Mandi House Metro Station turns out to be a quintessential hotspot for every history-forager as a photo-exhibition on the 1947 Partition opens the door to a far-off reality.

 After a long day at college, one might want to escape the exasperation and break away from the monotony of metro journeys. Here is some respite- get off at Mandi House, take the escalator and find yourself in the world of others’ reality, learn what happened during the partition.

Further, here’s the answer to every “Why should I go to the exhibit?”:

One knows more about the “What?” and “Why?” of the partition, but it’s time to delve into the “How?” of the partition.

There exists a different 1947 and independence in many hearts, away from the rejoiced call of freedom and the attainment of autonomy. “I was traumatised. I was standing there, not knowing what is happening. He- the gunman- was only ten feet away…. he shot at me few times… He missed (everytime). So I started running, ” expresses Ali Shan. Zafar Afaq Ansari further quotes, “I feel like I am a bottled plant, a bottle can be kept here… here… I have no roots.”

According to the 1947 Partition Archives, the Partition gave way to the world’s largest mass human displacement as nearly 1,50,00,000 people associated to the basic need of shelter as a luxury. These affected lives found no place in the public archives, hence 1947 Archive’s creation is a multidimensional textbook.

It introduces and harnesses the latent power of Citizen Historians, comprising of volunteer movement. History bids farewell to lousy lectures as 500 people from over 20 countries become historians, with 1000 interviews in 9 languages- history becomes everybody’s story.

Learn about Usha Bhardwaj’s anarchical holiday in Kashmir and her memories of almost leaving her brother behind on the platform.

Read about Paramjit Kaur Dhanao’s life during the Partition as she narrates her struggle of being separated from friends and family due to borders.

Witness the clenching of jaw as Narinder Kaur Oberoi tells the readers about an incident where a father had to kill his own daughter, fearing the brutality along the borders the awaited their journey, and as Gopi Bhatia mentions the month long communication snap from her father during the period of severe rioting.

Abdus Salam, Adarsh Saran, Puran Dang, Mohinder Singh Chadha and many more have their stories along the walls of Mandi House Metro Station, making its readers rethink the idea of ‘celebrating’ 15th August and wonder how lines along landmass affect lives.

 Image Credit: www.1947partitionarchive.org

Priyanshi Banerjee

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Written by Manju Kapur, a former professor of Miranda House,  Difficult Daughters, published in 1998, is a story of Virmati narrated by her daughter Ida.

The book initially promises to be a feminist tale of a mother-daughter relationship set against the ever so interesting backdrop of Partition, but soon all the hopes and expectations dissolve in a pool of disappointment. As a writer on Goodreads aptly writes, “It mostly concerns itself with peculiar family dynamics, little wars, tiny power struggles – pretty much anything that’s left to women who don’t have any other outlet through which they could express themselves or gain a sense of accomplishment.”

if you are someone who loves to read about the mundane things such as day to day chores, then you will find the storytelling engaging. However, there the plot leaves some important questions unanswered. The whole premise of the story is based on Ida’s quest to uncover her mother’s past, but the readers will never understand why Ida wanted to know more about her Mother’s life in the first place.

The story has many feminist figures like Shakuntala and Swarnlata, while the protagonist feels inspired by them, she never quite embodies feminist values which feel uncomforting. Besides, the uncontested acceptance of Harish, Virmati’s husband and Professor throughout the book is upsetting.

The best thing about Manju Kapu’s writing is that the story moves fluidly through time periods and places- Amritsar, Lahore, and finally Delhi. It is so beautifully done that one actually learns a great deal about the cities and its lifestyle prevailing post partition. The literary life of Lahore and vibrancy of Amritsar is capture very vividly, while Delhi because it appears briefly is given just passing mention.

Overall, Difficult Daughter is a pleasant read, not for its multi-dimensional characters or spellbinding diegesis, but for its evocative imagery.


Feature Image Credits: Good Reads

 Niharika Dabral

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1947- Kashmir’s tug of war

The valley in the north is scenic and poetic and our illusion of Kashmir is sometimes a culmination of televised fiction and reality, but what Kashmir is today is a series of reflections of its historical affiliations, aspirations and allied decisions. The contemporary scenario conjures a need to trace this distressing journey of the favoured daughter caught in the centre of the ugliest divorce in history.

This trajectory begins as 1947 set a liberating and ominous undertone in the air, inviting a tumble of astounding events to Maharaja Hari Singh’s doorsteps. The Maharaja was one of the three rulers that still had a claw over their thrones-the other two being the Nawab of Junagadh and the Nizam of Hyderabad. The sullen king had his days cut out for him as the Indian Army, breathing that same air, would come marching into the Maharaja’s durbar giving him just enough time to make a quiet exit to Pakistan.

Just like many of us who crave the fresh breeze of the Valley, Mohammed Ali Jinnah planned a holiday to Kashmir. As for him, a state with over three quarters of the population being Muslim was destined to come and fall right into his lap. However, the Maharaja’s vision of Kashmir did not involve sitting on a tight rope while India and Pakistan tugged from both sides. He envisioned a Kashmir that thrived on its beauty, free from diplomatic headaches, giving Kashmiris their full right to bask in the abyssal depths of their velvet clad serenity surrounded by pride in their bounties.

The Maharaja’s rejection of Pakistan brought the craze of forbidden fruit in Jinnah’s eyes and hence awoke the volatile Pathan Tribesmen of the north-west frontier with the objective to tip the Maharaja over into annexation. Kashmiri intentions were never to be their own but instead to be engulfed in revisions and manipulations like over protective parents making your decisions for you.

The destructive tribesmen took eager revenge for the blind eye that the Maharaja had turned to the dilemma of accession which led to the Maharaja’s beseech to India as he saw himself being pushed into a circle of manipulations where neither side would let Kashmir retain its integrity.

Nehru’s role is one solely driven by emotions, some over simplifications and some bewilderment. In retrospect, his is a role that must be looked at more deeply on a separate page. On the 24th of October, Nehru attached special accession terms for Kashmir, an extension symbolising destiny’s turn in the Valley for many years to come.

As the leaves of Chinar brought contrast to despair turning from summer lime to spots of mauve, amber, yellow and blood red, a jubilant Menon poured himself a stiff drink on the evening of 26th October. “We have Kashmir. The bastard signed the act of accession. And now that we’ve got it, we’ll never let it go,” he proudly stated.

“A quarter of a century later, Kashmir’s disputed possession would remain the principal subject of discord between India and Pakistan, the one seemingly insurmountable barrier to their reconciliation,” a prediction by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in 1976.

1947-Kashmir’s tug of war is the first part in a series of articles titled ‘Leaves of Chinar.’

Image credits: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/date/2012/10/page/4/

Baani Kashyap

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Historically, we are all aware of the partition of 1947, the splitting of India and Pakistan, a violent episode that led to the death of millions of people and the displacement of ten million people from their homes. Some of us may have even heard our grandparents talking about the tragic events of that summer.

What Khushwant Singh does in his book, Train to Pakistan, is that he narrates the incident with a story around a small, remote village on the border of India and Pakistan where Muslims and Sikhs resided together in peace for many years.  Relatively unaffected by the politic scenario of the country at the time, the villagers had only heard of the gruesome crimes committed on Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs by each other.

Mano Majra is a village were the villagers plan their day’s activities in accordance to the timing of the train that stops at the station nearby. As the reader plods through the novel, this train station turns out to play a crucial role in shaping the climax of the plot. The violence is unleashed early on with the death of the money lender, Lala Ram Lal at the hands of village goons. Shortly afterwards, the badmash  Juggut Singh and a social worker from Britain visiting the village, Iqbal are accused of the murder and rounded up by the police.  Juggut, or Juggu as he’s referred to, is infamous throughout the village but has been wrongly accused of the crime. Iqbal is a cynical and well educated babu sahib who often voices his thoughts about the flaws in the system and the mentality of the villagers.

While they are still in lock-up, an unscheduled train stops at Mano Majra, full of bodies of dead Sikhs. This train from Pakistan is the first gory event that stems from the Partition that the villagers witness themselves, having hitherto merely heard storied of murder, rape and abduction before. After this incident, mistrust, anger and sorrow divide the otherwise friendly villagers with the Muslims deciding it best to leave for Pakistan.  Tension mounts as the Sikhs plan to retaliate by killing off all Muslims in a train to Pakistan, which was also carrying the villagers they’d lived with for many years. Once released, both Iqbal and Juggu are presented with the same opportunity of saving many lives and preventing more bloodshed. Juggu makes for an unlikely hero at the end when he risks all to save the passengers on the train, including Nooran, the girl he loved.

Khushwant Singh narrates the incidents and creates the characters in excruciating detail, thus allowing the reader to visualise. He captures the transition of behaviour and attitude in the characters in a life like manner. The characters, Hukum Chand, the magistrate in particular, are often posed with moral dilemmas and conflicting thoughts. Rather than focusing on the political events, he looks at how they affected common people at the grass root level. He doesn’t condemn any side but rather holds all parties equally responsible for the Partition and the terror it created. Train to Pakistan is a book many have recommended but I had never actually gotten down to reading it. I regret having picked it up so late, for though it is fictional, this book catches human emotions of fear, anger and brutality in a simple yet chilling manner.