In the jargon pervasive in the Indian subcontinent,one particularly common usage is the other side when referring to our neighbouring countries. And while at that,an inevitable conversation maker is the Partition. Weve been conditioned to the step-by-step factual narrative delivered by our structured text books,films and official documents. Yet,even after 66 years of Independence,Partition is a chapter never fully closed. 1947 didnt just happen. Its still happening, says author Vishwajyoti Ghosh.
A few days before the book launch on August 30,Ghosh has last-minute jitters. His curation of This Side That Side: Restorying Partition (in partnership with Goethe Institut and published by Yoda Press,Rs 595),a graphic anthology of Partition narratives from India,Pakistan and Bangladesh,could possibly be the first of its kind. The 366-page black-and-white graphic novel involves 28 narratives by 46 authors and artists and manifests into a large-scale cross-border exchange of contemporary stories.
In An Old Fable,a colonial king cuts up the metaphorical baby into three,where everyone (except the baby) lived unhappily ever after. Dastango Mahmood Farooqui translates Intizar Husains Hindustan se ek khat,with a poignant,My son,news from there barely makes it here and what does seep through is not something one wants to believe. On a lighter note,Lahore-based Ahmad Rafay Alam,while in the UK,discovers that Delhi-based artist and architect Martand Khoslas family used to own the house they live in,in 90 Upper Mall,with playful photographs,illustrations and texts.
Life always looks better from the other side, says Ghosh,referring to the title. Its less re-looking at history and more on how subsequent generations have negotiated this map-making. While graphic novels have been a nascent Indian exercise,the idea was to involve diverse voices including filmmakers,journalists,theatre artists,poets,miniature painters,and also graphic novelists to deal with the subject, says Ghosh,who grew up in a refugee colony in Delhi. Partition was part of my language, he says. Ghoshs story,Cabaret Weimer,comes in collaboration with singer Rabbi Shergill,a story set in 2047,celebrating 100 years of Independence,with Shergills verse: Thinking is banned today. Revolution is but crap.
For almost all of the stories,Ghosh set up artists and authors on a blind date. Most of them still havent met each other. The unique partnerships have also resulted in different art forms in a graphic novel format. Farooquis collaborator,for instance,is Fariha Rahman,a miniature artist from Pakistan. A story penned by Khadem Islam from Bangladesh,about his family trapped in West Pakistan after 1971 war,before escaping to Bangladesh in 1972,has Kolkata-based artist Sarbajit Sen using the conventional format. Filmmaker and illustrator Nina Sabnanis collaboration with women artistes from Sumrasar,Kutch,at the same time,brings forth Know Directions Home,merging their never-told-before Partition stories with their inherent and traditional art form of stitching and embroideries.
Getting stories from the other side proved to be an interesting experiment. Pakistan has a very young and vibrant art scene. New media and miniatures are very big. As far as Bangladesh is concerned,theres this lack of information on the art scene there. There are a lot of young artists and we worked with them through workshops, says Ghosh.
As the novel gets ready for the Delhi launch,with Kolkata and Mumbai in their launch calendar and Pakistan and Bangladesh in the wishlist,Ghosh regrets he couldnt include stories involving sports,cinema and music. But such narratives are always an ongoing process, he says.
This Side That Side: Restorying Partition will be launched at Max Mueller Bhawan on August 30 at 7 pm. Entry is free.