan.

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It is the same journey her great-grandmother

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and thousands of other families made during Partition.

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It must have been really hard because she had about 15 children

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and it must have been hard to all sit around each other

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when there were so many other people trying to flee as well.

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Sumayyah arrives in Amritsar.

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This city would have been the last stop

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on her great-grandmother's journey

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before she reached the safety of Pakistan.

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During Partition, some of the worst fighting happened right here,

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in Amritsar.

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There was rioting,

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burning and looting as thousands of refugees passed through here.

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Sumayyah and her mum stop off at the Golden Temple,

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one of the most holy Sikh sites in India.

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Its roof is covered with pure gold.

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I think it's amazing.

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-Would you like to bathe in this water?

-No, there's fish in there.

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There's a kitchen over there. This place is open 24 hours a day.

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-Wow.

-And they feed over 6,000 people per half an hour.

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-What? How do they cook all that food?

-I'm not quite sure.

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Every day, tonnes of free food is prepared here

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in massive cauldrons and served to visitors.

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People sit cross-legged on the floor to eat,

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to show that everybody's equal.

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Back in the lush green fields of the Bangladeshi countryside,

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sisters Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya are searching

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for their family's old farm.

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So, where are we?

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We are in a village and we believe that this is your ancestral home.

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Your grandfather, your great-grandfather,

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they're from this village.

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Was it like a holiday home or is this where they lived?

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No, this was their main home.

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I think they had more than one house,

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but the house definitely is not there.

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Because Bangladeshi houses actually are made out of corrugated tin

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and wood, and that wouldn't last for 70, 80 years.

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What does this area tell us about our family?

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Just looking at this compound, where the house was, is actually huge.

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I'm pretty sure they were very rich and, yeah, very respected also.

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The fields the girls' grandfather used to own

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stretch as far as the eye can see.

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But when India was partitioned in 1947, all the Hindu families,

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including the girls' family, fled the village.

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At the village pond, their guide, Tanjeel,

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has discovered something extraordinary

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he wants to show the girls.

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Here it is. So, this is a memorial plaque,

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before your grandparents left this place.

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This is about 80 years old and this was in memory

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-of one of your great-great uncles.

-Really?

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-Yes. It's written here...

-HE READS THE PLAQUE

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That means that is your great-grandfather.

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-Isn't it amazing?

-Yeah.

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And it says "Binoi smriti".

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That means Binoi was the name of your great-granduncle

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and "smriti" means memory.

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So, he died when he was about 20 years old.

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And so his father, that means your great-grandfather,

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he made these stairs and made this plaque.

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This is definite proof that our family used to live here.

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-Absolutely.

-And I feel so proud, as well.

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We're carrying on our family.

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And you should be. And I'm sure your grandfather will be very proud.

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And I think it will bring a lot of memory to him,

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because Binoi was his brother and his father's name is there.

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The girls have found where their families came from.

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They've completed the first part of their mission.

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But like Sumayyah's great-grandmother,

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Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya's grandfather

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was forced to abandon his home when India was partitioned.

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Now the girls are following in his footsteps,

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leaving Bangladesh to deliver their findings to their grandfather

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at the family home in India, where they settled after Partition.

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Sumayyah has reached the border.

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This is where her great-grandmother crossed over into Pakistan.

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But for Sumayyah, there's a problem.

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The film crew she's been travelling with

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haven't been given permission to enter Pakistan.

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So, for Sumayyah, this marks the end of her journey with us.

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It's a sign that these two countries are still very divided.

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Before she leaves India, there's just time to watch a ceremony

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which takes place here every day.

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The Indian and Pakistani armies meet to show their strength

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and fancy footwork

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to mark the closing of the border for the evening.

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This is like a really crazy football match.

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It's unlike anything I've ever seen in my life.

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They're marching around to show their strength.

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But it's actually really funny.

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Their hats are like peacocks!

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Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya have arrived in Kolkata

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to deliver their findings to their grandfather.

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OK, show me.

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So, this is the street your house would have been on.

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-Oh, Qayet Tuly?

-So that is what your upstairs would have been like.

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-And then here, you have your kitchen.

-I lived here, yes.

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I feel very much enthused with this picture.

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Next, we went to a village where your second house was.

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We are in the place where your house used to be.

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My ancestral house.

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-Yes.

-This is a pond that was quite close to your house.

0:20:440:20:48

-OK.

-And then on the side of that...

-Just there.

0:20:480:20:52

..something amazing we want to show you.

0:20:520:20:55

This plaque is to your uncle.

0:20:550:20:58

It's amazing!

0:20:580:20:59

Oh, it's amazing, it's amazing, it's amazing!

0:20:590:21:02

The thing that I'll probably remember about this whole trip

0:21:020:21:06

is my grandad's reaction of how happy he was

0:21:060:21:10

when he found out that we found the house,

0:21:100:21:13

and then we found the plaque in the river.

0:21:130:21:16

You have done it, you have done it!

0:21:160:21:18

That is amazing.

0:21:190:21:21

I feel like we've been a real team on this trip and I'm so happy.

0:21:210:21:25

I am proud of you.

0:21:250:21:27

-I'm proud of you.

-Thank you.

0:21:270:21:29

Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya have completed their mission.

0:21:300:21:34

They've found out where their family came from.

0:21:340:21:37

This year, as India and Pakistan celebrate the 70th anniversary

0:21:460:21:50

of their independence, there will also be millions of people,

0:21:500:21:54

like the girls' grandfather,

0:21:540:21:56

who remember the hardships that took place as a result.

0:21:560:21:59

Lots of people suffered for this Partition.

0:22:020:22:06

Lots of people suffered.

0:22:060:22:07

It was a colossal humanitarian tragedy.

0:22:070:22:12

Thousands of people were displaced and it was a horrible tragedy.

0:22:120:22:17

Sumayyah has also reached the end of her journey and completed her quest

0:22:190:22:23

to follow her family's story.

0:22:230:22:25

It's given her a real admiration for her great-grandmother.

0:22:250:22:29

This is a picture of my great-grandmother.

0:22:300:22:33

In this picture, she's smiling.

0:22:330:22:35

But, behind her smile, behind the lines on her face,

0:22:360:22:40

there was a story and I just think she must have been

0:22:400:22:44

really such a strong woman

0:22:440:22:48

to go through all that and find her way through the struggle

0:22:480:22:54

to get a home.

0:22:540:22:56

I'm really proud that I could uncover

0:22:570:23:00

my great-grandmother's story.

0:23:000:23:02

And there are millions of children living across the UK today like

0:23:040:23:08

Sumayyah, Shubhashukla and Kamolpriya whose own lives

0:23:080:23:12

have been directly shaped by the extraordinary events

0:23:120:23:16

which happened when these new countries were born.

0:23:160:23:20

Ten-year-old Sumayyah, 11-year-old Shubhashukla and nine-year-old Kamolpriya are on the mission of a lifetime to find out what happened to their families during Indian Partition 70 years ago. They travel from the UK to India and Bangladesh to recreate the journey their families made in 1947, and discover amazing stories of strength and survival along the way.