Almost seven decades later, in the heartland of the country, at a litfest of all places, plans took form for a museum marking the pain, loss and migration of Partition
What happens when stories told at a literary festival are not by writers, but ordinary people, who have much more to do with history? They become exhibits in a museum. That’s what happened at the recently-concluded Taj Literature Festival (TLF) in Agra. At a well-attended session on the ‘Partition Museum’ project—a museum with memorabilia associated with Partition will come up in Amritsar, Punjab, next year—many members of the audience came forward to reveal what their families took along with them while crossing the newly-demarcated boundaries between India and Pakistan during the division of the country in 1947. Many even offered the possessions passed on to them by their grandparents who undertook the journey for the proposed museum. “I have a chakki (flour grinder) brought from Pakistan to India during Partition by my grandfather,” said Agra-based Manish Nagarani, affirming his promise to donate the memorabilia to the museum. Many more like 28-year-old Akshat Nangia, whose grandparents came from Dera Ghazi Khan in Pakistan, said they would willingly donate the belongings brought by their families while travelling to India to the museum.
“I have got amazing response from younger people. Everybody has some story to tell,” said writer Kishwar Desai, who is heading Yaadgaar-e-Taqseem, the Partition Museum project. At the TLF, which took place from February 26-28, Desai joined several survivors of the journey to India from Pakistan to talk about the project. The session, ‘Lahore to Lucknow’, turned out to be about Partition tales still told in homes across the country. Several such tales, like that of the chakki belonging to the Nagarani family in Agra, will be preserved in the Partition Museum, to be created with the collaboration and donations of the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It will be a ‘living’ museum, as per Desai, or an experiential museum, full of stories, possessions and songs of those times. “The museum will be a reminder of what happens when there is violence,” Desai added. “We need such a museum because nobody who has experienced Partition will be around in another 10 years,” she said.
However, not everybody is ready to part with their stories. Agra-based Komila Suneja Dhar’s grandparents, who arrived in Kahnaur near Rohtak in Haryana from Pakistan, left her a brass tiffin. “I use it to keep my cash,” said Dhar, a cake designer. “For me, that brass tiffin is made of gold. I am not going to part with it ever,” she said.
The Punjab government has already agreed to provide a building in Amritsar to host the museum. Desai is also in touch with the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi diaspora representatives to take the project forward. “There was no recognition of pain on both sides of the border,” said Desai. “The museum is a step in that direction.”
Taj litFest highlights
Translations took centrestage in the city of Ghalib, with writer-translators Saba Mohammad Bashir and Arunava Sinha taking the topic ‘Does the Mystique Diminish’ head on
‘Does Romance Sell in these Cynical Times?’ was the subject of a session with publisher Renuka Chatterjee and writers Mridula Koshy, Anita Kumar, Kiran Rai and Madhvi Ahuja
There is a new biography on actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha by Bharathi S Pradhan, titled Anything But Khamosh
In the session, ‘Women on Top’, Censor Board member Vani Tripathi and filmmakers Sudhir Mishra, Ketan Mehta and Feroze Abbas Khan talked about the impact of women-centric films on society
The message of the bestselling book, Autobiography of a Yogi, was traced by Swami Ishrananda and vedic scholar David Frawley
Critic Rauf Ahmad’s biography on acting icon Shammi Kapoor was launched in ‘The Game Changer’ session
Celebrated photographer Amit Mehra depended on his iPhone for publishing the country’s first-ever photography book with images shot from a cellphone camera
In the session, ‘Mir se Ghalib Tak’ filmmaker Muzaffar Ali and son Murad Ali interpreted verses of Agra’s legendary poets Mirza Ghalib, Nazir Akbarabadi and Mir Taqi Mir
Faizal Khan is a freelancer