Narrating Tales of Displacement: Fragmented Memory and Partition Stories
Keywords:Partition Studies, Traumatic Memories, Selective Memories, Displacement, Migration, Trauma, Life-Narratives, Oral Testimonies, Personal Narratives, Life-Stories
For the children of families that have experienced partition, relating to roots and a place of belonging is never without complications. They tend to relocate themselves multiple times in physical places as well as mental spaces. Unfortunately, the final settling never takes place for them, neither in the new place, where the family relocates to, nor in the mind that is a storehouse of experiences of migration. They remain ‘in-between’ and continue negotiating between the past and the present through fragmented as well as tormented memories. This paper attempts to study the complexity of belongingness for those who have lived the experiences of the Partition and how this complexity continues across generations. This will be done through a methodology of writing personal narrative and reviewing testimonies of those who experienced the Partition, along with the members of their families. The primary sources for this paper are personal testimonies of the family members, community magazine Pothohar, the short story ‘Bhenji Parmeshri’ based on the oral tales narrated by the researcher’s grandmother, films Sardar Mohammad (2017) and Eh Janam Tumahare Lekhe (2015) and a testimony of Mohinder Kaur in the newspaper. The paper will evaluate the experience of those who suffered owing to Partition by connecting the contact points, like experience of migration, displacement of families, killing of daughters by their fathers etc. as depicted in the texts and testimonies taken for the study. Personally, the researcher’s grandfather, Harbans Singh lived for 102 years witnessing and participating in events around the Freedom Movement, the Partition of India, the 1971 war with Pakistan, the Emergency, the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, and finally the recent pandemic (COVI-19). At all major incidences he suffered personal losses. While throughout his life, he kept narrating his experiences of the Partition and the eventual victims’ migration to India, but towards the end of his life, he refused to talk about it anymore. He became very selective in his choice of subject for a conversation. Nevertheless, his village and place of birth, never skipped him. Even in his dementia, any reference to his birthplace would attract his attention. The paper is an attempt to study how physical places become permanent fixatures and sites of memory that surface at a slightest trigger. These incidences are the deepest traumatic sites that never recover.
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