As a youngster who grew up in Chandigarh, during my growing up years I only understood that ‘refugees’ were a sect of people, who came ‘here’ from the other side. The other side that our parents’ and our battle scarred generations have come to hate with our heart and soul. But as I grew up and my social circle expanded, I got to peep into their lives, their struggles and their predicaments. As the horizons of my mind broadened, the view towards refugees transformed from being wary, to being respectful and in some cases even proud. Like in this one instance where a fellow blogger who has come to be a very dear friend Dr. Shivani Salil, makes my heart swell with pride with her book ‘Hiraeth’ – Partition Stories from 1947.
In a collection of 24 partition stories, Dr. Shivani Salil touches upon a plethora of issues, challenges and most importantly emotions of millions people who were the victims of one Radcliffe Line drawn by one Englishman that turned over their fate.
Her stories reflect on a gamut of topics ranging from emotional poignancy of people who had to leave their all and start afresh, to the real challenges that these uprooted people had to face in their journeys. The tales depict the agony of people whose fortunes vanished overnight, and of those who led happy and blessed lives but suddenly found themselves at the core of a whirpool that had the potential to completely crush them. Almost all stories cry out the plight of people who were victims, irrespective of which side they belonged to or which side they moved over to.
‘Hiraeth’ is a spine chilling collection of Partition Stories that will make you shift in your seat several times and make you reflect on the darkest chapter of our history where people not only fought but caste atrocities on their own countrymen. Why? Because their religion suddenly became the sole determinant of their nationality and identity.
Dr. Shivani Salil has done a commendable job of extensively researching on the setting of her stories, through both primary and secondary resources. The narration is near flawless as words flow and with them comes deluge of nerve racking emotions that unsettle you with the thought that humanity had to see through this horrific era.
The chapter names derived from Urdu language presented in Arabic font just add to the feel. And the use of vernacular words makes for a reading that immerses you in that period.
I have to mention here that the cover page of the book, captures the essence of the book i.e. partition stories very appropriately.
This is not the first book there is on partition stories. But it is as significant as its predecessors because as the author believes, that the legacy needs to be passed on. That we ought to read, understand and respect the struggles of a huge section of people who were tricked into leaving behind whatever they had and start all over again with twigs offered to them that too, with lots of qualm.