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“Yes, there is nothing more precious than freedom. But freedom at the cost of others, what freedom was that?”
How does one review a book that touches the very core of one’s being? As soon as I closed the book, I sat transfixed on my chair, wondering how I could do justice to a book that had been handled so delicately, each thread, resplendent with emotion. I found myself crossing the Radcliffe Line innumerable times with Aanchal and the people she interviewed. I could feel the curve of Balraj Bahri’s Patiala Glass, the delicateness of Azra Haq’s pearls, the enduring memories of John Grigor Taylor and the filigree of Bhag Malhotra’s maang tikka, things that had crossed the line, but still held memories from a home that was left behind. Being an avid reader and an absolute Indian history aficionado, this book was just up my alley, but little did I know that it would connect with me in a way no other had in a very long time. The reason? Well, because I too have heard stories of the Partition and my home too has the odd piece of book, glass, jewelry that crossed the line. Stories that resurfaced taking me back in time and to hear those stories in a different tone, in a different light.
Loss, memories, unbearable grief, separation and hope, shade the pages of Aanchal Malhotra’s debut book. The Partition of 1947,seen as “the physical and the traumatic mental displacement of the people”, affected millions and as time goes by, all that will be left behind would be the old shawl, the odd certificate and stories that one had heard.
The delicately woven narratives in the book evoke memories of some of the people who witnessed the exodus. Their personal experiences, while delving into their past, also highlights the resilient nature of humans and their spirit.
The purpose? According to the author, “…What continues to fascinate me, though, is the anatomy of this border, the Radcliffe Line. It is by no means an isolated, invisible line, but one that is firmly and physically present. The line might as well have been drawn in blood and littered with the possessions of those who crossed it- a piece of cloth here, utensils scattered there, jewellery, riches and money strewn across the sand. It is my intention to explore these contested objects- these artifacts that were carried across or, at times, discarded and further lamented for at the conjoined birth of these two countries- and the memories that are infused within them….”
An absolutely brilliantly written and thoroughly documented account, connecting material memory with the memory lying dormant in the age old folds of the human mind!