(Sidharth Vardhan’s review of
‘Two’, a novella by Gulzar
Originally published in Hindi
under the title ‘Do Log’ in 2017
Review first written on January 1, 2020
(3 / 5))
It’s the winter of 1946. A truck leaves the village of Campbellpur after news of the impending Partition pours in. It is carrying people who don’t know where they will go. They have just heard words like ‘border’ and ‘refugee’, and are struggling to understand how drawing a line might carve out Pakistan from Hindustan. As they reach the border, the caravan disperses and people go their own ways. Gulzar’s first novel tracks the lives of the people in that truck right from 1946 up to the Kargil war. A novel on what the Partition entailed for ordinary people, Two is also a meditation on the fact that the division of India and the carnage that followed, once set into motion, kept happening inexorably and ceaselessly, and people like those who left their homes on that truck never found another home; they kept looking for a place called home, a place to belong to.
Painde lambe ne lakiran deGulzar
Umr de hisaab muk gaye
Totey labbe taqdiran de
Kisse lambe ne lakiran de
(Long are the passages of borders
One has lost count of age
Gathering the pieces of fate
Long are the stories of the partition…)
A book about refugees suffering from Partition of British India into India and Pakistan; riots the followed and the life of refugees. Probably not in the same league as Gulzar’s poems but then I only read the translation.
To the characters in the book, the partition was absurd and they struggle to understand how land they lived on could suddenly start belonging to some new nation.
On a side note, the partition that took countless lives was born of a two-nation theory that preached that people from different cultures can’t live together. Different cultures make an ‘us’ and ‘them’. And ‘us’ can’t live with ‘them’ so partition. That is what that approach does – divide countries, build walls, go xenophobic, segregate minorities/migrants, etc. Europe perhaps learned its lesson after Nazis but probably forgot about it afterward.
Of course, there are some people who believe that it is possible for people of different cultures to live together. At time of partition, the first side won in Pakistan making it a country of one culture (Pakistan) while India went on to live the impossible dream of a nation of several cultures – something even Churchill had thought impossible (he famously called India as much of a nation as equator and believed that it would be divided into several parts after British left) because India’s leaders here didn’t have the same narrow-mindedness (not that such narrow mindedness didn’t exist in Hinduism it just hadn’t gained as much power).
That idea of India is probably more important today when the first side is gaining popularity again with the so-called ‘Ram Raj’ gaining popularity in India, Britain’s EU exit, Trump building walls, etc.
“As the date of independence came closer, freedom seemed to move further away”Gulzar
“Like dry leaves falling from a huge tree in a storm, the refugees kept drifting. At times they would float to the ground, only to be blown away by another strong gust of breeze.Gulzar
Decades passed, the refugees kept wandering. It was impossible to say who moved where fell where. Even time wouldn’t probably be able to recognize them. The roots of the partition were buried deep, its branches reaching out. It was impossible to search for those who had left Campbellpur with Fauji. One leaf drifted a long way off.”
The site has only few of my book reviews. Check my goodreads profile for all my reviews.
Copyright – Sidharth Vardhan