How Women Are Often Collateral Damage In Men’s Game Of Ego Chess

As someone who is fascinated by the Partition, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest book Lahore - Part One Of The Partition Trilogy based on real events, was a must-read. Here’s why I absolutely loved the book!

As someone who is fascinated by the Partition, Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest book Lahore – Part One Of The Partition Trilogy based on real events, was a must-read. Here’s why I loved the book!

I don’t think most of us really understand the severity of the Partition of India and just how much it affects people even today. It may have been a one-time thing but it has repercussions that alter our perspectives to this day. At the same time, it wasn’t a rash decision either. On paper, it seemed like a well-thought-out move, but was it? The Partition, other than dividing a country and pitting brothers and neighbours against each other, was something that affects you and me even today.

Now that I am done with my ominous beginning, let me tell you why I say all this. So a few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to read author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar’s latest book – Part one of the Partition Trilogy – Lahore.

Based on true events, the book is set in the pre-Partition and Partition period and it gives you a very unbiased view of how that one single event affected people. It shows you what led the British and Indian leaders to make the decision that was the very very wrong one. (Well, if pigs could fly)

Women bear the brunt of men’s decisions

Unlike Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side Of SilenceLahore gives you a more spread-out view of the ‘event’. It shows you what transpired in the country during that period from the point of view of not just the common women who were on the ground, but also from the POV of women from the Mountbatten family, and the daughters of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. (Ps. I am in no way comparing the two books, just giving this little difference between them that I observed.)

Other than an unbiased view, Someshwar’s Lahore also shows you how the Partition and its aftermath affected the women in both modern-day India and Pakistan. It shows you how women are the ones who bear the brunt of such acts of violence. And suffer they did.

In bits and pieces, the book tells you how easy it is to unravel a family by simply hurting their women; how easy it is to end a woman’s life without killing her. It shows you just how easy it is to use and then discard women as if they are nothing but objects to be toyed around with. The book proves, once again, that women are nothing but pawns in the men’s game of ego chess.

Where did the hatred come from?

Spanning the time between February and September 1947, Lahore takes you through the fields and the alleys of Laur (as Lahore was called earlier) and through the Viceroy’s residence in New Delhi, through Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road and the hills of Manali. In exactly 305 pages, you are taken on a journey that changed the lives of millions of Indians; but at no point do you see Someshwar hating on anyone.

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Which made me wonder where the hatred came from? The hatred for the people of Pakistan that Indians often harbour, that is. And I think it can definitely be attributed to the British (who else?).

The British had seen the ‘success’ of their Divide and Rule policy since they took over the country and the Partition was just one more example of them doing so. That there was now a rift between the Indians and the Pakistanis was just a metaphorical cherry on the top of the shit they had spread. But that’s not the point of this review. The point is to tell you why you should read the book.

Why must you read the book?

Well, I am not here to rank and rate all the books written on the Partition, I am simply here to tell you why I loved this particular book.

For starters, it is incredibly well-researched and beautifully written. It’s comprehensive and has elements I had never thought of – one of them being the comparison between the war of the Mahabharata and the Partition. It’s quite simple and when I made the connection, a light bulb actually went off in my head and I couldn’t control my squeal. (Yes, I am an immersed reader.)

Secondly, the women. Oh, the women! The Partition may have ripped at their souls and sucked them dry of emotions, but the women in this book are strong and they (to me) embody everything it meant to be a woman during such tumultuous times.

The main female characters here are six women – Pammi – the eldest daughter of the Laur Station’s head clerk Kishan Singh; her best friend Tara, who is in love with Sepoy Malik, a recent war survivor; Indira Gandhi and Manibehn Patel – I don’t need to introduce them, do I? And finally, Pamela (Pammy) and Edwina Mountbatten – who, once again, don’t need an introduction. They each had a different yet interesting perspective of the Partition, based on both their social status and their upbringing.

These are stories I believe everyone needs to know. Stories that will shake the foundation under your feet and make you sit up and question certain things. The Partition affected MILLIONS of Indians more than 75 years ago and it continues to haunt us even today. It haunts us in the way that we see not just Pakistanis but also most Muslims. It haunts us in the way that there is intergenerational trauma inflicted upon way too many women and men. It haunts us in the way that it shows us only one side of history while effectively villainising a whole section of people.

I’ve said this once and I say it again. The Partition is not just an event that happened and we can forget about it. It is an event that will continue to affect every one of us till the day we all understand it, acknowledge it, and accept that we have majorly messed up. (Personal opinions. Don’t hate me, please?)

Thousands upon thousands of women have had to sacrifice their lives for us to be here. So let’s try and do our bit to respect them to understand their stories and most importantly let’s try and stop history from repeating itself.

Now have I convinced you enough to read the book or need I go on? 

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Lahore – Part One of the Partition Trilogy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, use our affiliate links: at Amazon India, and at Amazon US.

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Image source: Header image a still from the film Pinjar and book cover Amazon

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Reader, writer and a strong feminist, I survive on coffee and cuddles from dogs! Pop culture, especially Bollywood, runs in my veins while I crack incredibly lame jokes and puns! read more...

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