Books based on history are often not picked up by readers as most consider it to be slow and intense. But here are two books that stand out it many a ways. For one, they are about our country- India, our very own partition. Secondly, these bring out in abundance, the pain, trauma and magnanimity of the episode in the history of our country. The books have succeeded in keeping the matter authentic, as well as they hold the readers attention throughout their pages. Here are two books that are similar in their central theme, yet distinct in the way they present the traumatic episode of history.
Two by Gulzar
It may seem to be another story of the partition of India. Yet, this book is different from the rest. It is Gulzar’s voice. He speaks about 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 is being told.
“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.”– Gulzar, Two
The writing isn’t heavy. In concise sentences, it still evokes strong emotions. Swiftly paced, with a smooth transition across timelines, the novella 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!!
Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra
For four years Malhotra has dug deep, researching and recording conversations, as she revisits partition through tiny little objects that have been carried across the border, and have remained intact since then. These are relics that connect present with memories of what was once a beautiful past. A string of pearls that was gifted by a maharaja, a matriculation certification, a maang tika, a bed sheet, an old pair of rusted scissors, a paan serving dish, they all have a story to tell. Daily objects they are, yet capable of bringing about a deluge of emotions.
“We should have realized it sooner, at least my father should have, that there was no coming back. Not in September when the riots died down, not in October when the subcontinent still lay in shock, not even in November as he had hoped and promised us. Lahore was now lost forever.”
― Aanchal Malhotra, Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory
The book is a first-hand testament of the surviving generation. As Malhotra visits and discusses what life was once across the border, the surviving generation brings out vivid descriptions through dialogues. You can sense the pain as Narmuddin Khan narrates why he chose to stay back in the Indian side, despite the chaos and the killings all around him. Sensitively put across, the dialogues lay down the finer nuances of partition and its horrors. Across the nineteen chapters in the book, the stories within it have been delicately strung together with material memories. Well researched indeed, the book is a crossover between history and anthropology. The narration grips you with its simplistic portrayal of real people and real stories. Not your typical documentary style, the book is unique in its own way. “Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory” is a beautiful chronicle of memories and a gamut of emotions, as people try to relive what they left behind, holding onto what they have with them- tiny little relics, remnant of a separation.
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