Last weekend, I picked up From Quetta to Delhi: A Partition Story by Reena Nanda. My initial thoughts about the book were that it’s a compilation of memoirs of immigrants from India and Pakistan who lost everything during the Indian subcontinent partition. But when I started reading it, I realized that it’s a memoir of a mother written by the daughter. It’s not just an ordinary partition story, From Quetta to Delhi is a book full of culture before partition, the people, the songs, the festivals, the customs. And then the devils, the earthquake that took away everything and ultimately, the partition that took away home.
The story of From Quetta to Delhi begins with the year 1947 when two leaders Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi announced two separate states for Hindu and Muslim Majority, Pakistan and India. What they didn’t realize was that it’s easy to draw a line in between, but what about people? What about the mass migration of millions who are now unsure about their homes where they have been living for generations?
Shakunt narrates the story of how their Pathan neighbors and other mohallawalahs saved them from murderous masses, but then a day arrives when Shakunt convinces her parents to leave Quetta and move to Delhi. As she sits on the plane and her mother starts crying and beating her chest, nostalgia hits her.
The first Migration from Jhang to Quetta, when her forefathers decided to move to the city and make big. Then Shankunt’s initial years of growing in Quetta under the strict supervision of her mother and a father who was balanced. The rituals, the customs to be followed by a girl, the Saccha Jhootha custom. Then, a calamity hits the family when in yer 1935, a deadly earthquake hits the city, engulfing everyone, including Shakunt’s brother who was sleeping right next to her. Then, the golden years of gaining an education in Lahore, and then the ultimate blow of world politics, the partition.
The partition of India and Pakistan was the darkest period in the history of both countries, but there was also an invisible cost involved, which was the destroyed psychic equilibrium of displaced population. Shakunt was part of that population, and through her memory, she made Punjab before partition come alive in these pages. The Punjabi folk songs, the Siapewalli ( my grandmother still calls me that sometimes), the saccha jhootha, Punjabiyat and the hospitality!
For me, this was not a just a book, it was an experience that most of the partition literature couldn’t give me before! And this is yet another one of the best reads of 2018 for me! ❤️ So make sure you do read this one as soon as you can!