Kolkata Literary Meet – Her story of Partition
And then there was a stoic silence. It was more awkward than stoic.
Anam Zakaria had just ended her reading from a very sensitive story from her book “The foot prints of partition”. For the first time Ratnaboli Ray (one of the best known faces of mental health and human rights movement in India and founder of Anjali, a mental health right organisation based in Kolkata), looked bewildered after moderating an entire session with elan and command, was being equally sensitive.
She looked towards Vazira (Vazira Fazila – Yacoobali Zamindar – is a historian of modern South Asia, with an interest in twentieth century histories of decolonization and author of The long partition and the making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories), who was also clueless as to how to break the silence. Noted film director Srijit Mukherjee (whose recent film on Partition – Raj Kahini has been in news and much acclaimed) and Farah Ghuznavi (the noted columnist and newspaper writer with development work in Asia and Africa) were also speechless.
This marked the moment for the entire 1 hour of session.
The session started with a search and a journey down the memory lane of partition and its narratives. As Farah pointed out that the pain of the partition is felt throughout the three nations and the scars are present for all. Isn’t it true that for people, however they have been dislocated, willingly or most of the times unwillingly, they are in either in a state of “Now I am here so don’t want to think about what I have left behind” or leave in a limbo, in a doubt whether this is my country or not.
This sensitivity of the issue was powered further by the flowing outrage of emotions as the session progressed. The anecdotes started flowing in. As Anam said that while she was doing this project on student exchange between India and Pakistan, one of the kid’s mother in Pakistan refused to let her kid go to Kapurthala and the reason being, India is the place where her father had lost everything. A week later, the mother called up and agreed and on being asked the reason, she said that her father said the grandson is going to his own home- let him go. As Srijit pointed out that the way the partition has been handled was ridiculous and how all the three nations from time to time had their own idea of an ideal map of their individual nations and fought over pieces of land on maps of India/East Bengal/ Punjab without thinking about the people over there and the consequences. Its startling to still remember, how Murshidabad after few days of partition realised that they were actually in India.
We stereotype the perpetrators as evil but there are instances also where the torturers have also become the victim. Don’t they also go through the trauma for the rest of their lives? In all these true stories, women have been silent yet the worst sufferers. Very less work has been done on capturing the Partition through the eyes of women. How many unaccounted cases are there where an abducted woman has found it difficult to be accepted by her family in the later stages of her life?
However, there have been silver linings also. There are references where a love has blossomed between the abductor and abductee, people from different community helping out each other and turning out to be true saviors. While the true gripping grotesque tales are what remains on top of mind recall, we should also make an effort to narrate the other stories also.
The session would have never ended, it should have continued, the flow of emotions were such. But time waits for none and thats the best healer as they say. There were few audience questions which got answered and although more questions were pent up, we had to call it a day.
Still cannot get out of my mind what Farah Ghuznavi had said – Feminist Historiographers inform us that women’s bodies were inscripted with mentions of “Jai Hind” and “Pakistan Zindabad”, breasts were chopped off. It was a calculated ploy to “dishonour” the enemy by dishonouring “their” women. The female body thus became a battle ground for perpetrators during partition, as it has on many occasions since.
We pray that this never happens in history ever again.
Look forward more sessions like this till 26th January, 2016 . Follow the hashtag #TataSteelKalam #KolLitMeet and check Kolkata Literary Meet for more update.