Thursday, 29 March 2018

#BookReview: From Quetta To Delhi: A Partition Story by Reena Nanda

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Title: From Quetta To Delhi
Author: Reena Nanda
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Published On: 10th March 2018
Pages: 168

Ek palak me sabkuch fana ho gaya
Is khoobsurat zindagi ka ek hissa tabah ho gaya
Nayi zindagi kahan laijayegi?
Kahan hoga hamara basera?
Kya gul dikhayegi yeh zindagi?


The lilting rhythms of Punjabi folk songs, the Siapewalli, and Naani wailing about her bad kismet caused by the chudail and dain. Partition changed the old traditions of Punjabiyat but in the pages of this book they come alive ... 
The invisible cost of the Partition of the Punjab in 1947 - besides the violence, loss of life and property - was that it destroyed the psychic equilibrium of the displaced population. This is the story of one such woman, Shakunt, who rebuilt her life but could never get over the trauma of losing her homes in Quetta and Jhang - not just the loss of a physical space but of the language, culture and ethos that it had embodied. A syncretic culture of multilingualism - Urdu, Persian and Punjabi - and of multiple identities of caste, mohalla and religion.
But then there was the disaster of the Quetta Earthquake of l935, and of Partition, which tore the family apart because her father chose to remain in Quetta as a member of the Pakistan Civil Service.
Shakunt coped with her mental distress by escaping into the past, reliving the memories of her life in Quetta and Jhang. Hers was a feminine recall of the perhaps insignificant yet poignant details of daily lives which hinged on the drama of the trivial - on food, rituals and neighbourhood bonding. Of an agnostic father, a mother who was a devotee of Guru Nanak, of pilgrimages to Sufi shrines. This is Shakunt's story as recorded by her daughter.


The cover page of the book is very beautiful having images of the Balochistan's desert and Delhi's Jama Masjid to show the Partition of India and Pakistan. It is in yellow mustard colour and the title and author name written with black ink in bold letters. It is a very attractive cover page and I liked it a lot.


From Quetta To Delhi: A Partition story by Reena Nanda is an engaging book about her family during the time of India Pakistan Partition. This book is one of the best books I have read and it will always remain in the list of my favourites. I read this partition story with my grandparents, so I discussed a lot with them and a lot of their stories came up.

The book is written in a simple language and in a fluent manner revolving around Reena Nanda's family and a special focus is on her mother, Shakunt. She has talked about life before partition when there was no Pakistan and what happened after partition. The author has written the book beautifully and has talked about not just the violence and the loss of life and property but she went beyond that,the trauma that people faced just because of it.

The author took me back to that time that I was able to visualize the events very well and she has written each and every event in a detailed manner. The book is very gripping and moves at its own pace. I read the book quite slowly because I got so involved that I reread few pages and it was really hard for me to put it down. I really loved how the author has talked about the various Punjabi traditions, Punjabi language, trust of Punjabis on Guru Nanak Devji and especially,  the friendship between the Hindus and Muslims that a Pathan stood up for his Punjabi Hindu friend to save him.A very interesting fact about the book is that author has put various couplets of Punjabi songs and poems and I loved them.

The book is emotional and I cried at some points also, but those emotions are so well written and heart-touching, the punjabi language that her Maanji used when she wailed for Quetta was very disheartening. The author clearly talked about the political conditions at that time also which made me think a lot whether the partition was a right decision or not. I was very well able to relate with her family because my grandparents kept on telling me  about their own experiences.

 Overall, I really cherished this book a lot filled with so many emotions. It is a very fine book and I highly recommend this book to everyone if you really want to read a Partition story.

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Buy the book here:


Reena Nanda was one of the founding members of the Conservation Society Delhi and conducted heritage walks in Mehrauli, Nizamuddin and Red Fort in the 1980s and 90s about which she subsequently wrote in several issues of Indian Express. Her interest in art and architecture led her to travel all over India visinting various archaelogicalsites. Her other passion is Indian ClassicalMusic. Her first bookwas a biography of Kamaladevi Chattopadhya published by Oxford University Press.

* I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Bloomsbury India) in exchange of a review. Thank You.

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