Stories of Partition from unheard voices
Stories about Partition are plenty, but they have never been seen from the lens of the times we live in.
Giving a fresh perspective to how generations have negotiated these marked boundaries and its repercussions is a graphic novel, "This Side That Side:Restorying Partition" that lends voices to young, unheard stories from the Indian subcontinent and sees the event from their eyes.
This black-and-white anthology consists of 28 narratives in which 65 artistes from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have come together to tell stories - part memories, part observation - of the milieu they are living in. Credit for connecting and convincing these people to come together on board goes to graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh who has curated this project.
"One of the myths we also try to break in this book is that Partition is a chapter in history. No, it's something we still live with and negotiate with in our daily lives, in many different ways. So getting young and unheard voices is an important step to highlight that," Ghosh told IANS in an interview.
And Ghosh breaks this myth beautifully in this 366-page novel by carefully choosing stories that are emotionally laced with an undertone of sarcasm and wry humour.
Caption: A graphic illustration from the novel.
"There are as many undertones in the stories than just sarcasm. Not to say there isn't sarcasm at all, but it is not the only voice I am sure. There is as much curiosity, speculation, dialogues as well and all this together creates the larger platform for discussion among the young minds of all three sides," said Ghosh, who is also the author of graphic novel "Delhi Calm".
Even the 'marked lines' change their forms and shapes in this novel, published by Yoda Press in partnership with Goethe Institut and priced at Rs. 595.
For instance, in "Noor Miyan" story boundaries are marked as footprints. An emotional tale told through third person narrative, it is about a man called Noor Miyan who used to sell the best surma (kohl) in India till he went away to Pakistan.
"Milne Do" highlights the myths we have fed ourselves on about the life across the border. Set in 1995, two journalists from India and Pakistan meet at a conference and they ask typical stereotypical questions to each other about life on the other side.
"A lot of these stories actually try and explore and not address many such curiosities that exist on all sides," said Ghosh.
"When I went to Lahore I was asked the same questions like 'do you eat meat?' 'Is booze freely available', questions about daily lives that have no international diplomatic or political significance. As nations whether we like it or not, our engagement with people will forever continue and the young voices in this book prove that once again," he added.
The contributors come from diverse backgrounds: film makers, illustrators, theatre artists, poets, miniature painters and also graphic novelists.
Choosing Partition as a subject was an obvious choice for Ghosh as he has narrated his personal tale of growing up in a refugee home in Delhi with his story "A Good Education".
His second narrative "Cabaret Weimer", a collaboration with singer Rabbi Shergill, is a futuristic tale set in 2047 celebrating 100 years of Indian independence.
"The call for contributions welcomed any sort of a narrative that engaged with partition in any way. Memory as one, but dialogues, rethinking perspectives and stereotypes were as important. It is only then we can come together to restory Partition rather than merely restore it," he concluded.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 02-09-2013)