- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (11 August 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9352770129
- ISBN-13: 978-9352770120
- Package Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #44,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory Hardcover – 20 Aug 2017
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'This book brings a fresh dimension to the "history from beneath" approach to the Partition and its legacy. It shows that there can be no single Partition migration account; there are as many accounts as the people involved.'- Ian Talbot
'Part memoir, part social history, Aanchal Malhotra evokes one of the world's great tragedies in moving, beautiful prose woven through everyday objects treasured as relics of a shattered age.' - Shashi Tharoor
'What a clever idea - to tell the history of the Partition through objects that refugees brought or left behind. Aanchal artfully weaves travel, memory and materials, reminding us why India is one of the world's greatest storytelling cultures.' - Gurcharan Das
'This book brings out of the folds of time an understanding too tender to accuse, too strong to forget. It is the story of material beings - I shall not call them "things" - that cannot be narrated in words, nor painted in pictures. Only shared, in the Braille of their own embossing. Reading it is a redemption.' - Gopalkrishna Gandhi
'Aanchal has breathed new life into the history of the Partition with her unique storytelling format. A debut book that is poignant and powerful, it places common people above competing nationalisms. It is the extraordinary lives of ordinary Indians and Pakistanis that hold out hope for the future.' - Rajdeep Sardesai
About the Author
Aanchal Malhotra is an artist and oral historian working with memory and material culture. She received a BFA in Traditional Printmaking and Art History from the Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, and an MFA in Studio Art from Concordia University, Montreal. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, the US, the UK and India. She currently lives in New Delhi. This is her first book.
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For her, who taught me the importance of one's soil
For him, who tried so hard to forget it.
These two lines seem to envelop within them all the emotions that the men, women, and children, impacted by the partition of India into two separate countries, must have experienced.
During her research, the author - Aanchal Malhotra - discovered that memory, on its own, may be unreliable, but objects associated with that time have the ability to reconnect us with lost memories and help us reconstruct them.
In Remnants of a Separation, Malhotra has explored the history of the partition through material memory.
After an extensive introduction on how the project came to be and the many discoveries she made along the way, she retraces the lives of 19 families from both sides of the border (including West and East Pakistan-now Bangladesh) who survived the partition, and now hold their deepest, darkest memories in the objects they carried across with them as well as those they left behind.
Each of these 19 stories are heartbreaking as much are they are powerful and inspiring. Reading them left me overwhelmed with emotions so intense that it surprised me.
It's been a few days now since I finished reading the book but I can't seem to stop thinking about the people whose stories are written between the pages.
If there is book on History that you must read, it should be this, for not only is it unusual, and brilliantly so, but it tells you history like you've never read before.
- This is not a book on politics but on personal stories. Politics has been mentioned only every now and then as a natural part of the story and in the footnotes.
- I skipped the Kindle version and bought a hardbound one. Good call as the book has colour pictures of the 'material memories' at the beginning of each of the 19 stories. The beauty, texture and colours of these will be lost on a Kindle version.
- Kudos to the writer for writing such an engrossing and engaging book.
I recommend strongly if you like to read non-fiction and specially if you have even the smallest interest in the Partition.
by Aanchal Malhotra.
I began reading this book somewhere around the mid of April. The book is all of 386 pages and my target was to complete it by the last Sunday of April which was the Swapbook meet day where the subject for discussion was books based on Memoirs or Memories. I finally completed the book in the last week of May. It’s not an easy task completing the book considering its sheer volume. By volume I do not mean the number of pages but the mass of emotions it contains. Just reading the introduction, which is thirty five pages, left me in tears and it took me a good two days to return to the book.
A few weeks back someone asked me on faceboook “Just how much of literature on partition is enough to be read?” My answer was it can never be enough. And Remnants of a Separation just reiterates my belief. It’s a wound, the scars of which we as a nation have collectively inherited. My first impressions about the partition and the tragic human exodus came from watching Attenborough’s Gandhi which was telecast on Doordarshan every 15th August, 2nd October and the 26th of January. The gravity of the tragedy struck home in a small measure only when I read the Freedom at Midnight, Train to Pakistan and Ice Candy Man. It was not until I read the accounts of these survivors in this book that I fully understood what it meant to be left homeless. My father had a transferable job and we shifted to a new city and a new house every two or three years at the most, so to me that feeling of uprootment was not new. I always felt so what they just had to pack their samaan and move to India but what it never dawned was that they had to leave behind everything, their homes, their friends, their relationships and most importantly their lives. From comforts to uncertainty and at times penury, how difficult it would have been for those self respecting people. The most endearing thing about this book is that no where do the survivors speak ill of any community, neither do they show any bitterness towards them. The Stone Plaque of Mian Faiz Rabbani and The Pearls of Azra Haq are my favourite chapters from the book. Mian Faiz Rabbani’s account is heartwarming. Its Nazeer Adhami’s words that leave a lasting impression ‘Bhala koi apne mulk ki mitti se kabhi alag ho sakta hai?’
This book must have been a difficult journey for the author as well, for making the seniors remember their past which is scarred and still painful must have taken a toll on her emotionally and then retaining it and reproducing it must have been so thoroughly exhausting. Thank you Aanchal for writing what you wrote.
Remnants of a Separation is a book that should be included in the curriculum so as to enable the young to know the price our previous generation paid for gaining independence. Even after seven decades of Independence we as a nation are still vulnerable and victim to divisive politics. It’s time we learn from the remnants of this past and wisen up.
(On a lighter note Remnants of a Separation has changed my perceptions to all the old material things gather over a period. This time when I opened my mom’s almirah to check on the old sarees I viewed it with a different perspective and so was it when I checked out the old LP records that my father has still preserved. Now I understand just why my Daadi was upset when we sold off our family home. Before my Mom or Chachi could reach to help my Daadi clear the house, my uncle had promptly got in a man and sold off the old things labelled as ‘Kabaad’. Today I realize it was not Kabaad but held an ocean of emotions for my Daadi.)