Book Review: Kashmir III, The Partition Trilogy By Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

PUB BY: HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS INDIA

Hyderabad. Lahore. Kashmir.

With ‘Kashmir’, ends the Partition Trilogy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar –a powerful chronicle bringing alive the hopes, fears, anguish, pain, and the undying fortitude of the human existence.

The Independence and the partition of India and Pakistan is a topic fiercely debated and discussed arousing passions and emotions even today, especially in the troubled valley of Kashmir.

‘Kashmir’ is the last book of this trilogy after ‘Lahore’ and ‘Hyderabad’ relating events leading upto the partition and the violence and unrest erupting thereafter. A well-crafted narrative amidst the haunting beauty of the valley, the last of this trilogy portrays the intense research undertaken by the author.

India is independent. India is free, but scarred by the horrors of the partition. The book begins in October 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh is unwilling to sign the accession to India. And the valley is being attacked by kabalis, acts of savagery and terror from across Pakistan who are hell-bent on making Kashmir theirs. Sheikh Abdullah is imprisoned, but then brought in under house arrest to thwart further violence and gain peace for the state.

Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army fights a desperate battle to make Kashmir his. And a shaken Maharaja Hari Singh signs accession to India prompting military help to save Kashmir. Just 2 months into independence, India and Pakistan are at war.

The whole valley is up in flames. Terror. Horrors. Escape. Survival. The story is narrated through the tales of the common people who are trying to outlive the seemingly closing in of death and finality.

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Zooni escapes the brutality being inflicted all around. Kashmira is desperately trying to stay alive and feed a family in the face of her nasty brother-in-law after her husband is accidentally killed by the Indian army. Durga seeks refuge in the refugee camp after her husband is killed by kabalis. Margot, the journalist caught in the lives of the characters as she looks for her stories.

Historical research and facts are woven onto a fictional canvas creating a gripping portrayal of the events of partition and the circumstances exploding soon thereafter.

Each chapter shifts to different cities and geographies. In the entire trilogy, Manreet Sodhi has brought alive the characters of Pandit Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Lord Mountbatten by giving them a very intimate flavour. Indira playing with her sons. Maniben counting Valllabhbhai’s cups of teas. Nehru walking across to Valllabbhai’s house to discuss important issues.

Zooni. Margot. Kashmira. Durga. The main female characters of the book are inspired by real-life characters. Zoon Gujjar was a real-life activist and a sharpshooter who joined the Indian army to throw off the invaders.

“two goals were very clear to me…..the other was to bring the women front and centre of my narrative…….. I want them to tell their stories”, says Manreet Sodhi Someshwar while discussing the Partition Trilogy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJyQz-EINWs

Chapter 50 Tithwal (June 1948) is interesting. Truce period. Gentleman’s agreement. Enmity and an understanding across the border.

What I enjoy about Manreet Sodhi is the way she brings alive the landscape of the place….in all the 3 books of the trilogy, her physical description of the place seems so real, so just in existence, that one cannot help but be submerged into the physical geography of those times.

‘Kashmir’ is a fitting finale to the partition trilogy. As Manreet Sodhi Someshwar says, “Partition is not in our past, it is resonating loudly in our present….” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/89362667.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Strongly recommended.

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