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will help evolve an auUlentic critical position native to the


literature of its study.
Of late, in their efforts to understand the rupture caused
by Partition in the history of the Indian subcontinent,
historians and social scientists have been using l1terature
CRITIQUING PARTITION NARRATIVES:

to access the varied experiences of people in 1947. Official


IN SEARCH OF TOOLS AND LENSES

history has stored statistics of numbers of migrants/


refugees, rapes, murders, etc. Also, there are records of
political debates and positions of leaders regarding the
Partition of the country. At the level of the masses, the
intensity of the experience was so deep and strong that easy
articulaUon of the same was not possible. In fact, there
seemed to have been a deliberate effort at pushing the gory
THE LAST VEW YEARS have seen a substantial focusing on
Parlition literature. But the critical paradigms required for reaUty of those experiences into the subconscious. to be
the study of this massive body of fiction has not received anmesiac about them. From where would the refugee or
adequate attention from lilerary cril1cs in India. While the victim of rape or even the one who may have killed his
neighbours have mustered that extraordinary fortitude to
enough number of Ph.D. dissertations are being wrillen
be able to confront the gruesome past, speCially when the
on this literature. there has not been much effort at evolving
present urgently reqUired their full energy to construct not
an indigenous critical framework to examine the creation
of a convincing Interface between facl and fiction. only new homes but also a new identity. Amnesia served as
a SUrvival strategy. Memory as a site then acqUires a very
imagination and history. and memory and myth In Partition
literalure. Partition had triggered a cultural crisis causing critical importance. as It enables an alternative
a definite tum in the flow of history of the subcontinent. interpretation of history. Millions of people traumatlsed into
Both the geographical as well as the cultural context of silence found voice In the writer's use of memory that
the phenomenon determined the nature of the experience. negotiated tbe present in the light of Ole past. The revived
Indeed, the creative expression of the same too was fillered past In Mohan Rakesh's short story, ~Malbe ka Malik" (MHls
through a consciousness that cherished the values, Heap of Rubble"). for instance, Is regenerative because it
traditions and myths, beliefs and failhs rooted in this brings the protagonist to tenns with the present. Manifested
region. The writer discovered his/her own mode of in literature, such fragments of memory, in the words of
expression. tropes and metaphors, and a fresh Idiom to the well-known Pakistani writer. Bapsi Sidhwa. sought a
give shape to the raw experience that entailed the division poetic license. MLahore would keep burning" fol- an inordinate
of the country. In the light of the need for theoretical length of time in memory. Sidhwa said, till it Is confronted
wherewithal for the study of Partition literature. this paper squarely. In order to reconstruct the event. a fresh
argues for a concerted effort to not only consolidate the configuration of memory is bound to take place when filtered
dispersed critical perceptions but also to examine the through the present. The devices used by the writer may be
uncharted range and variety of Partition experience. This u,at of Interrogation, introspection, or even a faithful and
clinical depiction of evcots of the past.
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Even though etched in collective consciousness. Partition to recover moments of solidarity and connectedness. Whilc
experiences remained unartlculated and buried in the Krishna Sobti's Zindaginama brings alive an era of perfect
wasteland of memories. It needed several decades for society co-habitation of different communities, Kamleshwar's Hindi
to bring to the conscious levcl what lay submerged in the novel, Laute Hue Musafrr. is an example of communities coming
minds of people for so long. The creation of Partition literature back together after the dispersal caused by the Partition.
led to a revival and. to borrow Foucault's words. a resurgence These are just a couple of examples from amongst many
of hidden suppressed histortes that deslabiHse and challenge fictional narratives which demonstrate a vision of prioritising
the official ones. The nightmarish past had to be exorcised. It communal harmony in the wake of bitter memories of the
had been a time when humanity seemed to have surrendered violence of Partition riots.
to bestiality completely. whether through victlmhood or by There are many stories in Hindi and Urdu that explore
indulgence in an act of vioLence. The archives of memory personal memory as a means of relocating identity. An intense
collected in literature speak abundantly for the subaltern process of remembering actually becomes an act of
expertence which has been overshadowed by official history, re-membering, of healing and putUng together the fragmented
Khushwant Singh's A Train to Pakistan, Bhisham Sahni"s bruised self in order to recover the dignity of human living.
Tamas. Joglnder Paul's SLeepwalkers, Intizar Husain's BasLi Evoking the past through subjective memory and then finding
and many other novels recalled the past as a rupture that ground in the new reaJity became an effective device for the
has been followed by continual reenactments of the same process of reshaping identity. In Lalithambika Anthcujanam's
phenomenon. The project of an engineered ~forgetling." story. "A Le'af in the Storm." the protagonist does not need to
whether conducted by the individual, the society or the state. recall. but in effect she has to rid herself of the memory of the
came under scrutiny with the production of powerful literary brutal rape she suffered durtng Partition; only then would
texts that reveal the different colours of Partition. it the new reality of the baby in her womb get any space In her
questioned both the censoring as well as the denial of psyche. It is the direct physical consciousness of the
movement of the baby in her body that connects her with her
) experience.
The numbness in the psyche of those affected by partition
had been like the lull after a devastating storm or an
new identity, Memories can be like shadows, haunting and
oppressing an IndiVidual till death.
earthquake. It was a sense of beWilderment. a Memory can indeed become a burden. There are many
dumbfoundedness. a stony sllence as also a sense of characters in Partition fiction who feel doomed because they
helplessness. On the other hand, the country had just cannot forget, or they want to cling to their sweet memories
acqUired the long sought after freedom. Hundreds of people of the pre-Partition past. if only to escape from the reality of
had become martyrs in the struggle for independence and the angst generated by the cruel present. In the Urdu story
there were counUess numbers of scil1ess, idealistic freedom by Joglnder Paul. ~Dariyaon Pyaas" ("Thirst of Rivers"). the
fighters. The euphoria of freedom and a deep sense of angUish old woman does not part with the bunch of keys of the haveli
over the Partltlon riots could not really be contained or that she and her family had to abandon when they migrated
experienced Simultaneously. I\n ulter confusion followed the across the border. She actually believes that she will be able
contradictory nature of the circumstances. The multiple uses lo open the locks of her son's new house with those keys.
of memory include the usc of nostalgia. of taking a sentimental She cannot forget and remains stuck to her past.
journey Into the beautiful past. as if to salvage humanity, or It took the sensitivity. keen observation and the
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extraordinary objectivity of a creative writer to witness. identify From subjective. individual memory to collective memory.
and articulate the plurality of the experiences of Partition. and moving on to connect with a non-linear cultural
The writers captured moments of compassion and love from mythology. Partition narratives churned up symbols that
within the scenario of the brutality of degenerate humanity. corresponded with notions and myths sanctioned by the
And If there was a representation of bizarre violence. It was society. The point of reference for the symbols used is then
portrayed In such a manner that It aroused disgust through that of the memory lying in the storehouse of culture. For
the ~aesthetics of the ugly." What is noteworthy Is that a large instance. the Urdu writer Intizar Husain used the notion of
body of good fiction was written In PunJabi. Urdu. Hindi. ~hijrat" to describe migration and exile. In a llterature that
English. Sindhi and BangIa, not with any avowed didacticism dwells so much on cultural rootedness. critical appreciation
or melodrama. but to confront the truth of the felt experience. has to develop SUitable tools and resources for the formulation
This process held up a mirror to the society. a mirror that of a relevant critical theory.
offered a closer look at both. the warts as well as the blossoms "What place do you come from?" This is a question asked
of humanity. of each other after the initial greetings even today when
An aesthetic rendering of the incidents of Partition. be it former refugees - now a very senior generation of people _
that of migration or rape or murder. and an excavation of the meet. both in India and in Pakistan. This highlights the
deeply wounded psyche of the victim as also of the agent of compelling desire to reestablish some contact. If not with
violence. continued to be of deep concern to creative writers. the place. at least wHh someone who may have come from
specialiy to those who experienced the trauma of Partition the same town or city as themselves. The strong sense of
themselves. It was the writer who had the courage to face place In Manto's story, "Toba Tek Singh" gets further
such experiences with acute alertness and explore the accentuated when it is revealed that ~Toba Tek Singh."
working of the human mind at the collective as well as the beSides being the protagonist's name. is also the name of
individual level. Even if the action was not a pre-meditated

/ one. there was a compelling need to figure out the makings of


a mind that could so easily indulge In barbarism. What is
pertinent to note here Is that literature Is not created either
the town to which he belonged - an instance of complete
identification of the person with the place of his origin.
ParUtion severed this strong relationship physically. bUl
perhaps that is the very reason that psychologically it
to document sociology. or to provide any historical evidence. became even stronger. ~This is Lucknow" - thus begins
It is not written to prove any political viewpoint either. What JOginder Paul's Urdu novella. Sleepwalkers. It is actually a
Is paramount Is the writer's commitment to search for truth statement made about KarachI. because the mohajlrs had
through a non-partisan narration of life-experience. without Carried their Lucknow in their minds to Pakistan. This sense
compromising essential human values such as social justice. of territoriality holds within itself also a sense of specific
compassion and love. In an atmosphere of combative feelings. ancestry. norms. moral order and a special <!Ultural meaning.
hurt. vengefulness and repugnance. the writer felt the need The massive migration of people In 1947 meant many a story
to nostalgically recall the value of the earlier sense of emerging from the experience of exile. Critical theory alien
community and connectedness with the neighbour. which to thls culture would not hold good for an adequate reading
had transcended any kind of communalism. Krishna Sobti's of these narratives.
Hindi story. ~Slkka Badal Gaya" and Abdullah Husseln's The exodus ofkafllas (large groups ofpeoplel had no defined
Udaas Naslein come to one's mind in this context. destination. it was a journey to exile and homelessness. To
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suffer an exodus of this nature, for people who otherwise in creative literature. lJterary criticism needs to interpret
cherished the long entrenched notion of neighbourhood as them in the light of the worldviews upheld in Ule society
family, was in itself totally disconcerting. And to make it worse, which has produced that literature. Only then can it have
it was a journey through a grotesque dance of violence. 'The credibllity.
child who reached safety is dead, It cannot speak. The living The cultivated genocide and organised violence experienced
chUd who could have spoken has been lost on the way"- tWs by the Jews in the West during the Holocaust cannot compare
perception, expressed in Gulzar's story, "Ravi Paar" speaks with the kind of spontaneous violence experienced during
for the quality of silence of those who became pernlanently tbe Partition riots. It would not be right therefore to use the
exiled and suffered a throttling of speech. Their journey into same paradigms for critiquing the literature emerging from
their selves remained forever an "Unwritten Epic" (the title of the two phenomena. The survivors of Partition clearly perceive
a story by Intizar Husain). Their disowned memories are Partition as an end of a certain kind of innocence, thc
sklllfully retrieved by the creative writer and empathetically innocence of a shared culture and the sense of togetherness
given a language. In Jamila HashmJ's story, "Banished," the that had evolved over centuries between Hindus and Muslims.
acute alienation of the woman married to the man who Qurratulain Hyder's River ofFire. a post-Partition nove], traces
abducted her is projected as the story of Sita whose exile is the history of negotiation and the process of mutual
never going to end. assimilation of cultural practices of Hindus and Muslims. It
Even the "rehabUitated" woman could not regain access offers a vision of a gradual developing of composite culture in
to the normalcy of Interpersonal relationship. Official India through a sharing of rHuals. languages as well as
rehabilitation programmes could not de-condition the essential worldviews. The unprecedented violence between
mindsets of people. of both men and women, from shedding the two communities dUring the Partition riots came as a
notions of "honour" related to "purity." "chastity" and so on. shock.
of woman. The abducted "fallen" woman could not be In fact. the suddenness of the rioting was so mJnd-boggUng

) accepted in the hearts of people even If officially there were


enough programmes to rehabilitate them. Rajinder Singh
Bedi unravels this pertinent truth in his story "Lajwanti."
that. as evidenced in many a fictional representation of this
violence In literature. there is greater sanity in the reaction
of characters who were actually taken to be mad. The
After Lajwantl Is located and taken back by her husband. absurdity of the hatred. the violence and in fact the Idea of
there is a mutual inability on their part. with both Lajwanti Partition itself was perceived rather easily by the characters
and her husband unable to ask the right questions and Who were considered insane. such as Manto's Toba Tek Singh,
resolve the strain in their relationship. It is obvious that Deewane Maulavi Sahib of Sleepwalkers and JarnaJl In
even Sunderlal. who raises slogans for the rehabilitation Tamas. A critic who is not eqUipped with the history of the
and acceptance of abducted women. is unable to give her nature of these composite cultures in India may not bc able
normal space. An understanding of such culturally defined to comprehend the full significance of the metaphor of lunacy
norms of liVing and relationships - whether with the Used so effectively by the writer. The Uterary works mentioned
neighbour or WIth one's own Wife. daughter or mother ­ shake one out of all complacency bccause such writing is an
needs to be built Into the critical framework required for a act of faith and conviction. They have a sense of Immediacy
closer look at Partition e>.-periences and their impact on the and urgency about them. and draw upon the eXistential
re-orientations in modem India. If the sllences are identified Contingencies of ordinary people trapped in tbe grand designs
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becomes a must for an intimate understancUng of the gender
of politics. The imaginative transcription of history in such Issue In relation to Partition experience. This book is a good
literature creates meta-history or meta-narration, extracted critical and conceptual intervention in charting the
painfully from the courageous dialectic between history and complicated situation of women as victims as well as agents
llterature. The orthodoxy of official history is Impressively for action. It delineates both, how Partition cnppled the lives
demolished through narratives like Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking of hundreds of women, and also how it became an enabling
Indio., Abdullah Hussein's Udt;las Naslein or Manto's story experience for many women who launched a confident
"Mozel," as each of these stories offer a different perspective struggle thereafter to work out a new identity for themselves,
often through a great deal of enterprise. without feeling any
on Partition.
While journalistic writing in the immediate aftermath of need for male support.
Partition thrived on descriptions of savagery and indulged What is also being argued here is the need to apprise one's
I self of the entire range of perceptions and insights already
in what came to be called "pornography of violence," creative
literature sought to work out the aesthetics of presenting derived by critics, social scientists, hlstonans, psychologists
savagery with a human face. The tension of violence In and others for a multi-disciplinary, incUgenous critical theory
\ GuIzar's Urdu story "Khaul (Fear) and the extremely that could consolidate and make possible a fuller study of
I delicate handling of actual violence and Its psychosis by Partition literature.
Sa'adat Hasan Manto in such Urdu stories as "Khol Do" Looking at the ficllon written in all the languages
(Open it) and the vignette "Siyah Hashlye" (Black MarginS) mentioned earlier in this paper, one notices that an
arouse a repugnance for what happened. Here the exhaustive body of Partition narratives bas been generated
presentation of violence in itself acquires a therapeu tic in the five decades follOWing the independence of the country.
value. Urvashi Butalia's book. The Other Side oj Silence, What are the reasons for this almost obsessive focus of so
records the personal stories of many survivors of Partition many writers In the country? Is it the incomprehensibility of
violence, many in the form of confessional chronicles of the catastrophic event as it took place In the writer's own

) unacknowledged experience. Sharing is in itself


empowennent. And, notWithstanding the distortions that
may have come with the tricks that memory can pLay or
personal life, or is it the bafllement with the collective tragedy?
Is it written to cogruse the degeneration of humanity. if only
to come to tenns with it? Does it have a therapeutic value? Is
wltb the change of perception over time, recalling and It catharsis that we are after? Or then. Is it a concern with
articulating the "other side" of silence provided a lot of people lhe on-going communal strife sporadically flaring up into
with an indirect acknowledgement of their own suffering, Violent riots in various parts of the country? Didn't, for
Fictional narratives, when Juxtaposed with subjective and InSlance. the 1984 communal flare-up, when the demon of
confessional sharing. reveal different dimensions of the divisive forces again raised its head, take us back to 19477 Is
Partition then perceived as the soil In which the seeds of
same experience.
Closely reviewing the status and condition of women during communal diVide were sown? Do the personal. polJUcaJ.
Partition, Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin perceptively and naUonal and cultural crises come together in this large body
systematically bring to use personal narratives. some literary of Partition literature produced in the last five and a half
examples and official records for their research. Since the decades?
material is all grounded in the society that actually went A timely unified aesthetic comprehension of Partition at
through Partition. their book, Borders and Boundaries,
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4"

the human level would perhaps help in evolving a much better


studies together and create a climate for a balanced
ethos for composite living and harmony in the country. Bu t
understanding of Inter-commUnity relationship. An aesthetic
when aesthetics is marglnalised by the mire of political
apprehension of Partition is bound to evoke sensJtivlties
interests and religious fanatlcism. then literature remains
relevant to present times; and the nostalgia for the multi­
within the conflnes of academia or an elitist readership. The
ethnic, multi-religious co-habitation should not be dismissed
society at large cannot benefit from the invaluable Insights
as sentimentalism. Why not nostalgia if it can save humanity
to be found between the covers of books. How could one not
from pathological psychic distortions and perversions?
be moved by the fate of the little child in Bhlsham Sahni's
"PaIL" a story In which the child undergoes religious
conversion twice and Is trapped in the meaninglessness of
dogmatic religious affiliations? The process of demonising the
"other" through the politics of divisiveness leaves no place
for Ashfaq Ahmad's DauJI. a character In his story "Gadana"
(lhe Shepherd"). Daujl Is a Hindu Pandlt seeped In Persian
language and culture. He Is humiliated dUring the riots. One
has to know the story of that hannonious "Ganga-Jamuni"
culture from the inside, to be able to realise the acute tragedy
of Dauji.
Thanks to new historiography and fresh epistemological
methodology. fictional as well as personal narratives now
command due recognition for the role they play in offering
Insightful perceptions. and in developing a substantial

/ knowledge-base for the study of an age. a culture. an historical


event. as also a political scenario. Even an understanding of
the nature of the writer's imagination offers insights on the
times and the social context he or she was situated In. Literary
criticism cannot exist as an isolated. autonomous activity. It
must evolve from the very literature it examines. Since
literature emerges from specific assumptions about life and
living patterns. critical theory too has to take cognizance of
not only the same vortex of bel1efs. assumptions. and
metaphysics. but also the language and Its meaning. so that
it can access the specificity of the experiences recorded in
l1terary texts.
In an age when fanaticism. communal strife and the
politics of divisiveness are on the rise. it becomes imperative
to take stock of dispersed perceptions, bring specialised
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141

exchange of these matenals between IndIa and Pakistan due


to the intermittent political tensions. But how can we have a
~political division of Urdu." as the eminent Hindi writer
Kamleshwar so succincUy put it.
Short stories from India and Pakistan selected for the
IN MIDSTREAM: THE URDU SHORT STORY IN
volume, Mapping Memories (199B) capture vital dimensions
of the human predicament in the subcontinent. The
INDIA AND PAKISTAN

immedIacy wJth which the narration affects the reader's mind


speaks for the stark authentiCity of the expeIience presented.
WhiJe they are all so deeply rooted in their specific socio­
cultural contexts, the spirit of these stones belong to a realm
where human connections are easily perceived.
Both in the fabulist form and the mythopoeic content. lntl7.ar
OVER CENTURIES IN THE subcontinent. Urdu has been chiselled HUSain's story. "The Pale Dog: Surendra Prakash's "Bijooka"
and polished as a language for fine aesthetic articulation of and Joginder Paul's ~Khodu Baba's Tomb" directly narrate the
the human spinL A nch repository of what is called a Ganga­ tale of the shared cultures nOUrished by India and Pakistan.
Jamunl culture flows within Its stream on the plains of India They could have been written by writers of only India or
and Pakistan. This is a culture of assimilation. negotiation Pakistan. not by a writer from, say. LaUn America or from
and of a coming together of a variety of ways of living and of Yen closer home. SrI Lanka. Again. Zahida Hina's story
"Mirage on Waters." Farkhanda Lod.hl's "Remains of Desire"
storytelling.
Urdu is lractitionally known for its sham, Lines from the and Qurratulain Hyder's "Honour" delve into gender
Urdu ghazal and nazm. whether by Ghalib. Iqbal. FLraq or orientations typical in our societies. They evoke stereotypical
Faiz. are recited even by non-Urdu literates. But little does ideas of female beauty. the cherishing of female honour in the
the world outside the Urdu community know of the highly changing world and the new quest of women in relationships.
developed art of the short story in thiS language. In both In Mansha Yad's "Fireflies in a Clenched Fist." the urban
Pakistan and India, writers in Urdu have created a very woman reacts existentially to the staleness of her routine
significant and vibrant body of short fiction in the last fifty melropolitan Bfe. This finds its match in the absurd fate of the
years. This is really a continuation of the tradition evidenced Incarcerated man in Salim Agha Qazilbash's ''The Unit." The
in pre-Partition times. The Hindu. Buddhist and IslamiC man has to choose his own punishment for a crime he did not
cultures pooled themselves into dastaango~ the Indo-Persian Commit. Another story told with a sensitive contemporary
art of story-telling. which. coming down to the present times. temper, "The Man Hanging in the Chauraha" hy Anwar Qamar
also came under the in11ucnce of western cultures with the snares the reader Into Its nightmarish captivity. In Syed
colonial rule and gradually evolved into jadeed afsana, Ule Mohammad Ashrafs "Aadmi," the man becomes a captive _
flat of animals, but of man. On the other hand. interestingly,
modem short story.
On both sides of the borders. literature in UrdU haS lJlltrao Tariq's "The Last Station" accords to people an equally
prospered through extensive publication of journals aJld [Tightening freedom. Ironically. not only to become fugitives
books. Unfortunately. there has not been a very easY but also to remain in that state. perhaps forever.
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Both Enver SalJad's "The Cow" and Jeelanl Bano's "Joy"


are well-known stories. They delicately portray the diminishing
compassion In modem life. A qUiet message lies woven in the
narrative of Bano Qudsia's story. "The Son's Letter." The
solitary old man in the story goes on and manies his maid ...
life moves on. Life moves on even when Raffu becomes NEGOTIATING THE ORIGINAL:

prepared to stake his life to get five rupees. in Gyas Ahmed LANGUAGE/CULTURE INTERPACE IN

Gaddfs story. "The Sun that Sets." ENGLISH IN INDIA

The Urdu stories of India and Pakistan reveal a variety of


dimensions of life In the subcontinent through diverse styles,
ranging from the fable to the abstract. from the realistic to
the symbolic and the absurd. What impresses one about the
book, Mapping Memories. is how the diversity of the stories
collected in it tends to In fact suggest a commonality of IN WHICH INDIA DO the Naipauls and the Rushdies discern mimic
concerns. Boundaries collapse when fiction explores the truth men or translated men? While they have the advantage of
of living contexts In India and Pakistan. distance which may accord them an objective perspective.
the disadvantage of the same is a narrow focusIng on the
urban and over-articulate westernised Indian - just a
minuscule percentage of the millions of people existing in
the much larger and culturally rich rural and semi-urban
territories of India. Multilfngualism as well as pluralism
flOUrish when each linguiStic group can retain its identity
and yet co-exist With the other in harmony. The uniqueness
of any language. in fact. Is an expreSSion of the cultural
particularity of the people who have been using it. Jts specific
gestures and Signs evolve from the way people may relate
with nature. with the world and with each other. The
philosophy of eXistence of a people then weaves itself
inextricably into the pattern of communication practised by
Ulem. Such dynamics of relaUonship between culture and
language leads to the evolVing of suitable metapRors. idioms
and the very syntax of the language.
A one-to-one. non-hegemonic interaction between two
languages offers a boost to the churning that can give btrth
to fresh ideas and experiences. If there is movement in a
people's language. there is a movement in the culture they
Rrow into. in their approach to life. to God. A qUiet and gradual