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Penning the pain: Tracing the history of partition through Indian literature

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By Ila Garg

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They say history is for the Kings and Royals, and for common people, there is literature. Partition of 1947 has always been recorded in history from a patriarchal perception. However, literature has tried to approach the mayhem event of partition through a holistic view. At NewsGram, we are attempting to focus on a few writers who gave voices to the hushed up history.

We have writers like Manto and Faiz who have written extensively about the suffering of people and the bloodshed that accompanied the Partition.manto

Manto’s short story, ‘Khol Do’ (Open It) had a huge impact on readers and it continues to speak through silences as the contemporary readers try to interpret it in their own way. His story can be read to get a glimpse of the violence and the horrendous crimes that partition resulted in. Women were the main targets to these atrocities and yet they were not given freedom of expression for a long time. Original version of this story is in Urdu but its translated version is more widely read.

A short excerpt from the story:

That evening there was sudden activity in the camp. He saw four men carrying the body of a young girl found unconscious near the railway tracks. They were taking her to the camp hospital. He began to follow them.
He stood outside the hospital for some time, and then went in. In one of the rooms, he found a stretcher with someone lying on it.
A light was switched on. It was a young woman with a mole on her left cheek. “Sakina!” Sirajuddin screamed.
The doctor, who had switched on the light, stared at Sirajuddin.
“I am her father,” he stammered. The doctor looked at the prostrate body and felt for the pulse. Then he said to the old man, “Open the window.”
The young woman on the stretcher moved slightly. Her hands groped for the cord which kept her salwar tied around her waist. With painful slowness, she unfastened it, pulled the garment down and opened her thighs.
“She is alive. My daughter is alive,” Sirajuddin shouted with joy. The doctor broke into a cold sweat.

faiz-ahmed-faiz-3

 

While Manto expressed more through his short stories, Faiz Ahmed Faiz did the same through his poems. His ‘Subah-e-Azaadi’ is the most talked about poem in Urdu Literature. It has a touch of revolution and gives gory details of partition.

 

 

“Ye daagh daagh ujaalaa, ye shab-gazida sahar,
Wo intzaar tha jiska, ye vo seher toh nahi,
Ye wo seher toh nahin jiski aarzu lekar,
Chale the yaar ke mil jaegi kahi na kahi,
Falak ke dasht mei taaro ki aakhiri manzil,
Kahi toh hoga shab-e-sust mauj ka sahil,
Kahi toh jaake rukega safina-e-gham-e-dil.”

SahirLudhianvi

 

 

Hindi poets like Sahir Ludhianvi too contributed to the partition literature by echoing similar emotions. Ludianvi’s ‘Wo Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi’ is indicative of reviving hope in difficulties. The tone might be a little mellow but it conveys his ideas quite well.

 

 

“Inn Kaali Sadiyo Ke Sar Se, Jab Raat Kaa Aanchal Dhalkega
Jab Dukh Ke Badal Pighalenge, Jab Sukh Ka Sagar Chhalkega
Jab Ambar Jhoom Ke Naachega, Jab Dharti Nagame Gaaegi
Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi, Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi
Jis Subah Ke Khatir Jug Jug Se, Hum Sab Mar Mar Ke Jite Hai”

Amrita_Pritam_(1919_–_2005)_,_in_1948

Among the various approaches to the misfortunate event, Punjabi poet, Amrita Pritam’s voice emerged out. She stood as a rebel and reasserted her identity as a woman. Through her poetry, she expressed a strong will to liberate herself from the shackles of patriarchy.

Her poem ‘Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu’ is centered on her appeal to Waris Shah to come and listen to the crying daughters of Punjab. Till date, the poem holds significance and doesn’t cease to influence people with its powerful words.

Pritam’s poetry reflects her rebellious nature, though her only limitation was geographical boundary.

Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nuu,
Kiton Qabraan Wichon Bol,
Tey Ajj Kitaab-e-Ishq Daa,
Koi Agla Warka Khol
Ikk Royi Sii Dhi Punjab Di,
Tu Likh Likh Maarey Wain,
Ajj Lakhaan Dhiyan Rondiyan,
Tenu Waris Shah Nuu Kain

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10 Indian Author’s Books Selected for JCB Prize for Literature

Of the 10 novels, the jury will shortlist five, which will be announced on October 3. The five shortlisted writers receive Rs 1 lakh each.

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10 novels of 'enormous diversity' vying for India's richest book prize.

Ten outstanding Indian novels in English along with translations from Indian languages by veterans as well as debut authors were longlisted on Wednesday for the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature, with its literary director highlighting “enormous diversity” in the submissions.

The longlist features two novels in translation: “Poonachi or The Story of a Black Goat”, originally written in Tamil by Perumal Murugan and Malayalam novel “Jasmine Days” by Benny Daniel; two novels by debut women writers: “Latitudes of Longing” by Shubhangi Swarup and “Empire” by Devi Yesodharan; and two novels by authors previously nominated for the Man Booker Prize: “All The Lives We Never Lived” by Anuradha Roy and “The Book of Chocolate Saints” by Jeet Thayil.

They are joined by veteran writers Nayantara Sahgal and Kiran Nagarkar, whose “When The Moon Shines by Day” and “Jasoda” released to prominence and reflected the burden of society in 2017.

While the entry of Amitabha Bagchi’s “Half the Night is Gone” that explores the inner and outer lives of the men in two families, was almost expected, Chandrahas Choudhury’s “Clouds” was the surprise novel in the longlist.

Literature
Excerpt from Amitabha Bagchi’s “Above Average”

Entries for the inaugural edition of the prize, an initiative of the earthmoving and construction equipment company JCB India Ltd, came from writers in 19 states and 22 per cent of them were translations.

“The most striking thing about the entries we received is their enormous diversity. We had entries from 17 states and eight languages. The oldest author was nearly seven decades older than the youngest. There were books about ancient Indian history and mythology, books about ecological disasters, books about religious strife and the situation of women. All in all, it was a very exciting set of books, which represents the full set of possibilities of the novel,” Rana Dasgupta, Literary Director of the prize told IANS.

The British Indian novelist and essayist further noted that many of the translations were from Malayalam and Kannada. He said that it is no longer possible to “generalise” as novels in Indian languages are “as cosmopolitan as any other”.

“Writers in these languages set their novels in locations all across the world, and they have a great contemporaneity of form, character and language. In future years, translated fiction will make up a much greater share of entries to the Prize,” Dasgupta maintained.

Scholar Rohan Murthy, writers Priyamvada Natarajan and Vivek Shanbhag, and author-translator Arshia Sattar comprise the jury with film director Deepa Mehta chairing the panel.

Literature
Rana Dasgupta, is himself a celebrated author. Flickr

Of the 10 novels, the jury will shortlist five, which will be announced on October 3. The five shortlisted writers receive Rs 1 lakh each.

The final award will be presented to the writer of the winning novel on October 27. If the winning work is a translation, the translator will be awarded an additional Rs 5 lakh.

The winning novelist will be awarded Rs 25 lakh, the highest for a prize of its kind in India.

Ten outstanding Indian novels in English along with translations from Indian languages by veterans as well as debut authors were longlisted on Wednesday for the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature, with its literary director highlighting “enormous diversity” in the submissions.

The longlist features two novels in translation: “Poonachi or The Story of a Black Goat”, originally written in Tamil by Perumal Murugan and Malayalam novel “Jasmine Days” by Benny Daniel; two novels by debut women writers: “Latitudes of Longing” by Shubhangi Swarup and “Empire” by Devi Yesodharan; and two novels by authors previously nominated for the Man Booker Prize: “All The Lives We Never Lived” by Anuradha Roy and “The Book of Chocolate Saints” by Jeet Thayil.

They are joined by veteran writers Nayantara Sahgal and Kiran Nagarkar, whose “When The Moon Shines by Day” and “Jasoda” released to prominence and reflected the burden of society in 2017.

Literature
Anuradha Roys’s ‘All The Lives We Never Lived’. Goodreads

While the entry of Amitabha Bagchi’s “Half the Night is Gone” that explores the inner and outer lives of the men in two families, was almost expected, Chandrahas Choudhury’s “Clouds” was the surprise novel in the longlist.

Entries for the inaugural edition of the prize, an initiative of the earthmoving and construction equipment company JCB India Ltd, came from writers in 19 states and 22 per cent of them were translations.

“The most striking thing about the entries we received is their enormous diversity. We had entries from 17 states and eight languages. The oldest author was nearly seven decades older than the youngest. There were books about ancient Indian history and mythology, books about ecological disasters, books about religious strife and the situation of women. All in all, it was a very exciting set of books, which represents the full set of possibilities of the novel,” Rana Dasgupta, Literary Director of the prize told IANS.

The British Indian novelist and essayist further noted that many of the translations were from Malayalam and Kannada. He said that it is no longer possible to “generalise” as novels in Indian languages are “as cosmopolitan as any other”.

“Writers in these languages set their novels in locations all across the world, and they have a great contemporaneity of form, character and language. In future years, translated fiction will make up a much greater share of entries to the Prize,” Dasgupta maintained.

literature
The final award will be presented to the writer of the winning novel on October 27. If the winning work is a translation, the translator will be awarded an additional Rs 5 lakh. Pixabay

Scholar Rohan Murthy, writers Priyamvada Natarajan and Vivek Shanbhag, and author-translator Arshia Sattar comprise the jury with film director Deepa Mehta chairing the panel.

Also Read: India Provides Good Future for Books Than Other Parts of The World

Of the 10 novels, the jury will shortlist five, which will be announced on October 3. The five shortlisted writers receive Rs 1 lakh each.

The final award will be presented to the writer of the winning novel on October 27. If the winning work is a translation, the translator will be awarded an additional Rs 5 lakh.

The winning novelist will be awarded Rs 25 lakh, the highest for a prize of its kind in India. (IANS)