Meet Aanchal Malhotra, Who Is Bringing Unknown Facets Of India’s Partition For Contemporary Readers

Aanchal Malhotra, aanchal malhotra new books

It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Writer-historian Aanchal Malhotra exemplifies the same adage through her notable works on oral histories and material culture. Malhotra, through her poignant observations and extensive research, has uncovered unknown facets of India’s Partition for contemporary readers. The young woman writer is retelling history from a deeply personal and authentic perspective.

Recently, publishing giant Harper Collins India announced the acquisition of two new books by Aanchal Malhotra: a non-fiction book entitled In the Language of Remembering: Generational Memories of the Partition and a fiction  novel entitled The Book of Everlasting Things. The books will be published in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Tracing Aanchal Malhotra’s Illustrious Life

Aanchal Malhotra was born in 1990 in Delhi to Anuj Bahri Malhotra and Rajni Malhotra. The couple runs one of Delhi’s most famous bookstores – Bahrisons Booksellers. Naturally, Malhotra took a keen interest in reading since the early days of her childhood. Additionally, she heard multiple tales of her grandparents’ lives in pre-Partition India as a child. As an adult, her passion for literature, art, and history prompted her to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Traditional Printmaking and Art History from OCAD University, Toronto. Consequently, she also pursued a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Art from Concordia University, Montréal. Malhotra’s visual artworks have been exhibited in Canada, the US, the UK, and India. As a part of her MFA thesis, she also conducted ethnographic research into the Partition of India. Notably, her first novel was conceptualised based on the same research.

Co-Founder Of The Museum Of Material Memory

Earlier this year, in an interview with SheThePeople.TV, Malhotra highlighted the importance of India’s oral histories and traditions: “No matter what your family is, where you are from, what your class is, what your religion is, you still have something to add to national history in whatever small way we can.” Acting upon an ardent desire to preserve the same, Aanchal Malhotra, along with Navdha Malhotra, co-founded The Museum of Material Memory in 2017. The museum serves as a digital repository of erstwhile collectibles, antiques, and heirlooms from or before the 1970s which provide important clues to deconstructing Indian history.

Also Read: Women Of Partition: At 8, Shakuntala Left With Her Grandfather, Burying A Pot Of Gold

Remnants Of A Separation By Aanchal Malhotra

Throughout her writing career, Malhotra has written extensively about the 1947 Partition of the Indian subcontinent and material memory. In 2017, she combined the two themes in her first non-fiction novel: Remnants Of A Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory. Described as an “alternative history of the partition”, the novel recounts tales of violence, displacement, loss, and solidarity through a study of the belongings carried by refugees across the border during the 1947 Partition.

Elaborating upon the theme of her novel, Malhotra told SheThePeople.TV, “India is a country of stories and it has remained a country of stories, and within every family, we have these nuggets of history … We can draw conclusions if people remember the same things, but it is equally as interesting to see how people remember the same things differently.”

Also Read: Here’s A List Of Books To Read About Indian Independence

Aanchal Malhotra: Accolades And Achievements

Aanchal Malhotra has received various honours and awards for her literary endeavours. In 2019, Remnants of a Separation was shortlisted for the British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. The book has also been shortlisted for other prestigious prizes like the Hindu Lit for Life Non-Fiction Prize, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize, and the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. Furthermore, in 2019, the New Delhi Rotary Club conferred Malhotra with the Sammaan Service Excellence Award.

Also Read: Memories Of A Separation: The Sword Of Ajit Kaur Kapoor, An Excerpt

A master of the written word, Aanchal Malhotra has contributed immensely to the humanisation of historical narratives. Her own words encapsulate her journey best, “I have learned that memory can reside in the most unlikely places, if only we search for it. Objects of age and antiquity hold all kinds of stories within their cracks and crevasses … I have learned to listen, learned to handle memory with care and delicacy.”

Tarini Gandhiok is an intern with SheThePeople.TV