We've drawn up a list of 5 books that offer the most unique perspectives at the partition. From a book that explores history through material objects to one that looks at the mental impact of the bloodbath, this reading list should keep you engaged.
Remnants of a Separation (Non-fiction)
Oral historian and artist Aanchal Malhotra captured in her book, Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition Through Material Memory, a new insight into the partition that one wouldn’t expect to arise from nostalgia. This book, published by Harpercollins India in 2017, looks at objects that crossed borders during the partition—a maang-tikka, a ghara, a refugee certificate, among others, and tells tales of migration in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
What first began as a thesis for her MFA called the Museum of Material Memory turned into a book with a series of 19 interviews and coloured photographs of the objects. You can buy the book here.
Mental Asylum (Fiction)
In 1947, when the nation was divided into India and Pakistan, everybody was impacted. But how often do we talk about the patients inside mental asylums in both nations, who were transferred across borders? Almost never. In his book of short stories called Mental Asylum, author Anirudh Kala has woven fiction around the Muslim patients in India who were exchanged for the Hindu and Sikh patients in Pakistan, and its consequences.
You can buy the book here.
The Secret Diary of Kasturba (Fiction)
Accounts from a female perspective during the Independence struggle in India are rare to find, and those around the subject of Mahatma Gandhi, even rarer. The Secret Diary of Kasturba is a fictional account of Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba written by Neelima Dalmia Adhar that explores themes such as Gandhi’s questionable celibacy, role as a father and husband (or lack thereof) and decisions in the freedom struggle
Although the text is fictional, and in what the author imagines to be Kasturba’s voice, it is around facts that transpired then. You can buy the book here.
Cracking India (Ice Candy Man)
Cracking India, also known as Ice Candy Man is a unique novel on the partition written by Pakistani writer, Bapsi Sidhwa. 8-year-old Lenny Sethi, a young Parsi girl suffering from Polio in Lahore narrates gruesome and shocking incidents around her as the divide of the countries takes place. Could you call it something between When Hitler Stole My Pink Bunny and The Diary of Anne Frank? We think so.
The movie Earth by Deepa Mehta is inspired by Sidhwa’s novel.
You can find a copy here.
Mottled Dawn by Sadat Hassan Manto
The literature written by Sadat Hassan Manto is said to be some of the bravest. This is so because his short stories and novels were always written with the partition as a backdrop, and don’t shy away from themes such as rape, bloodshed and violence. One of his most famous short stories, Toba Tek Sen, explores the patients in an asylum who will be transferred to India after the partition.
The book, Mottled Dawn anthologises Manto’s work and shows 50 such stories and sketches by the writer that focus on the partition. It has been translated from Urdu into English by Khalid Hasan.
Buy it here.