Soumitra Banerji's book 'Liminal Tides' traces the tumultuous times of Partition : The Tribune India

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Soumitra Banerji's book 'Liminal Tides' traces the tumultuous times of Partition

Soumitra Banerji's book 'Liminal Tides' traces the tumultuous times of Partition

Liminal Tides by Soumitra Banerji. The Browser. Pages 360. Rs 495

Book Title: Liminal Tides

Author: Soumitra Banerji

Manisha Gangahar

Writings on India’s Partition often bear stark human brutality and trauma, but Soumitra Banerji’s ‘Liminal Tides’ takes a step back and then a leap forward to tell the tale of the times leading to the ‘midnight fury’ and then of the ebbing tides of the upheaval. With India’s Independence, both the land and the time turned ‘liminal’ — being at the threshold with blurring boundaries — with millions suspended between hope and despair. “Independence and Partition were two sides of the same coin… to be traded together in Independent India… in times to come…”

Banerji’s novel traces the destinies of three families — the Bandhopadhyas, Rawats and Khannas — converging in Meerut and Delhi. Amidst the shifting landscapes of power, identity and affiliations, the characters not only bring forth the splendour of the cultural nuances that made India’s diversity rich, they also replicate the complexities of human nature, particularly during the grim times. As the new generations from these families bid farewell to their past and get ready to embrace a new future, a chance gathering reveals their interconnectedness and forges new bonds in a liminal space.

The historical fiction, drawn from authentic accounts of Partition, is imbued with the fluidity, anguish and passion of the era: “And the insanity… the bloodbath… the dance of the devil continued…” Banerji’s narrative, intertwining the personal stories with the broader historical context, offers a poignant reflection of how political forces, ideologies and idiosyncrasies of a few can shape people’s lives.

While most of the book is about how things panned out at the level of ordinary people, at times, it does capture the utter sense of bewilderment at the sudden fracturing of lives. The novel’s matter-of-fact tone echoes the individual experiences and struggles within the historical frame that begins around the Quit India Movement, and stretches into the early days of Independent India.

Banerji’s historical fiction mirrors the unadorned realism of the event, the enduring trauma of chaos and loss, and the shared experiences of individuals caught in the crossfire of history. What sets the book apart is its exploration of the liminal spaces that emerge in the wake of Partition — those in-between places where identities are fractured and loyalties are tested as lines between nations, friend and foe, neighbour and stranger become increasingly blurred. “The three friends from the three families sat talking into the night, gazing back at how their families had moved from where they once were to where they would be… their dream of living in a more egalitarian, equal and enjoyable country… their India… their Bharat.”

Amidst the tales of separation, killing and loss to the accounts of resilience and reconciliation, this book is yet another tribute to the enduring spirit of those who grappled with and navigated through the tumultuous times, while reiterating that the legacy of Partition continues to punctuate our present.