Free Press Journal

From Quetta to Delhi: A Partition Story by Reena Nanda- Review

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Title: From Quetta to Delhi: A partitioned story
Author: 
Reena Nanda
Publisher: 
Bloomsbury
Pages:
350; Price:Rs 170

From Quetta to Delhi A Partition Story is the life story of Mrs Shakunt Nanda, mother of the author, Reena Nanda. At the beginning of the book there is a picture of Shakunt Nanda, which makes the book lively. The picture is followed by a map of pre-partition Balochistan, Punjab and Delhi and a small note on Balochistan. It adds a lot of credibility to the book. In India, there is a dearth of books on partition, and this book will be considered as an important contribution to the subject.

The book is an interesting mix of history, geography, culture, politics, unimaginable tragedy and suffering of individual and millions due to partition, Muslims preference of Islam over everything, the foolishness of Hindus and Sikhs and impact of profane secular education in India. Kwatta, is the original name, which British pronounced it as Quetta. Wonder how many today know this. And there are many such gems in the book.


In today’s world, there are a lot of people who think they can escape terrorism by calling themselves atheist. This book can work as an eye-opener for them. It exposes Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in different ways and also, covers how and when unfortunate, sad division among Hindus and Sikhs were seeded and how both communities have overcome this. It also talks about Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s affair with a Muslim. There is candid admission of leftist students more concerned about Marx and his theories than the division of India on religious ground. Left was always far from ground reality.

It also discusses in detail as how many of the customs across India remains same among Hindus and if they differ, then invariably there is a connect to Islamic onslaught. And most of the time it is the Hindu women who have suffered the most because of this. The book also documents how parents even then had revolted against missionary schools, because kids were being taught to praise Jesus.
All this is woven around the life of Shakunt Nanda. Shankunt Nanda’s birth, education, hostel life, marriage, partition, her suffering due to becoming a neurotic wreck because of partition, all of it has been captured beautifully. The author wonderfully creates the village scenario and growing up of an adolescent girl, life in a city and in ladies hostel, etc.

The book also talks about how Muslims had planned to abduct the women and ghar ghar main baant dainge (They will distribute them in every house). It further documents aauratain jhat pat mooli gajar jaise katten gayeen (sliced the women like carrots and radishes). Men were not treated very differently. “Hira Lal, as he tried to run, the mob threw a rope round his neck, lassoed him like an animal and crushed his head against a huge stone”. Book is written in a straightforward way, there is no attempt to hide anything or twist the facts by playing with the words. This is the strength of the book, till one reaches afterword.

Afterword in the book actually looks like an afterthought. It is a typical attempt to balance the book after exposing Muslims’ role in partition. The author goes on the blame RSS along with National Guards of Muslim League for killings without any reference or an example, a commendable practice which has been otherwise maintained all through the book. While there are a whole lot of records available on how RSS saved Hindus in Pakistan, helped them migrate to India safely and helped them settle down in India. But the author’s family flew down safely from Pakistan to India, because of her father’s decision to work for Pakistan government even after partition (the author comes from a family which was extremely loyal to British and to Pakistan after partition, even after migrating to India, as mentioned in the book).

The author does lament over the loss of luggage, which was booked by train from Quetta to Delhi. Those Hindus who had to walk all the way or had to take train to reach India from Pakistan will be in a position to talk about RSS support in their lives. However, this one chapter will not be able to do much damage in the age of internet and social media. The book should be read by everyone who thinks he or she has stake in India’s future.