Quite obviously, Independence Day – August 15 – means different things to different people. Is it tainted with pain, despair, and bloodshed due to Partition and the long drawn struggle for freedom, or is it coloured with hope and happiness – looking forward towards the endeavours of an independent nation?
Given that it’s a time for introspection, here’s a collection of non-fiction and fiction to draw inspiration from and serve as a beacon for the future.
- Faith and Freedom: Gandhi in History by Mushirul Hasan
This book offers a meticulously researched account of Mahatma Gandhi – his historical background, campaigns, impact on Indian life, and the guidance he still continues to offer in dealing with contemporary problems. It offers a particularly illuminating and long overdue account of Gandhi’s association with Muslim leaders, and shows how politically tragic religious nationalism can be. Written by one of India’s leading historians, this book is a must read for everyone interested in understanding the political landscape of modern India.
- Lost Addresses: A Memoir of India, 1934-1955 by Krishna Bose
Krishna Bose was born Krishna Chaudhuri on December 26, 1930, in Dhaka, to East Bengali parents settled in Calcutta. In December 1955 she married Sisir Kumar Bose, son of barrister and nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose and nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. A multifaceted personality – a professor, writer, researcher, broadcaster, social worker and politician – this is her story of her childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.
It vividly describes Calcutta, Bengal and India in the 1930s and 1940s and the early years after Independence. Krishna’s memories of growing up and coming of age are set in the social, cultural and political milieus of the time. She relives how she experienced World War II, the Quit India movement of 1942, the Bengal Famine of 1943-44, the Red Fort trials of the Indian National Army (INA) officers in 1945-46, the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946, and the Partition and Independence in Delhi in 1947. Illustrated with old photographs, this memoir is a valuable historical record, told in flowing literary style.
- Article 370: Explained for the Common Man by Sumit Dutt Majumder
In August 2019, the government reconstituted the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, abrogating its special status and more closely integrating it into the Indian union. This book seeks to explain the issues surrounding Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution, making readers more informed about this important constitutional, political and legal matter. The beauty of the book lies in the fact that the author writes in a simple and lucid language, avoiding journalese, jargon and legalese, thereby making the issues accessible to the common man.
- Jallianwala Bagh: Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry – edited and introduced by Rakhshanda Jalil
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of April 3, 2019, the butchering of unarmed innocents, is a historic event that haunts the human mind even after the lapse of a century. Through a selection of prose and poetry – the direct outcome of this horrific event and an introduction that traces the history of events leading to the massacre – Rakhshanda Jalil, a literary historian and translator from Urdu and Hindi, attempts to open a window into the world of possibilities that literature offers to reflect, interpret and analyse events of momentous historical import. The selection offers ways of ‘seeing’ history, of exploring how an incident that stirred the conscience of millions, found its way through pen and paper to reach the nooks and crannies of popular imagination filtered through the mind of the creative writer.
The acknowledged doyens of Indian literature featured in this volume include Saadat Hasan Manto, Mulk Raj Anand, Krishan Chander, Abdullah Hussein, Bhisham Sahni, Ghulam Abbas, Subadhra Kumari Chauhan, Sarojini Naidu, Sohan Singh Misha, Muhammad Iqbal, Josh Malihabadi, and Nanak Singh, to name a few. A collection that can pave the way for further research.
- Bridge Across the Rivers: Partition Memories from the Two Punjabs – edited by Jasbir Jain & Tripti Jain
The history of the Partition is neither singular nor static. It appears different from different perspectives. The past is never over; its presence looms large over our present. The Partition narrative exceeds the bounds of history and impacted both collective and individual identities. In some ways it rendered the individual invisible, with identity being transformed into a stereotype, which evoked conventional patterns of behaviour. The heartache and anguish of divided families and frustrated, failed individual lives lay heavy on the joy of a much-coveted freedom.
This collection seeks to debate issues and throw light on discourses other than those of violence and darkness, working with a chronology, located in time. The narratives unfold expectation, hope and harmony, flight and violence, psychological fallouts, gender issues, and questions of guilt and reflection. As the stories trace the shifts in emotions and focus on individual wills, the undercurrents of cultural oneness form a counter discourse.
By Vishnu Makhijani