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Permanent Address: Quetta, Hindustan | The Indian Express

Permanent Address: Quetta, Hindustan | The Indian Express

Permanent Address: Quetta, Hindustan

Author Reena Nanda on her Partition saga.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: April 19, 2018 1:17:06 am

Reema Nanda’s book is also a glimpse into the historical and the political happenings during the Partition.

When writer Amrita Pritam called out to the Sufi saint in her immortal piece, Ode to Waris Shah, she was describing the gut-wrenching scenes she saw during Partition, from fleeing families, and women stripped of all dignity, to blood in the streets. But author Reena Nanda’s mother, Shakunt, didn’t cry. In the camps, she stared blankly at people, and her mind was filled with memories of the smell of naan, the lilting Punjabi folk ditties, and Quetta, her homeland, now in Pakistan. She longed to return. “No one believed they were leaving forever. In fact, my grandfather stayed back and kept working with his Pathan friends until there was no choice but to head to a strange place called India,” says 73-year-old Nanda, author of From Quetta to Delhi (Bloomsbury; Rs 350). Her previous book was the
biography of social reformer Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay.
They say that you can learn about Partition through its horrors. Nanda thinks otherwise. “Many historians have done that. But I think you can only learn the lesson of Partition if you look at the ones who loved, despite the violence. That’s the message we need to give today, when religion is a divider,” she says.
Her book is also a glimpse into the historical and the political happenings of the time, some of which, according to her, haven’t been recorded right. “History doesn’t always suit historians. One set of historians blames the Congress, the other Jinnah, and another, the British. What they don’t realise is that they were all playing off each other and innocent people got caught. But what about the narrative of those who were uprooted but still didn’t hate. These were things that troubled me,” says Nanda, who, to corroborate her mother’s various stories, pored over census reports, newspaper articles, and literature by Bhisham Sahni, Krishna Sobti, Rajinder Singh Bedi, and Ishtiaq Ahmed, among others.
Nanda was two when she came to Delhi from Quetta with her family and was brought up without any influence of the Punjabiyat. Nanda feels that the tragedy of Partition extended to culture too. “What they didn’t know was that Vishnu Digambar Paluskar chose Lahore for the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1901 and and that the legendary musical gharanas like Kasur Patiala are from Punjab.”
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