When I was reading, ‘Hiraeth’ by Dr. Shivani Salil, a paragraph from the poet, Nida Fazli’s poem. ‘Yahan Bhi Wahan Bhi’ floated in my mind, and I quote.
Insaan mein haiwaan yahan bhi hai wahan bhi
Allah nigehbaan yahan bhi hai wahan bhi
(The monster resides within humans – here and there, too
Allah watches over us – here and there, too.)
India-Pakistan Partition–a living, breathing ghost that still haunts the consciousness of those who lived it– firsthand or through words of their loved ones. ‘Hiraeth’ captures twenty-four of their unspoken anguish and puts it on paper for all to read and experience. Maybe, cry.
Dr. Shivani, like the doctor she is, is impartial in her treatment of stories–each of the three religions affected the most, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs play both the victims and the perpetrators. There is no disparity in their actions – they are both – villains and heroes in someone’s lives. The use of local languages and dialects to express the characters’ angst, pain, and anger is sensitively handled and at no point appears forced.
Each of the twenty-four stories (especially, Quam, Lahore) is like a tiny spear to your heart–each as potent as the last strike. One knows what one is getting into when one picks the book up, drawn by the magnificent cover, and when one turns the last page (proverbially, in my case), the urge to reflect and cry is immediate.
What were they thinking? What was their most pertinent thought? was what I thought when I gazed unseeing at my Kindle. Dr. Shivani does an excellent job of trying to answer that.
The book is a reflection of our history, a peek into the lives, we as Indians and Pakistanis, had lived and lost, and like all partition stories, I would urge you to read it.
The voices of the victims, and their stories need to be heard. Listen to them.