Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

A Memoir of Partition

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On the twentieth day of March 2008, I headed home for the first time in my life. I was fifty-six years and a month old. Walking east across the border gates at Wagah I was on my way to the fulfilment of a family pietas of very long standing. I was going to a home I had never known; a home in a foreign land, a land that state propaganda wanted me to believe was enemy territory. But I knew it as a country where my ancestors had lived and died over countless generations. That was the home where the hearth kept the warmth of a fire first kindled by a matriarch many hundred years, nay, a few thousand years, ago and which all of a sudden had been extinguished in a cataclysm in 1947.

In that great upheaval, in a singular moment in time, that home ceased to be home. One part of the family made it across the border to become a tiny part of a huge data: they were among the nearly two million people uprooted from their homes. Another part of the family also became a statistic—a grim and ghastly one: they were part of the more than one million unfortunate souls who paid with their blood for the division of India and foundation of the new country of Pakistan for Muslims. They who died were not just Muslims who lived east of the new line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe. They were Sikhs, Hindus and even Jains who had homes thousands of years old, west of this line in the land that became Pakistan.

Born five four years and six months after the dreadful event, I had grown up in a home where we only knew in an amorphous, indirect sort of way that the family had suffered terribly in what the elders referred to as Partition. Even though the lost ones were referred to from time to time, no one ever spoke explicitly of the loss and how it may have occurred. The inhumanity of man against fellow man, of neighbours slaughtering those with whom they shared a common wall, was never spoken of. Never was it mentioned that some may have survived and, forced to convert to another faith, may still be living in India. This last thought was simply too much to take for these damaged but proud Muslim minds.

I did not know it as a child, but I now understand that they simply did not wish to recall the loss of parents, sisters, a grandparent and a home. I wonder if it was because my father, his brother and the one surviving sister were afraid that talking of that time would shatter their apparently unbreakable veneer of stoic self-control. Were they afraid the mention of the loss of Partition would bring tears?

Book is now available at Readings, Lahore for a rebated price of Rs 450

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 10:56,


At 21 January 2018 at 16:26, Blogger Unknown said...

After reading a review of your book in The Hindu, I am keen to read it. Perhaps it will provide me with answers to questions, I raised in my mind when I was growing up: my paternal grandmother's detachment: all her life she only physically belonged to West Bengal, the only time my father's emotions were palpable was when he spoke about his childhood days in East Bengal, my mother's obsession with Dacca. Thank you for your sensitiveness: the dedication page says it all .

Nabanita Mitra from India

At 22 January 2018 at 06:29, Blogger Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Nabanita. The fact is that in 70 years no one has ever acknowledged the fact that Hindus and Sikhs too paid for Pakistan with their blood and worldly possession. What I have written in ToM, is a very personal and very true story. There is nothing make believe in it.

At 22 January 2018 at 15:19, Blogger Nabanita Mitra said...

I guess only liberals and rationalists can display such sensitiveness. May your tribe increase in a world that is getting destabilised, with rise in the right wing. I suppose the world badly needs a movement, which pushes that besides our name, our only additional identity is "a human being".

At 22 January 2018 at 15:24, Blogger Salman Rashid said...

And only a liberal and a rationalist can understand such an emotion. If you and I are human, we are not alone. There are always a few quiet voices like ours rising above the mad cacophony of the other side. Do not lose faith.

At 24 January 2018 at 11:04, Blogger Nabanita Mitra said...

Thank you and I hope and pray our posterity will get to live in a better world.

At 7 April 2018 at 21:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading the brief intro on your book "A Time of Madness", I got the book from "Amazon". I appreciate the honesty and poignancy with which you have described the sad incidents happened to your family during the partition of this great Country.

As an octogenarian who had witnessed unfortunate partition of my motherland in the name of religion, I feel partition of the Country was the greatest blunder committed by the Politicians. During those days, I have read a lot in the news papers about the sudden mass hysteria created by Partition. We living in South where free of this holocaust during those years.
Many times it passed through my mind what did we achieve by dividing the people by their religious belief and spreading hatred towards fellow human being ? Nothing except misery and loss.
However I am glad that few right thinking people are still left in the subcontinent who repent for the folly of previous generations. "A Time of Madness" is a bold attempt to remind the present generation of the waste of precious lives
Warm regards,

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

At 11 April 2018 at 10:01, Blogger Salman Rashid said...

Brahmanyan ji, I am grateful to you for your comment. To know that even southerners, who were so far away from the subcontinental Holocaust, still feel the pain shows that things can yet be righted. That we can put hatred behind us and move ahead as friends.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days