Top 15 Heart-Wrenching Works Written at the Time of Partition of India

Everything changed for the people of India on the night of 14 August 1947 when their country was divided into two parts leaving millions homeless and refugees in their own country. It was not just a mere division of land, it was a division of hearts as many lost their friends, families, and love, and witnessed the horrendous violence seeing humanity at its worst. There are many stories of Partition which need to be read to gain a deeper analysis. So here are the top 15 heart-wrenching works written at the time of the Partition of India.

Top 15 Heart-Wrenching Works Written at the Time of Partition of India

1. Sharanarthi (Refugee) by Sachchidanand Hiranand Vatsyayam

This series of poems were written between October 12, 1947, and November 12, 1947. Sharanarthi captures the plight of people who were forced to leave their homes, leaving behind everything due to communal violence. Reading these immediate poetic responses to a developing situation is a rewarding experience even today.

2. Story Toba Tek Singh by Saadat Hasan Manto

“Toba Tek Singh” uses the madness of the inmates as a mirror for the madness of the outside world. This story is a symbolic commentary on the psychological trauma of the human displacement brought about by partition. How people experienced fractured identities and a loss of sense of belonging due to partition is the central theme of this short story.

3. Memories of Hadali by Khushwant Singh

Memories of Hadali is a recollection of a childhood home lost to time and partition. Khushwant Singh beautifully portrays his emotions in the ‘Memories of Hadali’ as how it feels to leave one’s home and village where he and his family spent their precious moments of life.

4. Ice and Candy by Sidhwa

Ice Candy Man tracks the experience of one family in Lahore, and their various friends and servants, during a time in which, in Sidhwa’s words “seven million Muslims and five million Hindus and Sikhs are uprooted in the largest and most terrible exchange of population known to history.”

5. Subh-e-azadi (Dawn of Freedom) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The poem shows the melancholic tone and contains the bitter lamentation on the crisis and miserable condition of the people of both sides. It is one of the masterpieces of Faiz’s poetry. The theme of the poem is that achieved freedom is not real, it is just an illusion.

6. Pinjar by Amrita Kaur Pritam

Pritam wrote ‘Pinjar’ in 1950, one of the finest novels on Partition. The story centered around Puro, a Hindu girl abducted by a Muslim man, who somehow manages to make her way home, only to be rejected. Puro then becomes Hamida and marries Rashid, her abductor, but grows to hate the foetus growing in her womb. “In reality she was neither the one nor the other. She was just a skeleton without a shape or a name,” wrote Pritam.

7. The Divided Legacy by Niaz Zaman

‘Both the groups are homeless refugees, both forced to vacate their homes for an uncertain future in an unknown place…Despite religious and political differences, Waliullah suggests, the human bond remains somewhere underneath.’ The story ends with officials evicting the squatters from the house, which has been requisitioned by the government. The tulsi plant, with none to water it, begins to wither again. The implication is clear; the suffering brought on by Partition is to be blamed on the impersonal decisions of officials.

8. Tamas by Sahni

Tamas was published in 1972. The word ‘Tamas’ means darkness. This book presents an accurate account of the dirty politics during the time of partition. “Like the receding tide of the sea, the tide of the riots had subsided, leaving behind all kinds of litter and junk and garbage.”

9. What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin

This book is about two Sikh women who are married to the same man. What the Body Remembers is a heart breaking but transcendent book and the reader is left sombre but hopeful by this beautifully told story.

10. The Footprints of Partition by Anam Zakaria

Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians, is an honest account of the people of Pakistan and some of India, over four generations. The book attempts to understand how the perception of the ‘other’ has evolved over the years after the Partition. This book emphasizes on the need of Partition to be understood in continuity with our present-day political fantasies.

11. Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa

Sidhwa’s novel is about a child’s loss of innocence, about a world peopled with characters called Electric-aunt and Slave sister and Oldhusband, about servants and laborers and artisans caught up in events they barely understand, but in which they play a terrible part. Her novel, she feels, also reflects her conviction that women often suffer the most from political upheavals. “Victory is celebrated on a woman’s body, and vengeance is taken on a woman’s body,” she said. “That’s very much the way things are, particularly in my part of the world.”

12. We Are Not in Pakistan by Shauna Singh Baldwin

The ten stories in We Are Not in Pakistan illuminate a paradox: love and fear draw us together, yet drive us to extremes of separation. For Baldwin, the individual’s significance is as great as the global, since “every little thing – even a moving shadow – it means something much bigger.”

13. A Life Long Ago by Sunanda Sikdar

A stirring memoir that opens the floodgates of one woman’s memories of a land, and a life, that has been previously forgotten. This book talks about a picture of a child’s life in a country torn by strife. Social and political vignettes are seen from a height different from the adult point of view, and this book is written in a very poetic way.

14. Basti by Intizar Husain

It is a compelling read — a fine work of fiction that foreshadows in so many ways the Pakistan that exists today. Reading “Basti” is a bit like running one’s fingers over the texture of Pakistani folk-art embroidery. Intizar Husain offers deep insights into the psychological and emotional aspects of the ‘historic’ event’s impact on human lives through the emotional journey of Zakir, the main protagonist of the novel.

15. The other side of silence by Urvashi Butalia

This book presents human dimensions of the Partition of 1947. In The Other Side of Silence, Urvashi Butalia fills the gap by placing people—their individual experiences, their private pain—at the centre of the epochal event of Partition. Butalia presents a sensitive and moving account of her quest to hear the painful truth behind the silence.

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