Emotional journey of a refugee
Manmeet Sodhi

Lahore to Delhi ... Rising from the Ashes
by Pran Seth.
Pages 288. Rs 345.

HERE is a persuasive voice, marked with passion for history and truth telling. Pran Seth, a seasoned writer and journalist, layer by layer, with amazing poise, paints an expansive canvas of his life with bright splashes of interesting anecdotes, fond memories and hilarious stories.

The story of his life started on the narrow streets of Lahore, set against the background of the last few traumatic years before Independence. A product of Dyal Singh College in Lahore, he began writing in his early 20s. Partition brought him to Delhi to start a new life. Adapting to the changed life circumstances, he came across various refugees who were disillusioned by the political realities of the country. Being a journalist helped him report the inhumanity behind the atrocious act, the pointless brutality of Partition.

His life’s journey continued while taking twists and turns. He worked with the top literary talent of the country, became a widely travelled man, moving on as the head of Government of India’s offices in San Francisco, Frankfurt, New York and Tokyo. He narrates interesting facts and pleasant features of these places. Above all, he tries to educate and demystify foreigners about India while generating pride in our culture and heritage.

What is remarkable about Seth’s perspective on Partition is that he bore steady witness to Partition wounds. Along the story line there are many clear historical signposts, for instance, the account of Lahore’s eclectic past. The writer ties together various threads in such a way that each informs the other. We see it all in the combination of humor, honesty and loss.

The strength of the book lies in the chapters where he bore witness to most political developments before and immediately after Independence: helplessly but closely watching the tragedy of Partition. In India wins Freedom—an Eye Witness Account; he reports the ground realities, behind-the-scene-intrigues and reckless bravery of soldiers in How India saved Jammu and Kashmir States; witnessed the murder of Mahatma Gandhi being one of the regular reporters of the Mahatma’s prayer meetings in I saw Mahatma Gandhi Die in Front of my Eyes; eccentricities of the Nizam of Hyderabad and incorporation of his state to the Indian union in Mini Pakistan is Averted in South India; subtle romantic side of the writer and interesting details of Shimla in Darling do not come to Delhi ... . "

The book talks about many important issues: our politics, our leadership, their values, their mentalities. He writes with simplicity of style that could only be labelled as elegant. He displays a deep understanding of the Indian social and political reality.

The most appealing aspect is his fascination of truth telling and which he has evidently researched in great detail. Enjoy reading to pre-and post-Partition stories from this grand old master.