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Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory

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Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border. These belongings absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owner's pasts as they emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparallel Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border. These belongings absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owner's pasts as they emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparalleled moment in history. A string of pearls gifted by a maharaja, carried from Dalhousie to Lahore, reveals the grandeur of a life that once was. A notebook of poems, brought from Lahore to Kalyan, shows one woman's determination to pursue the written word despite the turmoil around her. A refugee certificate created in Calcutta evokes in a daughter the feelings of displacement her father had experienced upon leaving Mymensingh zila, now in Bangladesh. Written as a crossover between history and anthropology, Remnants of a Separation is the product of years of passionate research. It is an alternative history of the Partition - the first and only one told through material memory that makes the event tangible even seven decades later.


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Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border. These belongings absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owner's pasts as they emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparallel Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border. These belongings absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owner's pasts as they emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparalleled moment in history. A string of pearls gifted by a maharaja, carried from Dalhousie to Lahore, reveals the grandeur of a life that once was. A notebook of poems, brought from Lahore to Kalyan, shows one woman's determination to pursue the written word despite the turmoil around her. A refugee certificate created in Calcutta evokes in a daughter the feelings of displacement her father had experienced upon leaving Mymensingh zila, now in Bangladesh. Written as a crossover between history and anthropology, Remnants of a Separation is the product of years of passionate research. It is an alternative history of the Partition - the first and only one told through material memory that makes the event tangible even seven decades later.

30 review for Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory

  1. 5 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    This book is one of my favourite reads of 2017. I read very few non fiction titles this year and I was amazed by how touching the stories are. I cannot even talk about the passages I have underlined or marked because there are that many! Aanchal Malhotra’s Remnants of a Separation tells the history of partition through heirlooms and gifts smuggled across the borders - thus revisiting the past through material memory. Long before partition, Muslims and Hindus co-existed as neighbours, friends or b This book is one of my favourite reads of 2017. I read very few non fiction titles this year and I was amazed by how touching the stories are. I cannot even talk about the passages I have underlined or marked because there are that many! Aanchal Malhotra’s Remnants of a Separation tells the history of partition through heirlooms and gifts smuggled across the borders - thus revisiting the past through material memory. Long before partition, Muslims and Hindus co-existed as neighbours, friends or business partners. Then came the partition. Friends became enemies; neighbours became betrayers and relationships changed. Aanchal interviews many who witnessed the partition on either side of the border and writes their stories in the book What I loved? -perfect size for each story. Not too long; not too short. -captivating storytelling -great attention to details - accurate description of monetary value in those times for easy comparison with today's scenario - stories of women who raised families, served government, became writers, fought against fate etc. - POVs of people on both sides of the border. Be warned you will well up several times and even break down crying while reading the stories. I definitely broke into a great many ugly sobs. For a longer review, visit http://www.thebooksatchel.com/remnant... Much thanks to Bahrisons Booksellers for a copy of the novel. All opinions are my own. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rakhi Dalal

    I picked up Remnants of Separation because I was looking for books on Partition of India which happened in 1947. I wished to delve into the socio-cultural aspects of the region that was affected most during Partition. Part of it coming for the reason that my Grandmother was born in Rawalpindi and had gone through the pain of leaving her maternal home behind while escaping to this side of the border. Though I do know of some facts as told by her but I never ventured to ask her, while she was stil I picked up Remnants of Separation because I was looking for books on Partition of India which happened in 1947. I wished to delve into the socio-cultural aspects of the region that was affected most during Partition. Part of it coming for the reason that my Grandmother was born in Rawalpindi and had gone through the pain of leaving her maternal home behind while escaping to this side of the border. Though I do know of some facts as told by her but I never ventured to ask her, while she was still alive, about the tribulations she might have gone through at that time. It might have been because I was young and my mind did not register the import of those events at the time. But what I do remember is her eyes. Sometimes she would just sit motionless, her gaze fixed upon something in distance, but to me, it seemed very sad. I could sense unhappiness though I didn’t realise the cause. It haunts me even now, not knowing what might have transpired in her mind or if she would have liked to tell something. There must be some memories she had too. In my curiosity to get an idea of the kind of life she might have lived during her childhood and the kind of anxiety or fear she might have gone through, I started looking for books on the subject. It was then that a reading group on FB advised this book by Aanchal Malhotra and I picked it up. Aanchal tells us twenty-one stories of the people who moved during Partition. She tells the stories through the material objects from those times which still remain with these people, objects which they hold dear. The author also puts a picture of the object before each memory, thus giving a kind of essence to each story. These pictures help us look closer and understand the memories which are associated with these objects, memories which sustain them or memories which they wish had never had the likelihood of shaping if the event hadn’t taken place. They don’t yet understand why Partition took place, why they were uprooted from their land and their homes. Most of them still long to return to their homes, to that land which nourished their souls once. In the introduction, the author muses over the nature of memory: Human memory is fragile. We mentally store our experiences as memories. However, it is important to understand that our memory is not a recording device. It cannot be stored as an exact and precise mnemonic trace of that moment, especially when time gradually begins to wear it down. If you imagine an experience to be the construction of a memory, then its recollection years later can be defined as its reconstruction. As the years pass, memory, inherently malleable, accumulates many perforations that can be filled with new experiences – imagined, fabricated and, sometimes, even a seamless integration of several unconnected memories into one. Perhaps a seamless integration has been what has happened with people’s memories related to Partition. When we read the account as told by them, we realise that mostly, people do not narrate incidents in a linear manner but as and when something strikes them, sometimes also adding newer experiences they had with these objects after they settled in a new place. The beauty of the author’s portrayal lies in the manner in which she tells stories. It is always the people, their memories and their accounts which take center stage. She listens attentively, writes empathetically, but she never intrudes in the narrative space of those narrating stories. She maintains a courteous distance, yet her sobriety is reassuring. All the memories touched me profoundly and sometimes I found myself visualising the events in my mind. Still, there were two memories which left a lasting impression upon me. These were- Memory Seventeenth: From the Folds of Life: The Household items of Sitara Faiyaz Ali and Memory Twentieth: Between This Side and That: The sword of Ajit Kaur Kapoor Twentieth memory was the most gruesome account of trials of Partition.(view spoiler)[ I could never imagine parents leaving their own children, killing them even (because they slowed their movement) to escape the enemy. (hide spoiler)] It gave me yet another perspective into the working of the human mind in the face of extremities and made me shudder with fear. I wondered if any of those parents lived longer, how they would have continued in their lives. Would a feeling of guilt or remorse have been sufficient to ease the load of their act? But more importantly, could I, who never had to face such fear, ever judge those people? The Seventeenth memory was about a family which had a summer home in Dalhousie which fell to the Indian side after Partition. That house was very dear to the owner who just had the opportunity to live in it for two summers. According to Sitara Faiyaz Ali, the narrator of the story, it was the dream home of her father which he had built himself brick by brick. While I read and posted an update of my reading progress, I had the fortune of interacting with the author herself. Aanchal posted a link to my Instagram account, asking me to read an article as an accompaniment to that story. The article, by the author herself, recounted how after this book was published, the present resident of that house in India chanced upon the book and read it. When he reached this chapter, he was astonished to find the picture of his home in the book. He contacted the author and the author arranged a video call between people from both sides. When they made a contact via that call, Sitara Faiyaz Ali could see her home again. The present owner showed her around the house and I could sense, while reading that article, how much happiness that act must have brought to her. I felt a sense of gratitude towards the author and thanked her for making me privy to that article, for making me see how the goodness of humankind stands firmer amid chaos and how there is always a hope amidst despair. A picture of the house from the book I cannot possibly express in words how these stories have influenced me. And I cannot thank the writer enough for writing such passionate and touching account of stories of people who suffered pain when severed from their homeland. What I do know is that I will always be hopeful, always think of the kindness that is inherently humane and how it does give an assurance of the future even in troubling times. This book is highly recommended. PS: Here is the online link to the article: https://scroll.in/magazine/856901/how...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mansi Mudgal

    A good book helps you feel and makes you think things you haven’t given much thought before. Remnants of a Separation by @aanch_m does that and more. The book manages to talk about and discuss batwara (partition) of India and Pakistan through material objects brought by refugees on either side during what was perhaps the largest mass migrations in human history with violence on a scale that had seldom been seen before. With Trains full of dead mutilated bodies on either side, gendered violence on A good book helps you feel and makes you think things you haven’t given much thought before. Remnants of a Separation by @aanch_m does that and more. The book manages to talk about and discuss batwara (partition) of India and Pakistan through material objects brought by refugees on either side during what was perhaps the largest mass migrations in human history with violence on a scale that had seldom been seen before. With Trains full of dead mutilated bodies on either side, gendered violence on women with rapes and abduction; families splitting apart. . My family happened to be on the right side of a bureaucratic exercise; a Hindu in India in a town called Rewari in Haryana. We came out relatively unscathed so growing up so many years later I have viewed this event in a detached manner, where human bodies felt like statistics and Pakistan another country just like all others. After reading this book I feel like a different person; imagine running away from your homes and lives in the middle of the night with only those possessions you can carry on your person, things that can be hidden so that you aren’t robbed; some utensils for some, a bit of jewellery for others, photographs, a shawl. . What item will you take while you flee for your lives? The book is bittersweet, I felt for Bano a third generation migrant to Pakistan and her fear of her grandmother’s native tongue Samanishahi being lost to her after her father’s death; the only people speaking it would be those across the border. A yearning for houses, bazaars of Karachi.. of Sindh; Of a man’s home in Jullendur whose stone plaque made his way back to him after so many years. Woh ghar, Woh Bachpan, woh aangan, woh garmiyaan, woh sardiyan (that house, that childhood, that courtyard, those summers, those winters). . I loved how the author brought out all these memories that were repressed or talked of depending on people through objects, the things not being just that anymore but a gateway to a life lived beyond the borders. Is it heartbreaking?Yes, but it’s also hopeful and nostalgic because as long as love stays in between people on both sides there is hope. - Mansi

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shreya Vaid

    As a growing teenager in a Punjabi family, partition was the elephant in the room. I could see traces of it in the photographs, lines of my grandmother's hand that defined the treacherous journey she took that killed her two young brothers, her lost look during conversations. When I grew up, she started sharing stories with me from Rawalpindi, where she spent her childhood. She showed me the Peetal utensils she carried with her, the glasses engraved with her name and photographs, those yellow te As a growing teenager in a Punjabi family, partition was the elephant in the room. I could see traces of it in the photographs, lines of my grandmother's hand that defined the treacherous journey she took that killed her two young brothers, her lost look during conversations. When I grew up, she started sharing stories with me from Rawalpindi, where she spent her childhood. She showed me the Peetal utensils she carried with her, the glasses engraved with her name and photographs, those yellow textured photographs that she looked at almost every Sunday. She always says that nobody will value her sacrifice on the day. These utensils will be sold off and photographs will be thrown away, and that's when I realize that how important it is to share the stories and engrave the experience in younger ones. How important it is to understand what our forefathers sacrificed so that we can live a peaceful life today. Aanchal Malhotra's Remnants of a Separation is one such book that captures the stories of families who were a part of biggest human migration the world has ever seen, the partition of Indian subcontinent, now known as India and Pakistan. In 19 different stories from India and Pakistan, Malhotra captured the human side of the partition, what everyone experienced, how they felt and now how they feel when they have made a new home, the things they carried with themselves, utensils, pearls, jewelry that have now become family heirloom... Out of all, my favorite story is The Dialect of Stitches and Secrets. Just like Hansla Chowdhary's Bagh, my grandmother gifted my mother a saree that she carried with herself across the border, when she was barely 12 years old. I also really liked the Gift of a Maharaja: The Pearls of Hazra Haq and Stateless Heirlooms: The Hamam-Dasta of Savitri Mirchandani. The most beautiful things about Remnants of a Separation is that there is not one side of the story about partition. It is everybody's story. Even though we may feel that one side is at fault, the people who were directly affected feel that it was nobody's fault. The country was divide and they never wanted it to happen in the first place. They just wanted to survive the massacre and live to see the next day. There was no wrong or right. For me, Remnants of a Separation is not just a gem of a book, it is an important item in the partition archive, a book that must be read and cherished so that we understand a part of our lives that hopefully, we never get to live.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jyotsna

    "After Pakistan was created, did you still think of it as home?" I asked. "Oh yes, it was the same land, only now it had a new name," she said with a sense of surety. "I say that even now. It was where I was born. The place you come from moulds you into the person you become. Remember that. You must never forget where you came from because a part of that soil stays with you forever." The book is a compilation of 21 stories of the material objects that made across the border, with each one being "After Pakistan was created, did you still think of it as home?" I asked. "Oh yes, it was the same land, only now it had a new name," she said with a sense of surety. "I say that even now. It was where I was born. The place you come from moulds you into the person you become. Remember that. You must never forget where you came from because a part of that soil stays with you forever." The book is a compilation of 21 stories of the material objects that made across the border, with each one being of some significance to the owner. The sensitive approach that Aanchal has taken while approaching those who went through this ordeal, is commendable and beautiful. And the stories that they tell you, are a part of their lives that they either wish to forget or wish to go back to. The thing that stood out most for me is how the people interviewed wished to go back to their peaceful childhood but wanted to forget about their journey across the border and the terrible things they had witnessed. A beautiful, amazing read! I articulate well on my YT channel, link is in the bio or you can search for Jyotsna's Bookscapades on YT.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nikita Sharma

    I try to read as many books on the Partition as I can. This book has everything you expect it to be, but it is a little limited in its scope. Almost everyone interviewed by the author seems to hail from a fairly privileged background and so, for me, it does limit the scope of the book. Surely people who weren't living in havelis before partition too suffered and had to leave even their limited means back home or had similar stories to tell. Maybe it's just me, but I thought it was an incomplete I try to read as many books on the Partition as I can. This book has everything you expect it to be, but it is a little limited in its scope. Almost everyone interviewed by the author seems to hail from a fairly privileged background and so, for me, it does limit the scope of the book. Surely people who weren't living in havelis before partition too suffered and had to leave even their limited means back home or had similar stories to tell. Maybe it's just me, but I thought it was an incomplete experience due to this reason. But yes, the accounts of people in the book are moving nonetheless and make you cry.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Divyasree P K

    Sporting an extremely attractive and eye-catchy cover featuring an exquisite piece of maang tikka amidst the neatly parted white hairs of an old lady with smiling eyes, this book attempts to revisit the Partition through the objects carried across the border. What started as inquisitive conversations around the items bought by the author’s great grandparents during their migration to India expanded to include the stories from other migrants culminating in 21 short stories. In spite of being one Sporting an extremely attractive and eye-catchy cover featuring an exquisite piece of maang tikka amidst the neatly parted white hairs of an old lady with smiling eyes, this book attempts to revisit the Partition through the objects carried across the border. What started as inquisitive conversations around the items bought by the author’s great grandparents during their migration to India expanded to include the stories from other migrants culminating in 21 short stories. In spite of being one of the extremely significant events in the modern history of India, my reading on the subject was severely limited. This book offered an alternate insight to the event through individual experiences – a mode which I have found quite effective and enriching previously with regard to the Holocaust. Personally, the short story format curtailed an extensive connect with the characters but was nevertheless effective in capturing the multitude of horrors endured during the months leading up to as well post the Independence. The conversational style of writing along with the retention of Hindi and Punjabi phrases enhanced the level of storytelling.While the physical objects did set up an occasion and acted as a trigger for the conversation between the author and the interviewees, I didn’t find the experiences to be solely around the objects carried by the migrants. More often than not, they were the first-person accounts of the horrors inflicted by humans on one another during the Partition days. At the end of 400 odd pages, I am better aware of human angle to Partition beyond the simplified social concept of “a violent exodus/arrival of people accompanying the Independence of India”. That made this book a worthwhile read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Namritha Murali

    Having followed Ms. Aanchal's work on Instagram for a couple of years now, I knew I was in for a treat with this one. I share no personal history with partition and Pakistan by extension, but for long this matter has intrigued me. That said, I thought Aanchal's Instagram, blog & the articles on Scroll, all have provided me as much exposure I could have on this subject, until a week ago, when I purchased her debut book Remnants of a Separation. The book comes with 19 chapters,19 personal accounts Having followed Ms. Aanchal's work on Instagram for a couple of years now, I knew I was in for a treat with this one. I share no personal history with partition and Pakistan by extension, but for long this matter has intrigued me. That said, I thought Aanchal's Instagram, blog & the articles on Scroll, all have provided me as much exposure I could have on this subject, until a week ago, when I purchased her debut book Remnants of a Separation. The book comes with 19 chapters,19 personal accounts of people from three sides of the border: India; Pakistan; Bangladesh, and believe me you'll end up asking for more. In these 19 chapters, preceded by a splendid introduction, I found myself an invisible part of all these narratives. As though I was lurking behind the curtain, stealthily eavesdropping into the conversation. That was how personal experience was, and the nature of its subsequent impact. I found the words L-A-N-G-R-I-A-L, Lyallpur, Mianwali, subconsciously slip out of my tongue while reading Aanchal's narration. This is not merely a history or partition, a history of the material memory, but an insight into the lives that existed before the partition, the nuances of the languages, dialects, culture and the malleable nature of memory itself. It has been a while since I have read a non-fiction as good as this one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aadisht

    For a change, something closer to a review than scattershot notes, because this book felt far more personal than much of my reading. I would recommend this book to everybody based on how deeply it affected me. But I also acknowledge that for somebody who isn't Punjabi and with a family history intertwined with Partition, that same personal connection with the book might not be there. Even so, I would like to give this to everybody, even if only as a warning and antidote to the rhetoric we see the For a change, something closer to a review than scattershot notes, because this book felt far more personal than much of my reading. I would recommend this book to everybody based on how deeply it affected me. But I also acknowledge that for somebody who isn't Punjabi and with a family history intertwined with Partition, that same personal connection with the book might not be there. Even so, I would like to give this to everybody, even if only as a warning and antidote to the rhetoric we see these days. There are two things that made me pause and not buy into this book wholly. The first is that by the very nature of the approach taken - material memory - it selects the rich and upper class, who could afford even in the 1930s or 1940s to purchase or own artefacts that were expensive enough to be worth preserving, or well made enough to last into the 2010s. Someone who couldn't afford clothes that would last seventy years, or anything else of that nature, would be out of the scope of this history. The second is my own reluctance to accept the value of the material and my scorn/ frustration/ despair at people who do. Yes, these material artefacts have memories tied to them which are bringing out history and emotion. But this obsession for material artefacts and 'your own soil' is also what has driven real estate bubbles, poor decisions, and toxic nationalism. So it goes. Some things that particularly stood out for me, or struck me were: Sindhis having no words for Partition, because the Sindhi Hindus lost their entire land (whereas Punjabi and Hindi speaking Punjabis used batwara, and Urdu speaking Punjabis used Taksim) How petulant some of the nationalist activities carried out were - tearing down Union Jacks, refusing to stand for God Save the King - and then realising that in a time of poverty and and preindustrialisation, you had no choice but to be petulant, because your ability to create something better was so limited The last but one chapter, speaking of a Kapoor family that spent its days in Rawalpindi visiting mosques, the local Arya Samaj, and gurudwaras, and educating its daughters; makes me weep for what might have been if such amity and liberalism had been allowed to grow without the pain and disruption of Partition.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kanika Saini

    "Memory dilutes, but the object remains unaltered." The history of the partition of India and Pakistan means just a chapter for the younger generation while some have memories of it to write a book about it. Aanchal Malhotra recorded memories of these people through the objects they carried with them during that exodus to bring us closer to understand the amount of devastation caused in their lives. The memories of slaughter, the pain and screams have been sealed in these objects because when the "Memory dilutes, but the object remains unaltered." The history of the partition of India and Pakistan means just a chapter for the younger generation while some have memories of it to write a book about it. Aanchal Malhotra recorded memories of these people through the objects they carried with them during that exodus to bring us closer to understand the amount of devastation caused in their lives. The memories of slaughter, the pain and screams have been sealed in these objects because when they are taken out, they fill the space of their cosy surrounding with a chill and make them shudder. These objects not only tell the tale of their survival, but that horrifying sight they were a witness to. This book is also a reminder of how far these families have come from that traumatic event and that's how when the memories are filling the pages with the bloodied shadows, we can also feel the light entering from a corner.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Simran Sharma (Craartology)

    Aanchal Malhotra's Remnants is a treasure chest I am fortunate to have explored. A unique and novel idea to reminisce the great divide through material possessions that survived the horror of the same. Some mundane items and some heirlooms which later become the sole material belonging to the home on the other side. This book has experiences of people who have witnessed the "batwara" of the "British" India. With no clear border people were displaced from NWFP, Pakistan, Bangladesh and today's Indi Aanchal Malhotra's Remnants is a treasure chest I am fortunate to have explored. A unique and novel idea to reminisce the great divide through material possessions that survived the horror of the same. Some mundane items and some heirlooms which later become the sole material belonging to the home on the other side. This book has experiences of people who have witnessed the "batwara" of the "British" India. With no clear border people were displaced from NWFP, Pakistan, Bangladesh and today's India to new lands which were once part of the whole. The sole decision inflicted injustice to many and most. The culturally and economically strong provinces were plundered. Lahore, Jalandhar, Delhi and Calcutta to name a few. These stories have strong some beautiful facts that the people of today don't know. Peaceful co-existence and respect for other cultures/ religions was what this India taught it's people. Each story has pain, endearing memories of the "home" before the divide and a few material belongings to leave you teary-eyed. I've seen strength and the will to live with dignity, I've smiled with tears after reading instances of reunion with lost members of the family, finding old/ dear possessions or a chance to visit the REAL home years after the partition, I've witnessed honesty and the gratitude of simply being alive and safe - all throughout my journey with this book. The art of archiving is rare and sublime and definitely mastered by the author. If there's any book you want to read about India and it's partition then it's this...if you haven't read it, read it. It will surely take you where you plan to reach.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thegoangirlreads

    “Hum yaad karte Jain toh jaan chali Jaati hai, mann karta hai zinda hi marr jaye“ I picked up ‘Remnants Of A Separation’ by ‘Aanchal Malhotra’ this month in honour of India Completing 73 years of Independence and in memory of the Partition, a calamitous event that affected the lives of millions. The book contains 21 stories of refugees through the focal point of an ‘Object’ that travelled across the border and the memories of the experiences that the ‘Object’ evokes to its owner. The author has don “Hum yaad karte Jain toh jaan chali Jaati hai, mann karta hai zinda hi marr jaye“ I picked up ‘Remnants Of A Separation’ by ‘Aanchal Malhotra’ this month in honour of India Completing 73 years of Independence and in memory of the Partition, a calamitous event that affected the lives of millions. The book contains 21 stories of refugees through the focal point of an ‘Object’ that travelled across the border and the memories of the experiences that the ‘Object’ evokes to its owner. The author has done justice to capture stories from across both the partition, Indo-Pak as well as Indo-Bangladesh. This methodology of storytelling and documenting history, I believe is unique and original to the Author. As you read the stories, you notice the consequences even today, in the form of trauma the refugees still live through, more than seven decades since the tragic event. These are unspeakable stories of nostalgia, pain, displacement, loss of identity, rage, penury, strength and survival. This book is not a light read. To do justice to the book and the experiences of the refugees, you need to take it one story at a time. When I first started reading the book, I couldn’t come to terms with the events and repercussions of the partition, and I could not go beyond a couple of pages in one sitting. “It is not religion, it is human nature, it is power that drives madness. . . . That’s what history tells us. In India,all the way from the north to the south, the east to the west, as people, we were reasonably peaceful - until the quest became for power. The empire dissolved, leaving us with an aching need to affirm our own nationhood - both India and Pakistan. It was power. Not religion. The hunger for power and authority is what drove us to madness.” - Lt Gen S.N. Sharma

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kaushik

    I'm from South India, and here, while we all know and discuss the partition - I don't think it is ingrained as a cultural memory for many of us. This book helped me understand a lot of things - how the partition ripped people apart - their lives, their livelihoods, families, land. Overnight, many people became refugees reduced to utter penury. Almost 72 years after independence, the generation which has seen the partition is slowly dying, with their children and grandchildren now growing up witho I'm from South India, and here, while we all know and discuss the partition - I don't think it is ingrained as a cultural memory for many of us. This book helped me understand a lot of things - how the partition ripped people apart - their lives, their livelihoods, families, land. Overnight, many people became refugees reduced to utter penury. Almost 72 years after independence, the generation which has seen the partition is slowly dying, with their children and grandchildren now growing up without those memories. The author's accounts have helped me understand how the effects of inter-generational trauma continue to affect people, how people cope; sometimes by forgetting and sometimes through silence. In addition, it provides a context to things that we probably just read as events (like say, the Mirpur Massacre, the Lahore Riots, the Japanese Bombings of Calcutta). Stories from both sides of the border were incredibly fascinating to read side-by-side. Another fascinating aspect was the concept of "material memory". Sure, things serve as anchors for memories. Simple, right? But, these things also take us back, give us an insight into precise moments of time, of private and collective memories, significances. The stories in this book surround everyday objects - shawls, a churning pot, plates and photos. Some are mementos, some are medals, some are weapons. But the object collects memories and histories as time passes - and that is something I found very fascinating. The notes for this book are a fascinating collection of archives, news reports and books that I think would help anyone who is interested in histories of the partition. I did have a gripe or two - I wish the book could go into people from lower socio-economic/caste strata, but the constraint of space is always there. If you are looking for an academic history of the partition, this is probably not the book for you. But if you want to know the people whose lives were shattered by what seems like a border, this is where you should start.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Abhïshék Ghosh

    Malhotra is a master storyteller, not only because she describes the material: what one can see and hear, with unearthly lucidity, but also sensitively portrays the unsaid: the silences, the sudden ruminations, and the mixed chronology of stories that are recounted. While the attempt is laudatory and the emotions are very real, there are several aspects that rankled with me personally. The representation of stories could certainly have been more diverse. There were just two stories from the part Malhotra is a master storyteller, not only because she describes the material: what one can see and hear, with unearthly lucidity, but also sensitively portrays the unsaid: the silences, the sudden ruminations, and the mixed chronology of stories that are recounted. While the attempt is laudatory and the emotions are very real, there are several aspects that rankled with me personally. The representation of stories could certainly have been more diverse. There were just two stories from the partition in Bangladesh, both of which also betrayed a certain lack of willingness or authenticity in the author's willingness to understand and translate Bengali. This to me would seem to be a terrible roadblock to anyone attempting to document the history of a people, even if through personal anecdotes. A stray remark where the author extols a very traditional lens to feminine beauty didn't seem to sit well with contemporary conversations on race, caste, ethnicity, and diversity of gender expression. There are also two-three grammatical and orthographical errors that break the narrative and are oversights that could have been avoided. Overall, while the premise of the book is novel, the final product seems to represent the limited worldview that the author is comfortable and familiar with.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I found this book in the display section of my library in Decatur, Georgia, and was immediately intrigued for the following reasons: 1. I traveled to India 26 years ago. 2. I like books that talk about what an item means to someone. 3. I recently learned about the Partition from a woman whose grandparents were forced to leave their lands in what is now Pakistan. Though in her 40’s, she was upset that this legacy was no longer available to her family. I liked how the book was laid out. Each chapter w I found this book in the display section of my library in Decatur, Georgia, and was immediately intrigued for the following reasons: 1. I traveled to India 26 years ago. 2. I like books that talk about what an item means to someone. 3. I recently learned about the Partition from a woman whose grandparents were forced to leave their lands in what is now Pakistan. Though in her 40’s, she was upset that this legacy was no longer available to her family. I liked how the book was laid out. Each chapter was a complete retelling which made it possible to jump into the book and not have to refresh my memory. The stories were touching and sad at the same time. So much trauma was experienced. I also appreciated the glimpse into the every day life of Indians and Pakistanis. I kept my phone close to look up terms, languages, ethnic groups, historic moments and so much more that was unfamiliar to me. Wonderful work. I appreciate your dedication!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maddhav Dhir

    Seperation. A single word can inflict so much hurt just by reading it, without any context of of who, what, why or when. Now amplify this feeling by 15 million. Attach to them the significance of being your ancestors. Attach the feeling of the relief of independence and the grief of leaving one’s home. I still don’t have an answer on “why?” Remnants. What remains after something has passed over taking with it most of what you had, except the little that was left behind, or rather, held on to, wit Seperation. A single word can inflict so much hurt just by reading it, without any context of of who, what, why or when. Now amplify this feeling by 15 million. Attach to them the significance of being your ancestors. Attach the feeling of the relief of independence and the grief of leaving one’s home. I still don’t have an answer on “why?” Remnants. What remains after something has passed over taking with it most of what you had, except the little that was left behind, or rather, held on to, with dear life and sometimes at the cost of life. Nothing I write here can do justice to the beauty that is Aanchal Malhotra’s book and the stories of these survivors of one of the greatest massacres, both emotional and physical, of human history. All of us have read and heard about the partition at some point in our lives, But it is the angle at which these stories are looked from which make this book a journey worth going through. Influenced by the author’s own familial history, she looks at tales of partition and those specifically involving migration, through objects that survived this ordeal. In most cases, families would have to leave their homes overnight and travel across the border to what is now Pakistan, or the other way around. In these situations, families, no matter how affluent, would have to leave behind most of their belongings. However each of the protagonists in these stories, did take something with them, which might not make sense to the reader. A “ghara”, a sword, pearls, a stone plaque, etc. But to make sense is exactly what the author does. 21 stories of material objects are told and we as the reader are made to understand why objects are so much more than their utility. The 21 stories are written in first person, as interviews between the author and the survivors (and their families). Reading each of these stories, you will come to know the story behind what made these objects significant and at the same time, the horrors of partition are continually playing in the backdrop. The author is almost always asked that why does she want to know? Sometimes because of the sheer confusion of the interviewee, in the interest around seemingly, mundane objects, sometimes because they have suppressed the horrors of those times deep inside them and mostly both. But as the author explains, it is necessary for these stories to be told, as the survivors of the partition, won’t be around for much longer and it is essential that their stories are not lost, that generation after generation remembers the pains and horrors their ancestors went through and how brave they were, to ensure that they survived and in turn could ensure that there are future generations. Most remarkably, I thought this book would tax me and drain me given the sadness in the world around us and the horrors of partition that I would read about. But more than anything else, this book filled me with hope. If these people, who went through a trauma one can’t even begin to imagine and still end up living full lives, full of giving and receiving love, then we too can emerge from this crisis with some shred of optimism to hold onto and build from there. The importance of history is not that it helps us remember, it is that it prevents us forgetting, for what are we as a society if not our collective memory? Without memory we are nothing but wild beasts who came from nowhere and are going nowhere. I highly recommend reading this book. P.s- My favourite story is “The Poems of Prabhjot Kaur”.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Naddy

    This year on Independence Day, I picked up Remnants of a Separation, on partition I have read very few books and I wanted to read something non-fiction. There are few books the moment you start you know it is going to be one of the best books you ever read. This book is tear-jerker, one of the masterpieces written very brilliantly. There are few thoughts which keeps on lingering after reading this book. It is generally said there is no place like Home, Home is a place where we feel it is place of This year on Independence Day, I picked up Remnants of a Separation, on partition I have read very few books and I wanted to read something non-fiction. There are few books the moment you start you know it is going to be one of the best books you ever read. This book is tear-jerker, one of the masterpieces written very brilliantly. There are few thoughts which keeps on lingering after reading this book. It is generally said there is no place like Home, Home is a place where we feel it is place of utmost comfort and security. Home is the starting place of love, hope, and dreams. The magical thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back. And one day you got to know that your home is at wrong end of line/boarder, you will have to leave your place of utmost comfort and never come back. There will be obvious thought you will come back it is just a phase which shall pass too soon. And who decides that line from where it start and where it ends has nothing to do with lives of people who were living comfortably in their mansions, havelis. You are not supposed to take anything with you, jewels, cash, it can all be ransacked on the way. There is no guarantee you will make it to other end, there are communal riots, there is bloodshed on the way. Even if you make to other end, how will you stand again, a common man took almost all his savings to make home and fill it with so many materialistic and non-materialistic memories. How can you leave that memories, and many people had to leave in such a haste, they did not have time to think what to pick what to leave behind? Remnants of Separation have 21 stories of such material memory which people pick intentionally, unintentionally, accidentally, while leaving their houses to save their lives. There are few stories which will make you believe there are good people at both ends of border. There are few stories which are so horrendous which will force to ask basic question was the Partition worth it. 21 objects will take you into Indian, Pakistani, Bengali and English homes, and by extension into the lives of those who lived before Partition, in Undivided India, giving us glimpses into a distant past. Each story speaks of emotions, a voice that is penned by author, there is honesty in each of the stories, there is extensive research about each story, there may be zillions of literature available on the partition but I don’t think there is any material memory literature written by any author. Each story will evoke empathy. These are stories which are necessary to be told to someone from our generation. “Every time the train stopped at a station, we would all hold our breath, making sure not a single sound drifted out of the closed windows. We were hungry and our throats parched. From inside the train we heard voices travelling up and down the platform, saying, “Hindu paani,” and, from the other side, “Muslim paani.” Apart from land and population, even the water had now been divided” “Migration is often accompanied by a feeling of unavoidable disorientation, and the circumstances of 1947 would have pronounced this feeling. In most cases, it would have created an involuntary distance between where one was born before the Partition and where one moved to after it, stretching out their identity sparsely over the expanse of this distance. As a result, somewhere in between the original city of their birth and the adopted city of residence, would lay their essence – strangely malleable.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aravind

    The non-fiction book is a fine collection of stories in the form of nineteen interviews through the glorious voices of people across the Indo-Pak border. The author coherently attempts to extract the memories of the most critical partition of India that happened way back in 1947. Although the nation received the much-anticipated Independence the people settled across the border found themselves in great chaos for a long time. The book painstakingly reveals the harsh episodes of riots that grippe The non-fiction book is a fine collection of stories in the form of nineteen interviews through the glorious voices of people across the Indo-Pak border. The author coherently attempts to extract the memories of the most critical partition of India that happened way back in 1947. Although the nation received the much-anticipated Independence the people settled across the border found themselves in great chaos for a long time. The book painstakingly reveals the harsh episodes of riots that gripped the two new nations under its clasp. The writer cordially interviews various old people who try to recollect the past of partition from the material memory. The things which were mostly forgotten or carried in hurry become the centre stage of the book. The book strides in a graceful form as the people recount the materials and their horrible past which have greatly survived the test of time. The most striking and stunning aspect of the book is that the reader is presented with the ancient text and words of Urdu, Hindi, Sindi, Punjabi and Bengali language. This certainly boosts the linguistic quality and no doubt the vocabulary building of a regional dialect too. The book graciously develops a character to comprehend human nature. It induces the mind to experience the wrath of partition that did great damage to innocent hearts. It did challenge the people who were asked to travel amidst the dead, escape the bitter climate and settle lonely to wait for the end of vague violence. The happy part of the struggle is that fortunate people were again settled in their favourite city or village and lead life to their best and fullest. The author surprises the readers by divulging ancient materials of daily use or bridal trousseau which vehemently ruled the showcases of the homes. The materials of gaz, ghara, mang tikka, khaas daan, paan daan, bronze glass, phulkari fabric, old volumes of poetry, matriculation certificates etc., radiate special aspects with elan. The items of the past speak several volumes as they once were an integral part of daily lives and how they kept the heart close-knit and make life earthly glory. This brilliant volume on separation poignantly motivates the patriotism that keeps up the power of spirit to remember the pivotal past and surge ahead. The book stupendously succeeds in the intention to lucidly exhibit the stories of the past which saw violence from close quarters and certainly inspired to desire the quality of unity.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrija

    What an absolutely beautiful, breathtaking book! Remnants of a separation consists of 19 interviews of people who have been affected by partition. Each interview is carried out with respect to an item brought by them during partition. There are stories here which have filled me with hope and stories which have left me with a heavy heart. I can see myself picking up this book several times and rereading favourite bits from it. I was also lucky enough to meet the lovely author when I started this What an absolutely beautiful, breathtaking book! Remnants of a separation consists of 19 interviews of people who have been affected by partition. Each interview is carried out with respect to an item brought by them during partition. There are stories here which have filled me with hope and stories which have left me with a heavy heart. I can see myself picking up this book several times and rereading favourite bits from it. I was also lucky enough to meet the lovely author when I started this book which just made my experience a million times better. All in all, Remnants of a separation goes down as one of my most favourite books of all time and I strongly recommend it to everyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debasmita Bhowmik

    This is an excellent book for everyone - whether you've read a lot about Partition, or even if you're just getting started. The personal touches to the anecdotes are sometimes piercing, and leave a lasting impression. The topic is intriguing, and the author explores the Partition through the objects in particular. My only complaint (and the reason this book did not get 5 stars from me) is that the writing is still raw and not completely refined. There are places where the author sounds a little r This is an excellent book for everyone - whether you've read a lot about Partition, or even if you're just getting started. The personal touches to the anecdotes are sometimes piercing, and leave a lasting impression. The topic is intriguing, and the author explores the Partition through the objects in particular. My only complaint (and the reason this book did not get 5 stars from me) is that the writing is still raw and not completely refined. There are places where the author sounds a little repetitive and redundant. But those are minor issues in an otherwise wonderfully rich and detailed book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shriya

    Fair warning, Future Reader:You will cry! Maybe a trickle, maybe bucket loads, maybe your eyes will begin to prickle suddenly but it's inevitable that you will cry. Unabashedly. Unreservedly. And if you're Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, then hysterically. This is the book that deserved to be written so much but until Aanchal Malhotra came along, nobody really did. Fair warning, Future Reader:You will cry! Maybe a trickle, maybe bucket loads, maybe your eyes will begin to prickle suddenly but it's inevitable that you will cry. Unabashedly. Unreservedly. And if you're Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, then hysterically. This is the book that deserved to be written so much but until Aanchal Malhotra came along, nobody really did.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Surabhi Geetey

    This is my most favorite read of 2021, and possibly one of the best books I've ever read. This book has my whole heart ! This is my most favorite read of 2021, and possibly one of the best books I've ever read. This book has my whole heart !

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anandarupa Chakrabarti

    Separation- a word that reminds of the remains of the past much connected to loss, grief and pain. A word that lingers in our hearts and only grows into a void like a recovered fossil telling us stories about its origin. Remnant is the feeling- a feeling absent in a community, in an atmosphere you really never belonged. We all know how much independence had cost us to meet with the free living we lead today and that being said partition around the provinces of now India had suffered destruction, Separation- a word that reminds of the remains of the past much connected to loss, grief and pain. A word that lingers in our hearts and only grows into a void like a recovered fossil telling us stories about its origin. Remnant is the feeling- a feeling absent in a community, in an atmosphere you really never belonged. We all know how much independence had cost us to meet with the free living we lead today and that being said partition around the provinces of now India had suffered destruction, loss, oppression and homelessness that got many people distant from their origin and starting all over again, adjusting and making a new position in society. ‘Memorization is not a passive practice but an active conversation. By studying the evolution of personal histories from that period, we allow ourselves to unravel further and understand better the legacy of the Partition.’ Aanchal looks into the partition and connects it with materialistic objects that reminds people of their tales and memories of partition. These interviewees pour their heart out and show evidence that is heartwarming and unfathomably grave. These interviews picture    the trauma and come with a persistent sadness as the readers flip the pages of their stories. Some tales have a parallel similarity in the stories of the people being interviewed. The night when the news of partition breaks, the dilemma of the news being rumor or real.  The train journey to cross the border to reach Pakistan or India moving with only ‘valuables’ that remind them of their homelands. This book is a reminder that wherever you were born and always belonged to no one takes that away from you. You may shift to other lands and conquer new possibilities but you would never shrug away from the feeling of homeland whenever you’re triggered. Aanchal has this perfectionist like methodology to balance out between a formal interview and penning it down as a tale. The tales are gracefully and respectfully written with dignity. It needs guts and strength to hear such tragedies, absorb them and portray the same nostalgia and loss into words. There’s a subtle rawness and honesty in every story and not just prioritizing the partition tale of the author’s family. This book is a heavy read. To experience and time travel to the days of Pre-Independence tragedies and pasts of these brave personalities you need to take it slow. As the author had absorbed the conversations in reality meeting and us, as readers also need to absorb the fate faced by the people. This book is a must-have experience.   

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pratikshya Mishra

    As I read through the book, chapter after chapter of poignant memoirs, juggling between the text and the endnotes or references section, I am overcome with such powerful emotions of longing and loss. I am witness to a series of nostalgia, suffering, migration, and pain of so many people through this 400-page book, author Aanchal Malhotra’s careful, sensitive and emotional archiving of oral histories around The Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 through material memory. I belong to the As I read through the book, chapter after chapter of poignant memoirs, juggling between the text and the endnotes or references section, I am overcome with such powerful emotions of longing and loss. I am witness to a series of nostalgia, suffering, migration, and pain of so many people through this 400-page book, author Aanchal Malhotra’s careful, sensitive and emotional archiving of oral histories around The Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 through material memory. I belong to the third generation of those who lived during this Great Divide, an event that saw the largest mass migration in human history. And what meagre knowledge I had of the partition through history books, this work of non-fiction added greatly to my perspectives, through its tales from real people who had to migrate- from there place of belonging, their homeland, to a land that was considered safe according to their and was assigned to them. https://www.magic-moments.in/2020/05/...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    An attempt to revisit the Partition of India through objects carried by refugees as they crossed the border on both sides. Described as material memory, the author aims to identify belongings, mementos, gifts - things that people hurriedly picked up or chanced upon or happened to inherit - that hold memories of life in undivided India, and what those memories and objects mean to them now. An alternative history of the Partition viewed as a tangible event, the book can be described as a cross bet An attempt to revisit the Partition of India through objects carried by refugees as they crossed the border on both sides. Described as material memory, the author aims to identify belongings, mementos, gifts - things that people hurriedly picked up or chanced upon or happened to inherit - that hold memories of life in undivided India, and what those memories and objects mean to them now. An alternative history of the Partition viewed as a tangible event, the book can be described as a cross between history and anthropology, wonderfully researched and presented.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sonali Dabade

    What a brilliant book about the Partition, written with such love, care, compassion, and unbiased feeling! This must be made required reading across all countries involved because of the past that it unearths and the knowledge that it gives us. I can't thank the author enough for writing this book! It's absolutely brilliant and I don't think I will be able to stop saying it anytime soon. The vlog for this (I'm so glad I filmed it) will be up soon on my channel: The Melodramatic Bookworm What a brilliant book about the Partition, written with such love, care, compassion, and unbiased feeling! This must be made required reading across all countries involved because of the past that it unearths and the knowledge that it gives us. I can't thank the author enough for writing this book! It's absolutely brilliant and I don't think I will be able to stop saying it anytime soon. The vlog for this (I'm so glad I filmed it) will be up soon on my channel: The Melodramatic Bookworm

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shridevi Krishnakumar

    I started reading this without expecting anything and I was so impressed. The effort and time involved in the research is truly commendable! This is such a new perspective; I loved this journey.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ayushi

    Remnants of a Separation is a poignant book, one that for me solidified the futility of the partition of India- the biggest migration of people the world has ever witnessed. The Partition was the culmination of certain fanciful politicians and done in such a haphazard manner that it cost innumerable lives and destruction. The ones who survived suffered immense trauma, such trauma that their brains had hidden those memories in the recesses of their minds. I was intrigued by the Partition in my sec Remnants of a Separation is a poignant book, one that for me solidified the futility of the partition of India- the biggest migration of people the world has ever witnessed. The Partition was the culmination of certain fanciful politicians and done in such a haphazard manner that it cost innumerable lives and destruction. The ones who survived suffered immense trauma, such trauma that their brains had hidden those memories in the recesses of their minds. I was intrigued by the Partition in my second year of under graduation at Delhi University. I majored in History and wanted to do a project about the Partition; I had recently learned that the upmarket Khan Market was birthed to rehabilitate the refugees from the North West Frontier Province and I also learned that the famous booksellers- Bahri Sons had originally migrated from Pakistan after the Partition. I brought up the idea with my Professor who promptly snuffed the idea, at the time I was miffed but reading this book I understood that I did not have the emotional or research maturity to carry out the project, even at a small capacity. People were uprooted from their homes and their lands, fleeing the communal riots in a panic to save their lives. Lives were lost, homes abandoned and women abused. An immense hatred was ignited along communal lines which saw the worst come out in people. The gruesome acts carried out on communal lines was barbaric. It was as if people were given a free rein to reach their most cruel states. In the book Aanchal Malhotra, granddaughter of the founder of Bahri Sons, writes how the survivors of the Partition mentioned in the book are reluctant to recall their memories and when they do its with immense sadness. they recollect their childhood and all the memories before the Partition with child like glee which very soon turns into sorrow when the recollection of the aftermath of the Partition begins. They seem to forget the events , the brain shrouding their memories to hide the trauma, then gradually tales are pulled out with the help of certain objects. This is the material memory that the author strove to capture. The memories or possessiveness associated with these material objects is pulled out at times when the author puts on an object of the owners’ on her own self rather than on them, then the possessiveness and the memories that belong to the object spring free. Simple objects that draw them back to their lives before the Partition, the connection with their parents, grand parents, the legacies they left behind. The the arduous journey after the Partition that they embarked on with these objects stowed safely. One cannot even fathom the shock and the trauma the people who witnessed the partition went through or the shock and trauma refugees continuously go through. To be unceremoniously uprooted from your homes in violent conditions takes immense courage. And the courage to start your life over is awe-inspiring. Read the book to read in detail the memories associated with these objects because a review will not do them justice.

  29. 5 out of 5

    beautywithbooks

    First I would like to thank the publisher HarperCollins Publishers India for sending me this book to read. I love to read historical fiction and non-fiction books. This book is a treasure of memories from the Undivided India. Today we live in a free India, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis each stay in their own free country. But we never thought what is the price our ancestors had to pay for this. We don't know what they had to go through during the partition. Who had ever dreamt of an Divided India. First I would like to thank the publisher HarperCollins Publishers India for sending me this book to read. I love to read historical fiction and non-fiction books. This book is a treasure of memories from the Undivided India. Today we live in a free India, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis each stay in their own free country. But we never thought what is the price our ancestors had to pay for this. We don't know what they had to go through during the partition. Who had ever dreamt of an Divided India. Yes, talks were going on, but who ever thought that this will become a reality. For them it never mattered, if they were Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. All these people following different religion stayed in harmony. The cruel decision of dividing India happened quickly and hastily. Even the British was not ready for it. When the line was drawn on the Undivided India, it was not just geographically, but also a line was drawn in the lives of people dividing into pre and post independence phase. Neither Viceroy Mountbatten nor the leaders involved foresaw a mass movement of population across the borders following the geographical division. Families who had lived in a place for decades, who had ancestral property, suddenly after partition found themselves at the wrong side of the border. Suddenly they become a stranger to their very own birthplace. This was the most horrible phase of Indian history. People were not just physically displaced, they were uprooted from their own homes. They had to leave in hurry, leaving everything behind and go to a new place as a refugee. Few families took this just as a mere vacation to go to a new place across border and come back after the riots died. But got stuck at the other side, never to able to return to their homeland. Their empty houses being claimed by the refugees at both sides. This book is collection of 19 memories of those such families (which includes the author's grandparents as well), who stood witness to the Undivided India being partitioned, their mental trauma, the uprootedness, the heart wrenching horrible moments, which were locked away and never talked about. This book make us live those moments with the help of material memory. These materials or objects, few precious and few mundane, that survived the partition, were carried across the border hidden in the folds of the clothes or inside boxes in the hope to help them in the new land to start everything from scratch. These objects that were passed from one generation to other, makes those decade old memories tangible. We are the last generation to have lived with people who witnessed the crumbling of India in the name of partition. The memories shared in this book are not just any story or history, it is an insight to the lives, the culture, the dialects of people in Undivided India. And how these things are getting erased. The objects carried across border act as a link, holding the memories of Undivided India, to past life and the present. This book with the help of objects, carried across the border, tries to keep those memories safely archived. This book I would highly recommend to all the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi readers to understand the trauma of partition. And also because, it not only contain memories of families that moved to India after partition but also of families that moved to Pakistan and Bangladesh.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sumallya Mukhopadhyay

    Remnants of Separation, Aanchal Malhotra Human memory is a dangerous thing, wrote Milan Kundera, for one cannot be certain which image/event/information will have a lasting impression on your mind. Moreover, malleability of memory means that memory changes over time. It gets shaped, influenced and conditioned by the changing nature of the socio-political order, symptomatic of the institutionalized process of disbelief and denial promoted by the dominant ideology of a particular geopolitical loca Remnants of Separation, Aanchal Malhotra Human memory is a dangerous thing, wrote Milan Kundera, for one cannot be certain which image/event/information will have a lasting impression on your mind. Moreover, malleability of memory means that memory changes over time. It gets shaped, influenced and conditioned by the changing nature of the socio-political order, symptomatic of the institutionalized process of disbelief and denial promoted by the dominant ideology of a particular geopolitical location. That various facts concerning the Partition of South Asia have been purposely consigned into oblivion, and many others strategically distorted, inspires one to reconstruct the precarious domain of human memory. Aanchal Malhotra, while collecting objects that witnessed the Partition, opens up a new area of studying the event through material memory. She writes: “The memory buried within ‘things’ sometimes is greater than what we are able to recollect as the years pass. One understands her argument. After all, there is no denying that “memory dilutes”, to quote Malhotra, “but the objects remain unaltered”. She tries to understand migratory memory in a visceral way and highlights that it is not the idea of nation but of home that haunts those she interviewed. For instance, she draws the example of one Pirzada Abd-e-Saeed who added the suffix Pakistani to his name only to alter it after the Partition to Pirzada Abd-e-Saeed Jullunduri, carrying the identity of his lost home. The accounts presented in the book are characterized by a breezy, light commentary where the happenings are unfolded in a dialogical narrative. The frank conversational narratives, albeit personal and deeply political, are mostly intimate, depicting history of families that are centred on the Partition. The narratives comprises a colonizer’s viewpoint of decolonization, an orthodox Muslim’s love for India, a poet’s imaginative recollection of the events, a League activist’s opinion of Hindu-dominated India and also Malhotra’s own family history, interspersed by her own narrative voice. Her insightful account of the nuances of language of a generation that resided in undivided India is a point to reckon with. One can argue saying that, more often than not, Malhotra fails to appear as a detached narrator. Her writing is extremely emotional and, at times, this appears to be her weakness. But then, she almost presents herself as the co-author of the stories that she hears and this injects a distinct authenticity to her authorial politics.

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