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Filtered Memories

Sudha Tiwari

Edited by Urvashi Butalia
Zubaan, Delhi, 2015, pp. xviii 270, Rs. 599.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 8 August 2016

The book under review, Partition: The Long Shadow, delving into the notions of ‘foreignness’ and ‘belonging’, focuses upon three significant themes: one, it brings back the peripheral regions of the subcontinent, e.g., Assam, Sindh, and Ladakh, into the academic discussion on Partition; two, it gives voice to the second and third generation memories of the event; and three, it suggests a larger study of the psychological aftermath of Partition. Urvashi Butalia introduces the book by sharing her experience of attending the al Nakba in Ramallah in 2011. Drawing the parallel with Partition, Butalia says, which largely expresses the objective behind this volume: ‘…over the years, its memories have become more complex, acquired more nuance and layers... Further, as the number of those who retain direct, experiential memories diminish, as their stories recede, ways of remembering also change, the filters through which such memories are passed on— whether in and through literature, or music, or art and so much more—now begin to shape how they are passed on’ (p. viii) (emphasis original). With the creation of modern states in China, India, and Pakistan, Ladakh, from being a frontier region, became a borderland after 1947. In his formative essay on Ladakh, Siddiq Wahid brings the region to the centre of the Partition debate. With the help of the Khwaja-Radhu family’s experiences, he advocates a further study on ‘all the cultural enclaves we find along the length of the Himalaya inclusive of the sovereign states sandwiched between the more powerful power centres in New Delhi, Beijing and Islamabad’ (p. 22). Wahid, however, treats Ladakh as a homogenous region by neglecting the Partition voices from Kargil. Rita Kothari’s essay on Sindh reminds us of the inconclusiveness of Partition. Sindh, unlike Bengal and Punjab, was not ‘partitioned’, but its Hindu minority fled to India. Similarly, the Sindhi Muslims of Banni region in Kutch ‘happened to be’ on ‘this’ side of the border without choosing. When Kavita Panjabi, herself a Sindhi and a second generation of Partition migrant family in India, decided to visit her ancestral town in Shikarpur in Pakistan years later, her father discouraged her saying, in spite of having a deep longing for the place, ‘You will find nothing there…they will have razed all our homes to the ground…’ (p. 49). Though his house still existed in Shikarpur, he was afraid to lose the memory of those times, that home (emphasis mine). ...

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