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Is Partition still relevant? New book shows impact of the event on generations of South Asians

Published by HarperCollins India, ‘In the Language of Remembering’ by Aanchal Malhotra will be released on 10 May on ThePrint’s Softcover.

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New Delhi: Piecing together oral histories of several generations of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, a new book looks at how Partition memory is preserved and passed down, and how consequences of the monumental event manifest within family, community and nation.

In the Language of Remembering’ by author and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra shows that Partition is not an event of the past but its legacy is threaded into the daily lives of subsequent generations.

Published by HarperCollins India, the book will be released on 10 May on Softcover, ThePrint’s online venue to launch non-fiction books.

The book is a natural progression from the author’s debut book ‘Remnants of a Separation’ which recounted the human history of the event by exhuming the stories that partition survivors had carried with them.

In a range of interviews, the author compiled voices of people impacted by the event – from those in their nineties to teenagers – who sincerely answered questions such as: Is Partition still relevant? Does it define their relationships? Does it build their characteristics or augment their fears?

“While there are multiple archives that record eyewitness memory, there are hardly any that attribute the same seriousness to descendant testimonies or even to the passage of memory from one generation to another. But it is important for this kind of intergenerational, cross-border, oral history archive to grow as well – to understand how inherited memory may shape and re-shape present worlds,” Malhotra said.

As the subcontinent marks the 75th anniversary of Partition, the book serves as a reminder of the price this land once paid for not guarding against communal strife – and what could happen if people choose division over inclusion.

Praising Malhotra for highlighting a “profound resonance” of 1947 in 2022, Siddhesh Inamdar, Executive Editor, HarperCollins India, said, “One can argue that the mark of an accomplished contemporary historian is how effectively she can draw links between the past and the present. Aanchal Malhotra fares wonderfully on that test with her new book.”

“Its standout quality is that in it the subcontinent’s history gains a profound resonance: 1947 links forward to 2022, the partitions of the past metamorphose into the fault lines of the present. The book is as much about India’s future as it is about the lessons drawn from the moment of the nation’s origin,” he said.

Author and historian Manu S. Pillai credited Malhotra for “lifting Partition from disembodied numbers and statistics, from maps and borders, to highlight the very human nature of the tragedy”.

Publisher and author Urvashi Butalia hailed the author for her “compassionate and insightful”, adding that her book offers hope.

“Aanchal Malhotra’s deeply personal enquiry traces a complex and multi-layered history to reflect on and come to terms with its many legacies,” she said.

Also read: New book traces history of Chinese intelligence service, details rise of Communist China


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