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Here’s Why Harinder Sikka is India’s Very Own Jeffrey Archer

It is in Harinder Sikka’s stories that ordinary people find themselves thrust into the most extraordinary circumstances and emerge victorious. The following three excerpts, each from his unputdownable bestsellers, showcase Mr Sikka’s masterful storytelling.

 

In Gobind, we meet a young man born into poverty, whose determination to rise above his circumstances leads him to join the Indian Navy. Yet, beneath his shining success lies the weight of unfulfilled promises and unrequited love. There are decisions he must make and promises he may have to break.

 

Vichhoda reveals the story of Bibi Amrit Kaur whose life is shattered by the violence of the 1947 riots, propelling her into a new existence in a foreign land. Despite the pain and loss she endures, her spirit remains unbroken!

 

Calling Sehmat, inspired by true events and adapted into the hit film Raazi starring Alia Bhatt, is the extraordinary journey of a young Kashmiri girl thrust into the world of espionage. Sehmat’s tale explores the sacrifices made in the name of patriotism and the indomitable courage of an unsung heroine.

 

Read the three excerpts below to discover more!

 

Gobind
Gobind || Harinder Sikka

 

As the sun emerged from the distant horizon, the fields too began changing colour. The rapidly strengthening sun rays turned brighter with every passing minute, turning the dark and dense looking crops into a lush green landscape. Tiny golden-yellow flowers on top of the crops looked as if each plant had been knighted with a golden crown by mother nature. All kinds of birds emerged from their deep slumber and filled the atmosphere with a burst of chirpy sounds.
The entire village was soon bathed in different hues. Not to be left behind, the animals too began walking around their territories, marking, urinating on every pole, tree and bush. The farmers too began making a beeline on the snake-like thin track to their respective fields. Their farming tools hung from their shoulders like weapons saddled on the shoulders of soldiers enroute to the battlefield. Nature in its full glory was like a beacon of peace, love and tranquility all round.

 

Gargling and spitting the water out, Ranjit Singh accepted from his wife an old piece of cloth that was once a garment, re-stitched to serve as a face napkin. While handing it back to Amrita, he looked at her inquiringly, ‘Where’s Gobind?’

‘Oh, he has already left for the fields. Says he will come back in three hours and go to school afterwards,’ she replied.

 

The cloth napkin slipped out of Ranjit’s hand and fell on the wet floor between them.

 

‘Which fields?’ he asked, his face filled with shock and surprise.

 

‘To work in Bihari Lal’s field. Before leaving home, he told me that he wished to earn while he studied. I couldn’t stop him. He just left without discussing it further.’

 

Ranjit was speechless. His young, school-going teenage son had taken a decision to work part-time, without even consulting his father.

 

‘I don’t know what to make of all this. Working part time isn’t wrong. In fact, I am happy for this will inculcate discipline in him. But all of a sudden? I will ask Bihari ji what’s he up to.’

 

Amrita bent down to pick the cloth from the floor. Then, flapping it in the air repeatedly, she tried to remove the excess water it had absorbed from the wet floor and flung it on the clothesline to dry. She turned towards her husband and looked straight into his eyes. ‘Maybe we should leave him alone. Let him discover himself. He didn’t sleep well. He even sat up on the cot in the middle of night to say his prayers. He was unsettled last night after your stern talk. But he looked different this morning and very charged up when I met him, before he left quickly. There’s this visible change in him that I have never seen before. I am happy and worried.’

 

‘Prayer? Gobind? And how do you know he has changed?’ Ranjit’s face was now filled with confusion.

 

‘Because I am his mother.’

 

Ranjit’s eyes followed Amrita as she went inside the room. Then, wiping his hands on the cloth napkin that Amrita had just hung, he turned his attention outside. He lifted himself up on his toes and looked in the direction of the large haveli with vast green fields where his son was supposed to be working. His eyes scanned the horizon but couldn’t see Gobind. Turning back, he walked inside to find Amrita standing at the entrance, watching her husband.

 

‘Please stop worrying. You’ll get late for work. Get ready; I will get your breakfast. Your tiffin is also ready. Please don’t forget to take it along.’

 

Amrita’s affection-filled instructions relaxed Ranjit to some extent. Stepping into the room, he sat down on the floor while Amrita served him breakfast. It was the same food that he had eaten last night. He ate in silence. But his mind was racing in many directions while Amrita rotated the hand-held fan on its swivel. Before leaving home for work, he stood before the lord’s picture hung on the wall, joined his palms and murmured so softly that even his own ears couldn’t hear his own words.

 

‘With your permission, dear lord, I wish to go to work. It’s a new day, an amazing one at that. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Only you, dear Guru Gobind, can help my son, Gobind.’

 

***

Vichhoda
Vichhoda || Harinder Sikka

In 1950, after three years of Partition, the prime ministers of the two warring nations, Liaquat Ali Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru, signed a treaty which gave freedom to the women of both countries to return home. Bibi opted to stay back in Pakistan as her world revolved around her two beautiful children and doting husband. But destiny had something else in store for her. Even though Bibi had mostly confined herself to the four walls of her home, word of her mesmerizing and breathtaking sharp features had spread in the region. Given her marital status and the enormous respect her husband commanded, no one had dared cast an evil eye on her. Yet, there were men who never missed an opportunity to look at her discreetly and sigh lustfully.

 

Following the government’s directives, the station house officer (SHO) of the district issued orders to all villages, directing the women of Indian origin to confirm in writing their decision—live in Sadali as Pakistani citizens or return to India. Sakhiullah was away on a business tour for a few days. Bibi read the circular and signed the documents, confirming Muzaffarabad in Pakistan as her choice of residence. The havildar, who came to collect the document, was awestruck by Bibi’s beauty—her sharp but delicate features, porcelain skin and petite figure. He found it difficult to take his eyes off her and was filled with desire. Sensing his intention, she picked up her children and rushed inside. Her behaviour rebuffed him for the time being. However, the havildar couldn’t stop thinking about her. Back in the police station, he recounted the incident to his colleagues.

 

Unknown to the havildar, the SHO, Irfan Chaudhary, was eavesdropping on his poetic description of Bibi’s exquisite features. He was so intrigued by what he heard that he felt compelled to see her. The next day he drove all the way to Bibi’s home and knocked at her door. Bibi opened the door—her head covered, her nine-month old son resting in her lap. Their eyes met. He had not seen anyone quite as pretty, elegant and desirable as Bibi. Recovering somewhat, he managed to ask for her residential status. By now, Bibi had sensed something in his reaction as well. She responded uncomfortably, ‘My husband is coming home tonight. He will personally come to your office tomorrow and complete all the formalities.

 

The SHO smiled shamelessly, enjoying the many shades of pink that were appearing on Bibi’s face in quick succession. ‘No, no,’ he replied with an intention to extend the dialogue. ‘I don’t want to bother your husband. This is just a small formality, yet it must be completed at the earliest. There’s a police chowki in this village itself. You can come and sign the documents and be done with it. That will close the matter once and for all. Now that you are legally married to a Pakistani national and have two sons, the formalities won’t take much time,’ he added slyly.

 

Bibi was perplexed. She tried to think and then looked at the SHO’s face, who smiled hopefully and repeated, ‘It has to be done today, Bibi, otherwise I wouldn’t have troubled you. Please have mercy on me. There are many more homes to go to.’

 

Bibi couldn’t think of a suitable excuse. She had no choice but to go to the police chowki within the next hour. The SHO left, smiling cunningly.

 

Bibi hurriedly finished her daily chores and discussed the matter with the elderly women in her locality. Given the circumstances, she felt it was best to consult others as well. At their advice, she requested her next-door neighbour to babysit for her. However, another neighbour decided to accompany her to the police station. Bibi felt relieved that she wasn’t going alone. A local tonga was hired and the two burqa-clad women reached the police chowki, which was located on the outskirts of the village. To their surprise, they found a policeman eagerly waiting for Bibi’s arrival. However, seeing an elderly woman accompanying her, he stopped them at the entrance and went inside the small, makeshift chowki. They waited. A short while later, the policeman came out again. He walked towards the duo and asked the elderly lady to wait outside while he took Bibi inside to sign the papers

 

This seemed reasonable enough, so Bibi went in. She found the SHO sitting across a table—his eyes glued on Bibi, as if trying to pierce through the black veil. A bunch of papers and an inkpot with two wooden pens dipped in the holder were lying on the right side of the large wooden desk. Bibi sensed his intentions and grew uncomfortable. The SHO quickly removed one of the pens from the inkpot and placed it in front of Bibi. She hurriedly signed the documents without even reading them. Then she stood up in a hurry and was about to leave when the SHO rushed to the door and bolted it from inside.

 

Bibi,’ he said, looking at her lustfully. ‘What you have just signed is sufficient for me to send you back to Hindustan. It says that you’re not interested in living in Pakistan and would like to go back to your country. But if you do wish to live here, then spend the next hour with me . . . I’ll make sure you stay here with your sons and their father, or else . . .’ he looked straight at her. ‘It’s up to you. Decide quickly.’

 

***

Calling-Sehmat
Calling Sehmat || Harinder Sikka

 

Sehmat was the only child of Tejashwari Singh and Hidayat Khan, a successful and rich Kashmiri businessman settled in the Valley for many decades. Tej, as Tejashwari was fondly called, belonged to a rich Delhi-based Punjabi Hindu family.

 

Hidayat and Tej fell in love during her visit to Srinagar. On a cold winter afternoon Tej was walking around the serene surroundings of the Himalayan paradise and, on an impulse, entered one of the boutiques selling pashmina shawls. The beauty of the designs was such that they pulled her towards themselves and soon she was looking through the many that were displayed inside the shop. Tej was wondering what to take back to Delhi for her friends, when a pleasant voice drew her attention from behind.

 

‘May I help you?’

 

Turning around, Tej found herself looking into the light brown eyes of a stranger. He was tall, about an inch or two above six feet and wore an off-white Pathani suit. She was struck by his openness and simplicity.

 

Smiling, Tej asked him about the famed Kashmiri shawls on display. The man moved about the shop with a quiet authority, which made Tej believe that he was the owner of the sprawling emporium. After selecting a few delicately woven pashminas, Tej made for the cash counter to settle her bills.

 

‘Are you visiting Kashmir for the first time, Ma’am?’ His voice was now soft and inquiring.

 

She stopped to respond.

 

‘No, I have come here before and it is always peaceful and soothing,’ Tej replied, a slight smile playing on her lips. Wanting to hear more of his rich voice, Tej went on to tell him about her holiday and how she loved the Valley.

 

Conversation between the two flowed easily. Soon, they introduced themselves to each other. ‘I’m Hidayat,’ he said.

 

‘And I am Tejashwari. My friends call me Tej,’ she responded.

 

‘Can I call you Tej?’ he was quick to ask.

 

‘Please do,’ she replied, clutching her packet of shawls and moving towards the payment counter. She glanced at the bill, looked at it again, and then at Hidayat questioningly.

 

‘Can’t make profit from friends, can I? Hence the discount,’ he responded smiling.

 

Hesitantly, Tej paid the money, thanked her host and headed for the large door of the emporium. A slow warmth filled her heart as she walked out. Somewhere deep inside, she was surprised that a brief meeting with a complete stranger could arouse such strong feelings in her. With a sinking heart, Tej realized that this could be the last time she would see him or hear his alluring voice.

 

Hidayat stood at the door of his shop with a bemused expression on his face. He could not hold himself back.

 

He addressed her again, the door chime tinkling in the background. ‘Can we meet in the evening? I could take you to some interesting shops to select souvenirs to take back home.’

 

Tej found her voice caught in her throat.

 

So this was not the last time she would meet him?

 

Silently, she nodded. Her heart was wildly beating as she walked away. There was a strange excitement in her heart and a desire to meet him again. She walked some distance, then stopped and turned back to look at the boutique, only to find Hidayat still standing at the entrance, waving at her. She lifted her hand in acknowledgement and moved on. The melodious door chime was still ringing in her ears when she entered her hotel.

 

That evening, Hidayat rushed through his daily chores of balancing the shop accounts and locking up the emporium. He arrived at the hotel well before sundown and found Tej reading a magazine in the plush hotel lobby. That she was surprised to see him at the hotel was visible on her face. Knowing that her parents would not take kindly to a stranger taking their daughter on a guided tour, she hurriedly went up to him and asked him to wait while she convinced her parents about a short trip to the marketplace by herself. She was able to do that and in a few minutes Tej was back in the lobby, her face slightly flushed.

 

Slowly the two made their way to the marketplace. They took a leisurely walk around the lake, dodging tourists. Their slow-paced walk was often interrupted by locals who greeted Hidayat, some even asking him for his advice on investing in business and personal matters. It seemed strange to Tej that a man so young was so sought after by not only those his age, but by older people as well. Tej realized that Hidayat was not only respected but also loved by the folks in the city.

***

Get your copy of Gobind, Vichhoda, and Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

Scars of partition on Dr. Manmohan Singh

The India-Pakistan partition resulted in a sea of emotions in those who witnessed it. The pangs of separation of family members echo to date. Rajeev Shukla, in Scars of 1947, pens down the stories of people and families who faced the consequences of the partition firsthand. One such story is of the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who hailed from the Jhelum district (part of present-day Pakistan). Let’s read an excerpt from the book to find out how partition hit Manmohan Singh and his family.

*

Scars of 1947
Scars of 1947 || Rajeev Shukla

The year 1947 was Manmohan’s final year in school. The matriculation exam took place in the month of March. The communal tension during this time was getting worse every day because of the impending partition of the country. He sat for his exams in an environment filled with harrowing sights of violence; the results were never announced for the exams as Peshawar went on to become a part of Pakistan.

In 1947, the Hindu–Muslim clashes had begun, and they became more and more violent with each passing day. At [Manmohan Singh’s] village, Muslims outnumbered all others and as a result, the village had two masjids and one gurudwara. One day, when the tension between the communities was at its peak, it was decided by the elders of the village that they would sit with each other and try to diffuse the tension with discussions. The elders of the village, who were Hindu, Sikhs and Muslims, were called. However, the youngsters of the dominant Muslim community planned a massacre and killed all the Hindu and Sikh elders, among whom was Manmohan Singh’s grandfather who had brought up young Manmohan and of whom Manmohan was very fond. When his grandfather was killed, Manmohan was living with his father in Peshawar. One of his uncles who lived in Chakwal sent an unfortunate four-word telegram to his brother (Manmohan’s father) in Peshawar that read, ‘Mother Safe, Father Killed’. Manmohan was about fifteen years old at the time and says that he still remembers that dreadful telegram message. He says that on the one hand, this group of young Muslim men tricked and killed his grandfather and on the other hand, in that very neighbourhood, there was a Muslim family who hid his grandmother and protected her from the bloodthirsty mob.

These incidents from his childhood were so deeply etched in his memory that while working for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in the United States of America, when he was invited by his friend to Pakistan, he could not resist visiting. His friend Mahbub-ul-Haq had studied with him at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He later served as the finance minister of Pakistan. Mahbub used to stay in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in those days. It was in 1968 that Manmohan Singh visited Pakistan. After the Indo-Pak War of 1965, the relations between the two countries were at its lowest, but Manmohan could not say no to the invitation extended by his very dear friend and visited Rawalpindi, a place he used to visit often in his schooldays. There, he used to visit a particular bookshop and during this trip, it was in the same shop that he found himself gripped by all the nostalgia from his childhood.

After that, he visited Gurudwara Panja Sahib situated in Hassan Abdal (Attock in Punjab, Pakistan) where his naming ceremony had taken place. When he was asked why he did not visit his birthplace, Gah village, which was nearby, his answer expressed the sadness that he had been carrying in his heart for years. He said that he did not visit his village because he did not want to inflict on himself the same emotional trauma by going to the place where his grandfather had been massacred brutally.

During the peak of the violence that had erupted there a the time of Partition, all the houses were burned to the ground; so Manmohan was unsure if there even was anything left to see. His uncle who used to live in Chakwal till 1947 had visited Gah village with a police contingent and had taken the remaining Sikh and Hindu women safely to Chakwal, where they were accommodated in a refugee camp. Manmohan said that not all the women could be saved from the horrendous riots, his own aunt and her mother chose self-immolation to save themselves from being violated by the mobs.

**

To read in-depth about the incidents that followed, get a copy of Scars of 1947 from your nearest bookstore or order online.

An Unresolved History: A Legacy Of Partition

By Urvashi Butalia
It is close on two decades now that I have been researching and writing on the human histories of Partition. As story upon story unfolds, and terrible, painful histories begin to emerge, it does not, contrary to popular wisdom, become any easier to deal with them.
One of the many grave consequences of Partition—and one which remains all the more prevalent today—has been the ease with which so many Indians and Pakistanis fall into a pattern of mutual demonisation, so that virtually everything, whether it relates to bombs, or to violence or to foreign relations or to territorial claims, can be laid at the door of the ‘other’. If it was not so serious, it would be laughable: imagine two mature, intelligent (if one can use those terms for nation states) countries in the twenty first century placing virtually every failure at the door of the ‘other’. Indeed so powerful is the jingoism, and so deep the suspicion, that attempts to move out of that are seldom successful.
The story below provides an illustration of this.
I once received a letter from Pakistan, sent by a young man called Tanveer Ahmed, who had made it his mission in life to bring his grandmother, originally from Kashmir, to Indian Kashmir to meet her siblings, and he wrote to ask if I could help in getting her a visa. 
His letter started by recounting the facts of his story. They are as follows: 

  • I have been trying to re-unite my maternal grandmother with her siblings since 1989, having met them that year (They live about 90kms apart, divided by the LOC since October 1947)
  • After objecting for many years, my maternal grandfather finally agreed to allow me to seek an Indian visa for my maternal grandmother after learning of the death of her younger brother. He even expressed interest himself in visiting her remaining family members.
  • Being a British citizen (I have lived in the UK since the age of 4) it was obvious that I would seek my Indian visa from London (I have been to India twice before—1989 and 1993). After meeting the concerned Visa Officer and outlining my reason for travel, he stipulated that I should request a fax from my relations in India to verify our relationship. After confirming that to be the only stipulation, I duly received a fax from my Indian uncle in Rajauri and presented it to the visa officer. He, in turn, expressed that he found it impossible to believe that Hindus and Muslims could be related and insisted that I re-apply for my Indian visa from the IHC in Islamabad. He was at pains to insist that IHC (Islamabad) would merely request an NOC from IHC (London) and that I would promptly receive my visa within a matter of days. He even gave me his personal phone number in case of any problem with IHC (Islamabad). On his persistence, I felt I had no option but to trust him on his word despite my scepticism.
  • When I applied in Islamabad, I was initially told to check after a few days, then a couple of months, then I was told that my case was in the Indian Home Ministry pending approval. After a few months, I was informed that the issue could take up to two or two and a half years.
  • I also applied for the LOC crossing in November 2005 only to learn a few months ago that people applying after me have been and come back.

Tanveer wrote in desperation, anxious to find a way of getting his grandmother to Indian Kashmir to meet with her relatives. Concerned that both her age and her heart condition would make it increasingly difficult for her to travel, he gave up his job in London to come to Pakistan and devote all his energy to achieving the goal he had set himself.  To him, getting his grandmother to Indian Kashmir was not only a personal mission—she was the one who had brought him up as a child—but also a way of contributing to the lessening of tension between India and Pakistan. He saw visits to and reunions with relatives across borders as one way of doing so. As he said:
My personal and professional experience of life equips me well to make a positive and constructive input into Indo-Pak Relations. It’s a real pity that neither country has been able to read that about me thus far. I completed a cycle ride from Torkhem (Pak-Afghan border NWFP) to Wagah (PAk-Indian border Punjab) in the sweltering heat recently to display my seriousness for peace between the two countries. I aim to continue this cycle ride from Attari to Kolkatta as soon as my grandmother has been re-united with her family.
Despite his best efforts Tanveer Ahmed’s labours continued in vain, with little hope of a visa being granted for his grandmother to travel to India. With some help from him, I was able to explore this story further and to meet with his grandfather in England, and as the story unfolded, other aspects became clear.
His grandfather was among the many Pathans, men who came to Kashmir in October of 1947 as part of what has come to be known as the raiders’ attack. A little over sixteen at the time, Tanveer’s grandfather said he knew very little about why they went to Kashmir, but that as a group of young boys, they found the whole enterprise to be something of an adventure. At some point they came across a group of young girls who were running away from the violence, in search of safety. The boys divided up the girls between them, and Tanveer’s grandfather married the girl who came to ‘his share’.
At the time, the assumption was that her family had all been killed. She converted to Islam and stayed on with her husband in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, believing all the while that everyone else in her family was dead. After some years, her husband moved to England, and she stayed behind, and it was a chance encounter with a relative of hers in England—a distant cousin—that led her husband to the discovery that some members of her immediate family had survived and were still living in India-administered Kashmir. And among them was her brother.
Keen to go back to what she still thought of as her home, Tanveer’s grandmother began to focus all her energy—as so many Partition survivors do—on meeting her family again. But her husband, fearful of this new element in their lives, was not at first willing to let her go. Eventually he agreed, but at that stage, it was bureaucracy and the political standoffs between the two countries that continued to work against this family.
As with so many Partition stories, this one too remains unfinished in its telling. Many years later I heard from Tanveer that a visa had finally been granted and his grandmother did finally manage to go to her family home across the border. What we do not know is what that visit meant to her – did it finally resolve something for her? Put a closure on a history that had so far remained unfinished, perhaps incomplete? And what did this search mean for Tanveer, born after Partition, with no direct memory of it, but with its constant presence in his life? These are questions to which we’re not likely to find satisfactory answers. These are questions that still do not easily enter the histories of our countries for the tension between history and memory prevents us from seeing how they can so fruitfully overlap and enrich each other.
This story is in no way adequate to even begin to understand the complex and multiple legacies of Partition that stretch their long arm into the present of India and Pakistan and that still influence the ways in which both nations and indeed their peoples relate to each other. There are not many countries in the world where, after seventy years, the divide is still so deep politically, that any contact is difficult, sometimes, as in Tanveer’s family’s case, virtually impossible, and looked upon with suspicion. No matter that travel restrictions have eased in the last several years but there is still the very real fear that the moment things go wrong in the India-Pakistan equation, the first thing to be affected will be the issuing of visas. Traumatic histories leave many scars that take several generations to heal, and India and Pakistan are no stranger to these, but the opening up of contact, the easing of travel barriers, the issuing of visas—these things signal a return to the ‘normal’ behaviour that is so necessary for nation-states to own, regardless of how terrible their pasts have been.
AUTHOR BIO:
Urvashi Butalia is a publisher and writer based in Delhi. She is co founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house and now runs Zubaan, an imprint of Kali. She has written and published widely on a range of issues. Among her published works are a co-edited volume, Women and the Hindu Right: A Collection of Essays, Speaking Peace: Women’s Voices from Kashmir and the award winning history of Partition: The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India which has been translated into eleven languages. (Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Assamese, Marathi and French, German, Bahasa, Japanese, Korean)

 

“Where I sweated and wilted, Edwina was as cool as a cucumber”, 'The Last Vicereine' — An Excerpt

In the spring of 1947, Lord and Lady Mountbatten set foot in the sultry heat of Delhi. A woman of unparalleled charisma, influence and beauty, Edwina Mountbatten was also one of Jawahar’s closest. Little did anyone know that their lives were about to change forever as lines would be drawn through the soul of undivided India.
A beautiful, heart-breaking tale of love, loss and unflinching faith, Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang’s The Last Vicereine takes us through a blossoming relationship that was one of a kind, amidst the storm of Partition.
Here is an excerpt from the novel:
My God, India was hot! Standing on the tarmac at Palam airport, the heat took my breath away. Everything was white. My eyes ached from the brightness. Had I been living so long in the darkness that I had forgotten the light?
Where I sweated and wilted, Edwina was as cool as a cucumber. We had landed ages ago and the boxes were mostly unloaded. The Viceroy and Vicereine Designates had been received by the waiting dignitaries and Dickie had long since finished inspecting the guard of honour. Yet she tarried.
She stood about ten feet away from the foot of the steps to the aircraft. All fizz and sparkle, her weight resting seductively on to one hip, she was deep in conversation with two Indian men. Already, they were under her spell. They were Liaquat Ali Khan, General Secretary of the Muslim League, and Jawaharlal Nehru, Vice President of the interim government. Both of them were famous and I recognized them immediately from newsreels, papers and books. The handsome, charismatic Nehru was the man most likely to be the Prime Minister of the new independent India after we left. But it looked like Edwina knew them personally. She had greeted them like they were long-lost friends. Now she was chatting animatedly, talking French style, with her hands and shoulders, as was her way.
The rest of us were gathered by the cars, waiting to leave the airport. Dickie’s face was inscrutable. But he pulled awkwardly at the hem of his jacket as if trying to straighten it when it was not creased. It was getting embarrassing. She was almost flirting. Did she know she was keeping everyone waiting? If she did, she didn’t seem to care.
Squinting and shading my eyes against the sun, I saw that now Nehru was doing the talking. He must have said something very funny for Khan rolled his eyes to the sky and all three of them burst out laughing.
It was a relief when at last we got in the cars.
‘Best keep the windows up as much as you can once you enter Delhi,’ the young British officer from the 14th Punjabi Regiment warned. He closed our car door gently, almost as if he were tucking children up in bed.
I was squashed between the side of the car and Ronnie Brockman who seemed owl-like in his spectacles. He, in turn, was wedged against a bulging padlocked briefcase and Elizabeth Ward. Just after we landed Edwina had thrust the shoebox containing the tiara into my hands for safe keeping. Tenderly, I cradled it in my lap as the cars sped towards New Delhi.
On the outskirts of the city we stopped so that Edwina and Dickie could transfer into the horse-drawn landau for the final leg of the journey to Viceroy’s House. I could not see the point of such a show for there was a marked lack of crowds to welcome the new Viceroy and Vicereine. Out of nowhere, I remembered that in 1912 someone had thrown a bomb at the elephant carrying the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, and his wife when they were passing through Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. The Viceroy had sustained serious injuries, and the mahout had been killed. And now Dickie and Edwina were out in front in the open-topped carriage. They smiled through clenched teeth at the non-existent crowds, and hated one another. They had not exchanged more than a few words during the whole flight.
Through the windscreen of the car I watched the landau with its mounted escort of the Viceroy’s bodyguard, wheel past India Gate. Facing the Gate was a high stone canopy underneath which stood a monumentally square, almost Soviet-style statue of King George V.
‘Look!’ Ronnie Brockman pointed to the great cupola dome of Viceroy’s House. In the distance, it seemed to float on a cushion of the palest blue. ‘Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Isn’t it magnificent?’ Ronnie had been in New Delhi during the war when he was Secretary to Lord Louis in his capacity as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia. He was gearing up for the role of tour guide. ‘The city of New Delhi was commissioned in 1911, and designed by Lutyens and his colleague Herbert Baker. It is in a unique style, as you will see, combining Western classicism with Indian decorative motifs.’ Elizabeth and I nodded dutifully. Judging the danger of bombs, stones and Molotov cocktails to be minimal by this point, I rolled the window down.
There was no wind, not even the promise of a breeze. The pennants on the lances of the Viceroy’s bodyguard barely moved. The men were tall in their turbans, splendid in white breeches, black jackboots and red jackets. The hooves of their horses clattered as they rode a neat collected trot.
‘North Block, South Block.’ Ronnie Brockman was feeling at home, proudly indicating the two great administrative blocks of red sandstone, one on either side of the road, each topped with its own miniature dome. Here was the heart of the British Raj that ruled over four hundred million people. I wondered who might be looking down at us from behind the black unblinking windows. The size and the scale of the buildings made Whitehall look like a toy town. Surely it was Britain that was ruled by India, not the other way round?
Grab your copy of ‘The Last Vicereine’ here today!

7 Lessons of Communal Harmony from India’s first President that are the Need of the Hour

Written by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India Divided is a first-hand testimony of what went on behind the Partition that forever changed the lives of the people in the Indian subcontinent.
Dr. Prasad’s book not only traces the origins of the Hindu-Muslim conflict but also explores how Partition was an unviable solution to a question that has remained unresolved till today.
Here are seven instances from India Divided which show us why it’s important to seek peace, love and mutual respect on either side of the line
When one must not forget to remember that a society does not thrive in isolation and that history does not begin with loss.
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When the stakeholders must remember that a solution does not seek lives, but is in the interest of one and all.
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When one must not forget that ‘homogenous’ people is perhaps not an answer to the question.
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When one must realise that oppression, in any form, can never help a society progress.
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When one must emphasise on the importance of an inclusive society.
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When one should hark back to the times of complete peace and harmony, a state that is perhaps not unachievable.
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And when one must not forget that years ago, the natural state of cohabiting for Hindus and Muslims, was not in neighbouring nations.
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Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s words help us find our bridge over troubled waters even years after he wrote them. Grab your copy of India Divided here today!

25 Must Reads On the 70th Anniversary of Partition

India’s freedom from the British rule was stained by the horrors of its partition. The reverberations of the event over the last seventy years have been encapsulated in several books, plays, and other forms of media.
Here is a list of 25 books that capture one of the most defining moment of our history.

Midnight’s Children


Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is an epic novel that opens up with a child being born at midnight on 15th August 1947, just at a time when India is achieving Independence from centuries of foreign British colonial rule. Highlighting the relation between father and son and a nation yet in its nascent stage, it is an enchanting family adventure with lots of human drama and shocking summoning.

Lifting The Veil


Ismat Chughtai in Lifting the Veil explored female sexuality with unparalleled frankness and examined the political and social mores of her time.

Train to India: Memories of Another Bengal

Train to India
As a young boy, Maloy Krishna Dhar, made the perilous journey to India from the East Pakistan. The partion in Bengal had its share of tragedy, of lives unmade and lost, but it is relatively less chronicled than events in Punjab. Maloy Krishna Dhar’s Train to India is a graphic and moving account of that turbulent and unforgotten era of Bengal History.

The Shadow Lines


As a young boy, Amitav Ghosh’s narrator in The Shadow Lines travels across time through the tales of those around him, traversing the unreliable planes of memory, unmindful of physical, political and chronological borders. Bits and pieces of stories, both half-remembered and imagined, come together in his mind until he arrives at an intricate, interconnected picture of the world where borders and boundaries mean nothing, mere shadow lines that we draw dividing people and nations.

Midnight’s Furies


Nisid Hajari’s Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition shows how Partition, which has created such a wide gulf between two countries whose people have so much in common, has given birth to global terrorism and dangerous proliferation.

Sunlight On A Broken ColumnSunlight On A Broken Column

On a backdrop India’s struggle for independence, Laila, an orphaned daughter of a distinguished Muslim family, fights for her own independence from the claustrophobia of a traditional life. With its beautiful evocation of India, its political insight and unsentimental understanding of the human heart, Sunlight on a Broken Column, first published in 1961, is a classic of Muslim life.

Partitions

With India’s partition in 1947 as its reference point, the novel presents a limitless canvas against which the most extraordinary trial in the history of mankind runs its course. Kamleshwar’s Kitne Pakistan dared to ask crucial questions about the making and writing of history.

 Amritsar to Lahore by Stephen Alter

A sensitive and thoughtful look at the lasting effects of Partition on everyday people, Amritsar to Lahore describes a journey across the contested border between India and Pakistan in 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of Partition. Offering both the perspective of hindsight and a troubling vision of the future, Amritsar to Lahore presents a compelling argument against the impenetrability of boundaries and the tragic legacy of lands divided.

The Broken Mirror

The Broken Mirror by Krishna Baldev Vaid tells the story of Beero and his group of friends against a backdrop of partition of India. Beero’s passage through adolescence is told through a series of eccentric characters. When partition becomes a reality, in a time of terror and carnage, the insane turn out be the only ones sane.

Unbordered Memories

If Partition affected the lives of Sindhi Hindus, it also changed things for the Sindhi Muslims. In Unbordered Memories, Sindhis from India and Pakistan make imaginative entries into each other’s worlds. Many stories in this volume testify to the Sindhi Muslims’ empathy for the world inhabited by the Hindus, and the Indian Sindhis’ solidarity with the turbulence experienced by Pakistani Sindhis.

Making Peace With Partition

The Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 left a legacy of hostility and bitterness that has bedevilled relations between India and Pakistan. Reviewing the turbulent history of their past relationship, Radha Kumar analyses the chief obstacles the two countries face in the light of the new opportunities and challenges that the twenty-first century presents.

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Manto’s stories were mostly written against the backdrop of the Partition. Bitter Fruit presents the best collection of Manto’s writings, from his short stories, plays and sketches, to portraits of cinema artists, a few pieces on himself. Bitter Fruit includes stories like A Wet Afternoon, The Return, A Believer s Version, Toba Tek Singh, Colder than Ice and many others.

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This collection brings together some of Manto’s finest stories, ranging from his chilling recounting of the horrors of Partition to his portrayal of the underworld. Powerful and deeply moving, these stories remain as relevant today as they were first published.

Mottled Dawn

Mottled Dawn by Saadat Hasan Manto is a collection of stories based on the India-Pakistan partition. The stories written around 1947 put forward the most tragic events in the history of the subcontinent.

Manto: Selected StoriesManto

Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories are vivid, dangerous and troubling and they slice into the everyday world to reveal its sombre, dark heart. These stories were written from the mid-1930s on, many under the shadow of Partition. No Indian writer since has quite managed to capture the underbelly of Indian life with as much sympathy and colour.

India Divided

Written by the first President of India, India Divided traces the origins and growth of the Hindu–Muslim conflict, gives the summary of the several schemes for the partition of India which were put forth, and points out the essential ambiguity of the Lahore Resolution. Finally, it concludes that the solution for the Hindu–Muslim issue should be sought in the formation of a secular state, with cultural autonomy for the different groups that make up the nation.

Mr and Mrs Jinnah: The Marriage That Shook IndiaSheela Reddy in Mr and Mrs Jinnah brings forth the marriage that convulsed the Indian society with a sympathetic, discerning eye. A product of intensive and meticulous research in Delhi, Bombay and Karachi, and based on first-person accounts and sources, Reddy sheds light on how the politics of the time affected the marital life of misunderstood Jinnah and wistful Ruttie.

Tamas

A timeless classic about the Partition of India, Tamas is also a chilling reminder of the consequences of religious intolerance and communal prejudice.

Bengal Divided: The Unmaking of a Nation (1905-1971)

In 1905, all of Bengal rose in uproar because the British had partitioned the state. Yet in 1947, the same people insisted on a partition along communal lines. Exploring the roots of alienation of the two communities, Nitish Sengupta peels off the layers of events in this pivotal period in Bengal’s history, casting new light on the roles of figures such as Chittaranjan Das, Subhas Chandra Bose, Nazrul Islam, Fazlul Huq, H.S. Suhrawardy and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee.

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In Mukul Kesavan’s Looking Through Glass, a young photographer on a train to Lucknow suddenly finds himself in the deep end of 1942.  His hindsight tells him that Partition will destroy this world. And in his desperate struggles to avert the inevitable, we discover, often with an almost unbearable poignancy, how the possibilities in India’s past were squandered, some wantonly, others accidentally.

RegretRegret

A collection of two novellas—Regret and Out of Sight, the stories skilfully evoke the long shadow cast by the violence of Partition. While Regret brilliantly recreates a childhood shattered by the Partition of India in 1947, Out of Sight recounts the story of Ismail, who narrowly escaped the carnage of 1947 in his youth. Now, looking back on his life and despairing of the sudden resurgence of sectarian violence in Pakistan.

Memories Of Madness: Stories Of 1947

The tragic legacy of Partition haunts the subcontinent even today. Memories of Madness brings together works by three leading writers who witnessed the insanity of those months—Khushwant Singh, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Bhisham Sahni. As moving as they are disturbing, the stories in this volume are of immense relevance in these times, for they constitute a chilling reminder of the consequences of communal politics.

The Other Side of Silence
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Pieced together from oral narratives and testimonies, in many cases from women, children and dalits— marginal voices never heard before— and supplemented by documents, reports, diaries, memoirs and parliamentary records, this is a moving, personal chronicle of Partition that places people, instead of grand politics, at the centre.

Partition: The Long Shadow

The dark legacies of partition have cast a long shadow on the lives of people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The borders that were drawn in 1947, and redrawn in 1971, divided not only nations and histories but also families and friends. The essays in this volume explore new ground in Partition research, looking into areas such as art, literature, migration, and notions of ‘foreignness’ and ‘belonging’.

Remembering Partition: Limited Edition

The Remembering Partition Box Set is a collection of five iconic books which look at the different faces of partition, from the larger political and historical view to the very personal tales of hatred, grief, courage and friendship.

 
 
On the 70th anniversary of partition, which book are you picking?
 
 
 

5 Books You Must Read in Remembrance of the Partition

The pain of partition accompanied the joy of freedom for India. Even after seventy years, the horrors of violence still haunt the two countries.
The Remembering Partition Box Set is a collection of five iconic books which look at the different faces of partition, from the larger political and historical view to the very personal tales of hatred, grief, courage and friendship.
Here are the five books that commemorates one of the most defining moments of our history.
 Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh
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 Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa
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 This Is Not That Dawn by Yashpal
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The Great Partition by Yasmin Khan
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In Freedom’s Shade by Anis Kidwai
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Pick up this collection and re-visit the heart-rending event.
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Subh-e-Azadi, An Anguished Evocation of the Pain of Partition

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is widely regarded as the greatest Urdu poet of the twentieth century and the iconic voice of a generation. He is best remembered for his revolutionary verses that decried tyranny and called for justice. In his poem, Subh-e-Azadi, he expressed the anguish and disappointment of Partition and the cost that the Indian subcontinent paid for freedom from the British rule.
Subh‐e Azadi
Yeh daagh daagh ujaalaa, yeh shab gazidaa seher
Woh intezaar tha jiska, yeh woh seher to nahin
Yeh woh seher to nahin, jis ki aarzoo lekar
Chale the yaar ki mil jaayegi kahin na kahin
Falak ke dasht mein taaron ki aakhri manzil
Kahin to hogaa shab-e-sust mauj ka saahil
Kahin to jaa ke rukegaa safinaa-e-gham-e-dil
 
Jawaan lahu ki pur-asraar shahraahon se
Chale jo yaar to daaman pe kitne haath pade
Dayaar-e-husn ki besabr kwaabgaahon se
Pukaarti rahi baahein, badan bulaate rahe
Bahut aziz thi lekin rukh-e-seher ki lagan
Bahut qareen tha haseenaa-e-noor ka daaman
Subuk subuk thi tamanna, dabi dabi thi thakan
 
Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai firaaq-e-zulmat-o-noor
Suna hai, ho bhi chukaa hai wisaal-e-manzil-o-gaam
Badal chukaa hai bahut ehl-e-dard ka dastoor
Nishaat-e-wasl halaal, o azaab-e-hijr haraam
 
Jigar ki aag, nazar ki umang, dil ki jalan
Kisi pe chaaraa-e-hijraan ka kuch asar hi nahin
Kahaan se aayi nigaar-e-sabaa, kidhar ko gayi
Abhi charaag-e-sar-e-raah ko kuch khabar hi nahin
Abhi garaani-e-shab mein kami nahin aayi
Najaat-e-deedaa-o-dil ki ghadi nahin aayi
Chale chalo ki woh manzil abhi nahin aayi
 —Faiz Ahmed Faiz
 
The Dawn of Freedom, August 1947
 This light, smeared and spotted, this night‐bitten dawn
This isn’t surely the dawn we waited for so eagerly
This isn’t surely the dawn with whose desire cradled in our hearts
 
We had set out, friends all, hoping
We should somewhere find the final destination
Of the stars in the forests of heaven
The slow‐rolling night must have a shore somewhere
The boat of the afflicted heart’s grieving will drop anchor somewhere
When, from the mysterious paths of youth’s hot blood
The young fellows moved out
Numerous were the hands that rose to clutch
the hems of their garments,
Open arms called, bodies entreated
From the impatient bedchambers of beauty—
 
But the yearning for the dawn’s face was too dear
The hem of the radiant beauty’s garment was very close
The load of desire wasn’t too heavy
Exhaustion lay somewhere on the margin
 
It’s said the darkness has been cleft from light already
It’s said the journeying feet have found union
with the destination
The protocols of those who held the pain in their
hearts have changed now
Joy of union—yes; agony of separation—forbidden!
 
The burning of the liver, the eyes’ eagerness, the heart’s grief
Remain unaffected by this cure for disunion’s pain;
From where did the beloved, the morning breeze come?
Where did it go?
 
The street‐lamp at the edge of the road has no notion yet
The weight of the night hasn’t lifted yet
The moment for the emancipation of the eyes
and the heart hasn’t come yet
Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet
—Translated by Baran Farooqui
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Demystifying Faiz Ahmed Faiz- 6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Poet

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is one of the greatest Urdu poets of the twentieth century. He is loved and remembered for his revolutionary verses, his delicate subtlety, and his soulful poems of love.
The Colours of My Heart, translated by Baran Farooqi, celebrates some of Faiz’s greatest works. It also includes an illuminating introduction to Faiz’s enchanting life and legacy.
Here are 6 little known things about the poet who continues to inspire us:
He studied philosophy and English literature in Lahore and finished an M.A. in Arabic.
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Naqsh-e-Fariyaadi (The supplicant’s portrait), his first collection of poems, was published in 1941. All his collections are small, and even they contain some unfinished poems.
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He was even deprived of writing material during the period of his imprisonment. His poems were smuggled out of prison or sent out with his letters and circulated widely.
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The poem expresses disappointment on two levels: The Partition and the carnage that accompanied it.
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Faiz was also active in the trade union movement. In 1951, he also became the vice president of the Trade Union Congress, the labour wing of the Communist Party of Pakistan.
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Faiz marked this recognition as a humbling experience.
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So, which is your favourite Faiz poem?
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