Bettelheim, a survivor of the Holocaust, once said: “What cannot be talked about also cannot be put to rest. And if it is not, the wounds continue to fester from generation to generation.” Indian society seems to be going through that phase at present, trying to put to rest its ghosts of the past that did not find a closure. The “memory” of those ghosts seems to be around us, taking over the role of history and controlling the Indian psyche. Today’s Indian seems to have jolted out of slumber: he is going into the past, dwelling into memories of events lived through by his ancestors and challenging the story as told to him through school textbooks. In the process, he is giving birth to controversies that tear at the national fabric built over the past seven decades and the very foundation of national identity.
Many issues, supposed to have been relegated to oblivion, seem to be staring us in the face with a raw intensity unimaginable a few years ago. From social media to drawing room conversations, there is a debate on what was assumed to have been put to closure by earlier generations. There is a sense that our historians have let us down, by burying what we, the people, should have known. There is a talk about trans-generational trauma (TGT) affecting the Indian mind in the light of invasions and colonial rule. TGT, discussed until recently only in academic circles, in the context of holocaust or genocide, finds mention as a possible determinant of current national identity. This trauma is defined as a memory of a painful event that was overwhelming at the time it happened and didn’t find a closure— passed on from generation to generation. TGT exists as a psychic wound and is passed through epigenetic transmission: through silence and stories that are never told at family get-togethers and forbidden from discussions.