Monday, July 4, 2011


The novel Partitions by Amit Majmudar is set during the turbulent and brutal division of India in 1947. Four disparate people come together, each on a flight to safety: twin brothers Shankar and Keshav, a young Sikh girl Simran and elderly Ibrahim Masud. As India is torn apart, these four will lose and find their families, identities and beliefs.
If you have read anything about the Partition of India you know that it was brought about by the dividing up of India into a couple nations. The British were pulling out and India was gaining its independence. The divisions were along religious lines: Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. It is estimated that as many as thirteen million people were displaced by the division and anywhere from 500,000 to one million people were killed during the violence that ensued. All along the new borders there was bloodshed and chaos.

Majmudar uses this traumatic moment of division as his jumping off point. Each of his characters has lost everything with the independence. The twin boys were separated from their mother at a train station and are desperate to find her. Simran is running away from a father who would rather kill her than see her defiled and marauding bandits kidnapping girls to use them as prostitutes. Ibrahim is a Muslim and a doctor willing to heal anyone who needs him despite their religion. He has been driven out of his home and is on his way to Pakistan.

This set up of frightened people coming together as a family in a time of crisis to aid their survival is nothing new but Majmudar makes fresh use of it with strong characterizations, the unique upheaval caused by the division and his choice of narrator, Dr. Roshan Jailly. Dr. Jailly is the deceased father of the twins. He broke with convention and his family years before when he married outside of his caste. Jailly is our spirit guide through all of the politics and refugees.

Amit Majmudar is a poet and it shows. He attacks his story with unsparing precision and lyrical description. Partitians is a journey from desperation to hope for Shankar, Keshav, Simran, Dr. Masud and the reader through a troubling moment in history.

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