ARC Review: Remnants of Separation by Aanchal Malhotra

SEVENTY YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE THE PARTITION, and a momentous event now recedes in memory. Generations have grown up outside the shadow of the communal killings and mass displacement that shaped the contemporary history of the subcontinent.

Despite being born into a family affected by the Divide, artist and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra too had thought little about the Partition until she encountered objects that had once belonged to her ancestors in an Undivided India. A gaz, a ghara, a maang-tikka, a pocketknife, a peacock-shaped bracelet, and a set of kitchen utensils: these were what accompanied her great-grandparents as they fled their homes, and through them she learnt of their migration and life before the Divide. This led her to search for the belongings of other migrants to discover the stories hidden in them.

Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through such objects carried across the border. These objects absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owners pasts and emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparalleled moment in history.

A string of pearls gifted by a maharaja, carried from Dalhousie to Lahore, reveals the grandeur of a life that once was. A notebook of poems, brought from Lahore to Kalyan, shows one woman s determination to pursue the written word despite the turmoil around her. A refugee certificate created in Calcutta evokes in a daughter the feelings of displacement her father had experienced on leaving Mymensingh, now in Bangladesh.

Written as a crossover between history and anthropology, Remnants of a Separation tells stories from both sides of the border and is the product of years of painstaking and passionate research. It pieces together an alternative history of the Partition the first and only one told through material memory that makes the event tangible even seven decades later, lest we forget.

Disclaimer: A Huge Thanks to Harper Collins India for providing a review copy of this wonderful book. But the thought, opinions and feelings expressed in the review are entirely my own!

To say that I am writing a review for this book would be sacrilegious not only is this book filled with emotions of real human beings; but it is also a reflection of a time that I consider to be one of the defining moments for both India and Pakistan’s history! 

It was never an easy time learning about this bloody time in my country’s history – and it became all the more difficult reading this book; for I had lost my Grandfather two years back; a man who became the head of his family just before Independence and who has been a source of pride and inspiration for me.

Reading these memories, I understood now (like I hadn’t understood before) how difficult it would have been for my Grandpa to share his experience – and he only shared it once. A time that I cherish because it was his and mine; a time that I understood how far along he had come, not only him but how far along he had bought his family.

This is an emotional book to read – the memories tell me, as a young Indian, how important it is to hold on to my history, to my country’s struggles; to my country’s struggle for the future it so desperately needs.  

“History isn’t history if it doesn’t teach you the path to the Future.”

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ .5

AMAZON KINDLE | Amazon Hardcover

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