As Indians it is important for us to know our history and its various narratives that brought the dawn of August 15, 1947. The linear history of our independence that we read in our school history books is not even half of the reality behind the mass movement. It is imperative to know different perspectives in order to understand how India got its independence. Because, independence was not only about celebration but it included violence, abuse, dislocation and bloodshed.
Below is a list of few remarkable narratives on partition and independence of India that throw light on different realities of the independence movement.
A Train to Pakistan
A Train to Pakistanby Kushwant Singh is a historical novel based on Partition of India, 1947. The novel occupies a special space in partition literature because of its focus and details on the human lives affected during the partition. It does not deal with the socio-political nature of partition. Rather, it provides a humanistic view of the event, showing its ground reality, horror and bloodshed. The novel is set in a fictional village, Mano Majra. The villagers belong to both Sikh and Muslim community residing together peacefully in the country otherwise ravaged by communal violence. The village remains unaffected by the communal divide outside its outskirts until the partition is announced. After partition, a group of religious agitators incite Sikhs against the Muslims and vice versa. As a result, a local Sikh community is convinced to exterminate the Muslims in a train to Pakistan. Embedded within the darkness of the communal violence, is a love story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl and how it survives the bloody communal hatred.
A Train to Pakistan(1998), a movie directed by Pamela Rooks, was based on the novel.
E.M Forster, a British author, wrote the book A Passage to India. It was first published in the year 1924. The novel is set in the background of British Raj in India and the Indian Independence Movement of 1920.
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The Midnight’s Children
Salman Rushdie is the author of the novel The Midnight’s Children, published in 1981. The book is an example of post-colonial, magic realist and postmodern literature. As the title suggests, the book is about the group of children born on the midnight of 15 August 1947, the hour when India gained independence. They are depicted as children with special telepathic and magical powers. The chief protagonist of the novel, Salim, also a ‘midnight child’ narrates his story as a 32-year-old. This self-reflexive narration by a man as old as the independence of India becomes an allegory of independent India and the cultural and religious changes that accompanied it.
The book has won both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1981. It was awarded the ‘Booker of Bookers’ Prize and the best all-time prize winners in 1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker Prize 25th and 40th anniversary. In 2003, the novel was listed on the BBC’s The Big Read poll of the UK’s “best-loved novels.” It was also added to the list of Great Books of the 20th Century, published by Penguin Books.
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The Ice-Candy man
Bapsi Sidhwa wrote the novel The Ice-Candy Man, first published in 1988. It is the description of the horror of partition from a Parsi child’s perspective, Leny. Eight-year-old Leny is a crippled child of an affluent Parsi couple. She spends most of her time with her ayah, whom she loves as her ideal. Besides the ayah, she is also close to a few other people: Sikh zoo-keeper, the Pathan, strong Imman Din, and Ice-Candy Man. The novel is a narration of the heart-wrenching events that accompanied the partition and ended up in abduction of Leny’s ayah. It is also an important account of the violence committed on women during the Partition. The novel shows how women during partitionbecame the victim of both communal and gender violence. The cinematic adaptation of the book was Earth, one of the trilogy directed by Deepa Mehta in 1999.
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empireis one of the most controversial books written on partition in 2007. Written by Alex Von Tunzelmann, the book traces all the major events and few political figures that made partition happen. It shows how the play of a group of few people changed the country entirely. The book was enmeshed in controversy because it allegedly talked about the affair between the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and the wife of Lord Mountbatten, Edwina Mountbatten. Rumours had it that a movie was set to be released on the book but was cancelled by the opposition from Indian Government.
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Freedom at Midnight
Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre wrote the book Freedom at Midnight in 1975. It is a record of almost all the events with character sketches of personalities beginning from the last years of British Raj and appointment of Lord Mountbatten to the death of Mahatma Gandhi. The book was an inspiration for the film the Viceroy’s House(2017).
A Bend in the Ganges
Manohar Malgonkar is the author of A Bend in the Ganges(1964). The book is another documentation of the events that led to the independence of India from British Raj and eventually to the partition of India. It starts with the civil disobediencemovement in the 1930s and ends at the partition riots in Punjab. As the title suggests, the book is a description of the unforgettable socio-political unrest and violence during independence and partition of India that changed the nation forever.
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A Train to Pakistanby Kushwant Singh is a historical novel based on Partition of India, 1947. The novel occupies a special space in partition literature because of its focus and details on the human lives affected during the partition.
The Great Indian Novel
Shashi Tharoor wrote The Great Indian Novel, a satirical novel published in 1989. The novel is a retelling of the Indian mythological epic, Mahabharata, in the context of Indian history of independence and few years of post-independence(1980). The figures of Indian history has been metaphorically referred to as the characters of Mahabharata. The novel is a satire on the Indian history of partition that was a result of a feud between brothers, like the battle between Kauravas and the Pandavas.
Bhisham Sahni authored the novel Tamas, published in the year 1974. Hindi word for darkness, ignorance, Tamas is a fictitious portrayal of the religious riots among Muslims, Hindu and Sikh in Pakistan that led to the partition. The novel clearly depicts the policy of divide and rule used by the British officers to weaken India and tear it apart in two pieces as a gift of independence. The first half of the novel depicts a pig and cow slaughter to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims and Hindus and initiate the hatred. The second half is about an old Sikh couple whose shop has been looted by Muslims. Their son is circumcisedand converted to Islam. The couple tries to escape and reaches their daughter’s village. But, the violence had crept deep inside the roots and the women in the village along with other Sikh women committed suicide to escape the molestation. Richard, a British official plays an important role in the initiation of the violence and the partition. The book won the Sahitya Akademy award in the year 1975. Govind Nilhani released a movie Tamas, in 1988, which was based on the novel.
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A Passage to India
E.M Forster, a British author, wrote the book A Passage to India. It was first published in the year 1924. The novel is set in the background of British Raj in India and the Indian Independence Movement of 1920. Furthermore, the novel is based on the experiences of Forster during his stay in India. The novel shows the racial and prejudiced tensions between Indians, the uncivilised and the ruling and mannered British through alleged molestationof a British woman by an Indian. The incident takes place in a cave, a stereotypical symbol for India of wilderness.
Modern Library selected A Passage to India as one of the 100 great works of 20th century English literature. It also won the 1924 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Time Magazine has included the novel in its “All Time 100 Novels” list.
The Midnight’s Children has won both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1981. It was awarded the ‘Booker of Bookers’ Prize and the best all-time prize winners in 1993 and 2008 to celebrate the Booker Prize 25th and 40th anniversary.
The House of Blue Mangoes
David Davidar is the author of the novel The House of Blue Mangoes (2002). It is a family chronicle spanning through three generations of Dorais, a non-Brahmin Christian family in the south Indian village of Chevathar. The family has a rare tree that bears blue mangoes, marking their individuality. It is one of the few books that trace the effect of partition and its violence in south India. Solomon Dorai, in 1889, anticipates the destruction and changes happening in society. He undertakes certain actions and decisions that affect the coming generations of the Dorai family.
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The Radiance of a Thousand Suns
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar authored the remarkable novel The Radiance of a Thousand Suns. The book is a record of the unrest during partition in India and expands up to the 9/11 attacks in New York. Nikki, the protagonist of the novel, goes to New York City to complete his father’s book. In NYC, she comes across events that change her and her family’s lives completely. The violence in NYC and India (specifically the Emergency of 1988), post-independence, become a ground colliding the brutal past and the violent present.
Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV
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