Author revisits Partition horrors with new book : The Tribune India


Neha Saini

Amritsar, April 2

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, the award-winning author, who gave us The Long Walk Home and The Taj Conspiracy, got candid about her latest book Lahore, the first in Partition trilogy by her. In conversation with Mandira Nayar, renowned senior journalist and Mazhar Abbas, lecturer in history, Government College University, Faisalabad, Pakistan, in an online session by Majha House, the talk was centered around her book in Lahore. Sharing the idea behind planning to write the trilogy, she said, ‘I think it was my hometown, Ferozepur, which made me a writer. Since Partition, it has always been a hotbed of militant activities because it is a porous border; people can just swim across the river. My engagement with partition, the 84’ riots and Ferozepur made me write this book.”

Talking about Lahore, Mazhar Abbas said Lahore has always been a rich seat of culture. He said if before partition Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived together harmoniously as neighbours, they still continue to do so. ‘Lahore is the heart of all Punjabis, whether Indian and Pakistani continue to live together in peace. All the temples of Hindus and Sikhs continue to coexist with mosques. We cannot erase the ghosts of Partition but we can try to heal those wounds with love and peace,” said Mazhar. Continuing to talk about the forces and motives behind the book, Manreet said one major force was highlighting the role and fate of women during and after Partition. ‘Women suffered a lot in this period but their tragedies are not much talked about. They were kidnapped, raped and murdered but how much do we know about their trauma? I personally know many women, some of them my neighbors, who were kidnapped and raped and later rescued. I think it is terrible that women are told to just repress their feelings and stories and to move on. So, I wanted to address this gap,’ said Manreet.

To this, Mazhar added that he was not happy with the word ‘freedom’ and that ‘Partition’ covers more ground. ‘It was a game played by men but the tragedy was that women had to pay the price. In the book too there is a dialogue that echoes this exact sentiment. We all need to ask why women are treated as mere bodies in this power play between men,’ he said. Mandira pointed out that book is not fiction but historical fiction as many incidents and people are drawn from real life.

Manreet said, ‘Literature like ‘Train to Pakistan’ taught me that Queen’s English could be effectively used to convey the pain and trauma of Punjabis. For bringing in an authentic touch to the book, I searched for people, who had suffered in any way; I spoke to them, heard their stories and had to chronicle them. I learned that no one’s hands are clean. That shook me and that’s how this book came to be. But whatever the history, we have to exorcise these ghosts, let people meet and try to come together as much as we can.”

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