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Voices of Hope


Rita Manchanda

HUMANITY AMIDST INSANITY: HOPE DURING AND AFTER THE INDO-PAK PARTITION
By Tridivesh Singh Maini, Tahir and Ali Farooq Malik
UBS Publishers and Distributors, Delhi, 2009, pp. 186, Rs. 295.00

WRITING PARTITION: AESTHETICS AND IDEOLOGY IN HINDI AND URDU LITERATURE
By Bodh Prakash
Pearson Longman, Delhi, 2009, pp. 232, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 3 MARCH 2009

  A couple of years ago, at a public screening in New Delhi of Stories of the Broken Self, Farooq Khan’s poignant video documentary record of Partition remembrances, directly experienced or as ‘post memory’ of violent rupture and bloodied border crossing of survivors into the Muslim homeland from the audience, Justice Rajinder Sachar, brusquely responded : where was the need to record these voices, still so bitter and hurt. Everyone knows what happened. He was a refugee and a long time peace campaigner, Partition, he said, was a settled, closed matter. An imposing Sikh matriarch, who had grown up in Lahore, also defensively reacted to the stereotyping of the Sikhs as the dreaded perpetrators of the violence. She spoke of the warmth and love with which her family was received on visits to Pakistan. Sharing yet another perspective, a young girl rose to recall a tale told by her grandfather of Muslim neighbours who saved the family.   The vehemence of the mixed responses was a reminder that for millions, the trauma of the communal holocaust remains without closure; the unreconciled anguish fuels today’s politics of mistrust and for many legitimizes hate as ‘naturally’ rooted in primordial differences. At the same time, there is the deep nostalgia around remembrances of things past of alienated identities that fuels the multiple streams of Partition Studies.   Six decades after the twin historical moments of Partition: Independence, the grand narratives of empire, nationalism, communalism and Muslim separatism, have come to be juxtaposed with counter narratives of ‘history from below’, interweaving creative literature and literary history, films, memoirs and oral narratives. The historian’s history of partition, as Gyanendra Pandey (1994) in The Prose of Otherness reminds us –’is not a history of the lives and experiences of the people who lived through that time, of the way in which the events of the 1940s was constructed in their minds, of the identities and uncertainties that Pak created or reinforced’. It is these counter narratives that enable us to access the social consciousness of uprooted and divided families, caught in the vortex of the violent creation of two historic national destinies.   The two books under review are a part of this rich outcrop of studies that foreground people’s lived experience of partition and its aftermath. While Tridivesh Singh Maini and his Pakistan co-authors use the methodology of oral narratives to capture the quiet heroism of the ...


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