A river has always been the crux while dividing India into either Pakistan or Bangladesh. Just as people cross a river to the other side in search of greener pastures, refugees of the partition were compelled to move, only to survive. We’ve heard stories about the partition in 1947, watched movies with pathos, romance, and drama, and yet, each account seems different and unique from the other.
Radhika Swarup has borrowed the facts and stirred them up with fiction in her own imaginative narration. Set in a beautiful village of Suhanpur (in erstwhile Pakistan), Asha and her neighbour Firoze fall in love seamlessly by the river bank. It’s evident that there’s a huge barrier between them socially, on account of religion, but their hearts flutter nonetheless. They are quite oblivious of their predicament as young adults, but their families share a great camaraderie as friends. Asha and her best friend Nargis (Firoze’s sister) are portrayed so picturesquely, that you would be able to visualise the laughter, frolic and the clink of their festive bangles. Love makes Asha metamorphose from a teen to a woman, slightly shy and coy when she chances upon the man she desires. The horrors of partition gradually creep in, and Asha’s family is wrecked financially even while Nargis goes through a lavish marriage. The Hindus flee the new born country, mostly to Delhi, and Asha is deserted, orphaned on the way.
How she survives and eventually gets a life is the next part of the book. But I loved reading the first part immensely. It’s not always that the author can manage to create an era where they don’t belong. The vibes between communities around the partition, their intermingling cultures, customs, beliefs are portrayed in an absolute manner. I think here lies the calibre of the author to maneuver their readers’ attention and hold it in a tight grip all through the book. Though I’d have liked the second part of the book to be a little more taut, it is absolutely recommended to every reader in the Indian sub continent. And the book cover is hauntingly beautiful! I’m already looking forward to her next book.
If you’re wondering, yes, Asha and Firoze meet in New York after decades and find out that their grandchildren are in love with each other. It’s a twist of fate they cannot ignore because it completes their circle of love after eons.
About the author:
Radhika Dogra Swarup spent a nomadic childhood, growing up in India, Italy, Qatar, Pakistan, Romania and England, which gave her a keen sense of place and for the dispossessed. She studied at Cambridge University and worked in finance before turning to writing. She has written opinion pieces for Indian broadsheets as well as short stories for publications including the Edinburgh Review. She has also written a book on Indian baby names to be published by Rupa, titled Modern Baby Names for a New India. Radhika lives in London with her husband and two young children.
Author: Radhika Swarup
Release: October 2016
Genre: Fiction / Historical
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