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Posted at: Mar 27, 2016, 12:55 AM; last updated: Mar 27, 2016, 12:55 AM (IST)

When humanity took a blow

The book is a weave of socio-cultural, economic, religious and political attitudes. Here, social reality and individual existence often criss-cross each other. Characters grapple with the reality of the existence of new political boundaries
When humanity took a blow
Wounds of Partition — The Mourning and Other Stories by Chander Parkash Rahi Chetna Parkashan. Pages 191. Rs 300

Amarinder Gill

The 15 stories that constitute this anthology are set in the background of Partition and are a saga of violence, trials and tribulations. These are semi-autobiographical in nature and deal a lot with the personal world of the writer. As a thirteen-and-a-half-year-old, growing up in Khanna, a town of Punjab, Rahi witnessed communal violence first hand.

The Muslim population residing in east Punjab lived lives of penury, working as lowly artisans, labourers and landless peasants. They were victims of communal violence and such unfortunate incidents are well-documented in these short stories. The reader shuttles from one tale to another. The plight of the Muslim refugees forming a marginalised group is highlighted very well.

Social reality and individual existence criss-cross each other often in the stories. The relationships on both sides of the border were altered by psychic compunctions which had their roots in ethnic cleansing. All the characters have to grapple with the reality of the existence of new political boundaries. The behavioural patterns of the characters have been explained well. The writer has splendidly interwoven the socio-cultural, economic, religious and political attitudes.

The autobiographical tone of the stories authenticates the story of the ‘bleeding’ Punjab. The Mourning is the story of Barri Bi, a Muslim dowager, who was forced to migrate to Pakistan and now mourns the death of an Indian who was shot by terrorists during the turbulent 1980s. I Am Not A  Virgin sums up the extreme effort of a spirit to reject a marriage proposal. Sex -Workers Forced Exit celebrates the life of the residents of Randian-da-Bazaar. Wineshops, errand boys, garland sellers, dancers and patrons sum up the humanity throngs here. Sons of the wealthy patronise the world’s oldest profession. 

The Muslim Peasants of Kaulo Majra reads like a socio-cultural treatise. The landless Arians are indebted to the landlords. The unfriendly physical conditions around the village are highlighted and the story delves deep into the caste and class segregation that prevails in the village’s social structure. The writer laments the loss of an all-inclusive culture and traditions of India that were lost after Partition. The Rightful Retribution is a story of a different mould where the cows of a milkman seek vengeance. 

Some of the stories also bring out the humane side of people on both sides of the Radcliffe Line. The Copper Vessel is the sensitive portrayal of human sentiments. Stories titled Sitting Ducks, The Hounds, Abdul  Rehman — The Bangleseller point towards the savagery and pillage that followed Partition. The Sacred Thread highlights the antagonism towards a minority group. This anthology portrays the religious fanaticism and fear that enveloped the people.

The characters take the readers back into history and create a tension. The stories woven by the writer are balanced and unbiased. Written in an easy-to-read style, the writer chronicles the struggle of fleeing Muslim population. In the book, Rahi has been able to create a web of complex relationships that exist in humanity. The tales tell of fear, brutality, bigotry, rape and survival that both sides suffered post-Partition.

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