Partition of India

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Partition pangs

On the face of it, the memoir promises a compelling reading: partition prostration, deserted homes, lost relationships, monstrous communalism and traumatic widowhood. But the reason A Life Long Ago, the translated version of Sunanda Sikdar's Dayamoyeer Katha, falls short of a fine specimen of the partition literature is a rather non-serious depiction of an extraordinary event. The blurb, the translator's note and the acknowledgement point at the author's profound sense of loss in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947. But shuttling between the chapters, the reader quickly realises it's less about partition and more about everyday trivia in the life of Dayamoyee, whose morbid memory of that sordid event accounts for only a tiny slice of the 172-page memoir. The book delineates a plethora of details about Dighpait, a village in erstwhile East Pakistan, and the author's emotional bond with it. It starts with the news of the death of Majam, a poor Muslim fellow who was a constant companion of Dayamoyee until she was forced to leave for Hindusthan at 10, few years after India's partition. The paroxysm of pangs after the death of Majam, or dada as she called him, decades later forced her to open "floodgates" of memory, which took the shape of this book. The memoir mocks, in some details, the prevalent caste system and the arduous lives widows were forced to live in the name of traditions and customs. It also focuses on how Dayamoyee became an intrigued, and often shocked, spectator to the transition of her village after the migration of the Hindus to India. To Sikdar's credit, there are passages which convey a sort of unravished innocence-a kid's fascination towards things as commonplace as water rice. But there are also chapters that force the reader to question the memoir after getting perplexed by the amazing understanding of the child, who could barely read and write, about intricacies of life in a 20th century Bangladeshi village....
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