In the seven decades since India was partitioned, more than 25 million refugees have crossed the new frontiers mapped out by Radcliffe. A holocaust that is still fresh in our memories, its wounds yet to heal, its repercussions irrevocable. The unbelievable human savagery that wrought the lives of millions of common men who had nothing to do with the decision, gave birth to many works of literature. Today, we call it ‘Partition literature’. Manto, Ismat Chugtai, Bhisam Sahni, Kushwant Singh are all names that came to the fore, in the wake of the biggest human holocaust that the Indian subcontinent witnessed. Dr. Shivani Salil’s stories written with the Indian Partition as the central theme takes one back to those harrowing days, which is today a history writ in our veins.
Salil has touched every single segment of the society in her stories and in doing so, has taken into account the minutest details. This goes on to show her tremendous efforts in research (geographical areas, local diction, food habits, clothing, etc.)
Through these 24 stories, Salil has created moments from the pages of history. A young Muslim lawyer who idolises Jinnah’s philosophy and hopes to see a new country for Muslims only to realise the falsehood of his utopia later, a sister who gets a postcard with a tattered picture of her brother after 60 years of the mayhem that took her away from her family, a young bride who loses her husband to the massacre and builds her life from scratch yet again, a mark etched on a Hindu house by mistake that saves the lives of its inhabitants (all unmarked houses were burnt down), a young mother who died out of hunger and sickness in a refugee camp with the guilt of not being able to give milk to her newborn, a Sikh father who killed his own daughter for saving the family honour at the hands of rioters…Salil touches these raw nerves of human emotions through her stories and creates spectacular moments that are both tenuous and distinct.
The author’s usage of Urdu/Hindustani words (with the English meaning of each word in the footer section) and mostly Urdu titles for the stories adds to the authenticity.
Tales that touches the inner chords, tales of falling asunder, tales of enormous hardship and tales of resurrecting life again, Dr. Shivani Salil’s ‘Hiraeth’ tells them all and how!
This book should is for all to read, especially our children, who need to know this significant event of our recent past that changed the course of life forever in the Indian subcontinent.
Rating – 4*/5