Partition: Loss of a world

Dec 20th, 2020 | by  Bipasha Deori


The Partition of India in 1947 proved to be an event of immense tensions and atrocities for both the divided nations. Thousands of lives were not only killed during the riots but there were thousands of more people who stood homeless stripped off from their desh. Desh in the context of partition has a different connotation when compared to the concept of nation. 

As Anasua Basu Raychaudhury puts it, 

while the nation is largely an imagined category, desh is frequently revisited in memories. The nation, therefore, maybe a product of imagination, but desh is a concrete but distant reality for the uprooted people as it remains encapsulated in their past. The nation may be placed against a time and space, but desh, for these refugees, existed at a certain moment and in a distant space associated with their childhood and younger days..

Memory plays a very important role in the discussion of Partition literature. Even though the partition is accounted as history, people who suffer through the humiliation of this event never really succeed to overcome their past. The past functions as their present. For the people whose lives are limited within the walls of the refugee camps, instead of de-freezing their memories, they choose to live with them and appear to be more satisfied with their status as happy victims of the partition. The memories of these people in their desh provide them their sustenance for existence. 

However, as pointed out by critics, ‘a traumatised memory has a narrative structure which works on a principle opposite to that of any historical narrative.’ History mainly provides its readers with facts and details of any event. But memory starts where history ends. It delves itself into corners and spaces of sentiments which is otherwise ignored by the history. Memory provides the base upon which the idea of a shared community is established. This can be discussed within the context of Jibanananda Das’ poem "I Shall Return to This Bengal well", where he tries to search for social values to tie people together and usher in a new form of society. He attempts to create humane consciousness since he himself suffered partition. The poet here tries to construct a community on the basis of his certainty that he will return to his desh but not as a man but myna or fishing-kite; or dawn crow. The concept of desh is associated with people having the same socio-cultural histories. Within a shared community, the people are certain enough that they cannot go back to their desh for their homelands are non-existent, but they hold on to their memories and nostalgia together to sustain a psychological connection with their ancestral homes. Jibanananda Das talks about Bengal directly from his memory and nostalgia; he transcends the historical Bengal.

The flashbacks that the uprooted people like Jibanananda Das experience is remembered as a reality. They are unwilling to accept a changed image of their desh. With reference to Anasua Basu Raychaudhury’s discussion in the article, "Nostalgia of ‘Desh’, Memories of Partition", the visualisation of the flashbacks are reconstructed. This reconstruction associates itself with both sweet and bitter memories. While recollecting the sweet memories, they introduce their desh in terms of beauty and enduring cultural values. At the same time, when they talk about the violence that made them leave their homelands, they see it ‘as an act of sacrilege against everything that stands for sanctity and beauty in the Hindu Bengali understanding of what home is.’ Hence, desh gives them their state of solace in some alien land but at the same time, it also serves them with the sense of homelessness.

Partition literature is evident with narrations from perspectives still trapped between two divergent spaces. First, their loss of homeland along with their certainty that they cannot go back. And second, their inability to cope and move on with their lives in a new alien land. These uprooted people who decide to live with their memories cannot really perform any social function expected from them for they are enforced with an identity which they do not see as their own. 

A partition cannot be seen just as a political division between two nation-states, but it also indicates the loss of the world along with a loss of individuality for the uprooted population. These people never really see abundance. They can only hold on to their memories and images of nostalgia under the forceful attempts of reality where their desh is non-existing. 



Bipasha Deori

Bipasha Deori

Literature Student.

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