We Left Our Keys with Our Neighbours: Memory and the Search for Meaning in Post-Partitioned India
In mainstream Indian and Pakistani nationalist master-narratives, Partition is a contested terrain. For India, it signifies independence and the end-note of a non-violent anti-colonial movement; for Pakistan, it embodies freedom from both British and Hindu domination and the creation of a homeland for Muslims. Recently, the debate in Partition historiography has moved from nationalist posturing to detailed analyses of the trauma and pain that accompanied Partition. This is usually conceived of through a distinction between ‘high politics’ and ‘subaltern’ voices. The ‘fragment’, it is contended, provides us with a perspective of the marginal, of a ‘history from below.’ My own journey to reckon with the embattled identities produced out of Partition began when my grandfather remarked that despite the fact of Partition, he would have gladly continued to work in Lahore. I was stunned. Why not, he said, don’t people work in Dubai? And wasn’t Lahore far closer than Dubai? In post-partitioned India, Lahore felt a million miles further from Dubai. His vivid memory of the desire to stay on in Lahore despite the high politicking that had resulted in Partition, despite the long years since Partition, form an unanalysed silence. This chapter uses oral history to grapple with memories and identities that evoke many such silences, gaps in Partition writing and thinking.
Inter-University Committee on International Migration
Rosemarie Rogers Working Paper Series;29