Blurb (as on Goodreads):
The lilting rhythms of Punjabi folk songs, the Siapewalli, and Naani wailing about her bad kismet caused by the chudail and dain. Partition changed the old traditions of Punjabiyat but in the pages of this book they come alive…
The invisible cost of the Partition of the Punjab in 1947 —besides the violence, loss of life and property—was that it destroyed the psychic equilibrium of the displaced population. This is the story of one such woman, Shakunt, who rebuilt her life but could never get over the trauma of losing her homes in Quetta and Jhang—not just the loss of a physical space but of the language, culture and ethos that it had embodied: A syncretic culture of multilingualism—Urdu, Persian and Punjabi—and of multiple identities of caste, mohalla and religion.
But then there was the disaster of the Quetta Earthquake of l935, and of Partition, which tore the family apart because her father chose to remain in Quetta as a member of the Pakistan Civil Service.
Shakunt coped with her mental distress by escaping into the past, reliving the memories of her life in Quetta and Jhang. Hers was a feminine recall of the perhaps insignificant yet poignant details of daily lives which hinged on the drama of the trivial—on food, rituals and neighborhood bonding. Of an agnostic father, a mother who was a devotee of Guru Nanak, of pilgrimages to Sufi shrines. This is Shakunt’s story as recorded by her daughter.
I had made a conscious decision to review this book based on the fact that I had only read partition stories that involved the ones when people were driven out of their homes when India, Pakistan and Bangladesh separated themselves from each other.
Quetta is the capital of Balochistan and has a culture that is quite different from the traditional. At least that was the case back in the days. Reena Nanda has penned down the story that has people from her previous generations, including her mother. The story revolves around the effects being driven out of their homes, both physically and mentally. Countless lives were lost in the name of religion and God, violent riots and massacre that defies logic.
‘From Quetta to Delhi’ is being recommended by me due to a lot of reasons
- The plot is driven by facts and details, followed by emotions.
- The story gives us an intermediate world, different from the traditional concepts of culture. The people in Quetta lived both like Punjabis and Hindus and respected people from all religion. There are elaborate descriptions on their way of living, festivals celebrated, food cooked daily and the prayers they said to the Almighty. Superstitions and popular beliefs among men and women have been emphasized.
- A panoramic view of a happier life, full of simple pleasures and joy. Followed by the devastation caused due to the migration. Each thought and change has been mentioned with enough emotion to move the readers.
- Verses, songs, and poems in those days about life in general.
- The transformation from traditional values and behavior to modernity and how that affected people around, finally shaping the author’s family and giving them their current mindset and beliefs.
‘From Quetta to Delhi’ by Reena Nanda is an emotional and rather devastating journey through 3 generation of people who have seen life change in the most bizarre and painful way. A book of sad facts, that contain more sad memories than happy.
If you love a factual, historical and diverse book, this might be right up your alley.
Purchase Links: |Amazon Paperback|