Book Review: Two by Gulzar

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“We were One people. One parted. Now we are Two.”

It is another story of the partition of India. Yet, this book is different from the rest. It is Gulzar’s voice. He speaks about partition, the people displaced, and their struggles to understand how a mere carving of a line could actually divide one nation into two- Hindustan and Pakistan. Originally written in Urdu, Two is a translation of the same by Gulzar himself. It is a short and crisp novella. Yet it manages to capture the right essence of the story that’s being told. And in Gulzar’s own words, “The length is immaterial; It is what I needed to tell in the story…”

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Campbellpur is a tiny village nestled in obscurity in British India. The people are caught in a nervous frenzy as talks of an impending partition do the rounds. It is the winter of 1946, and for the people of the country a partition is evident. No one is quite sure where they would be, what its outcome would be on their lives. Lakshneera the dhaba owner, Fauji the truck driver, a Rai Bahadur and his family, a Kothewali, a young widow, sisters Soni and Moni, all find their lives caught in the whole web of the partition. As the mass exodus of humans travel across the border in search of a new home and a new country, their world goes topsy-turvy. Displaced, most have lost a family member, in death or in separation, never to live life the same way as before. It did take people decades to settle down and come in terms with its haunting memories.

“The descending night felt like a shroud spreading over everyone….”

Two is characterized by a strong narrative. Strewn with the perfect use of metaphors to communicate, the writing seemingly shifts track on a poetic note. There is silence in the words, yet an unheard voice that screams out the plight of people and the situation. Gulzar’s strong prose lays bare the brunt of partition in words that linger long in your mind.

“No one knew where they were. Men and women, young and old, drifted from one camp to another like dry leaves, scattered by the wind.”

The writing isn’t heavy. In crisp and concise sentences, it still evokes strong emotions. Swiftly paced, with a smooth transition across timelines, the short novella indeed speaks volumes about the disruptive violence of 1947 and beyond.

Two may be a translation, but the book has done justice in every possible way. No wonder Gulzar is considered a master craftsman, who could weave words with ease in the most beautiful of ways. A book that you cannot put down, highly recommended for just the love of words!!

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