The Partition of India in 1947 meant a redrawing of the map that created new borders and borderlands and resulted in massive population migration across the borders of the newly independent nation states of India and Pakistan. The lecture will address why, for example, the partition’s aftermath in Bengal is significantly different to the sudden cataclysmic division in Punjab through issues of identity and exile that played out in diverse ways on the west and eastern sides of India. Through close readings of two stories, one by Sadat Hasan Manto, (Toba Tek Singh, Urdu) and another by Sunanda Bhattacharya (Border Stories, Bangla), the talk will highlight some of the historical differences of the two partitions as well as try to infer the narrative strategies the writers employ to draw out an affective response to the unbearable human tragedy of being a refugee.
Debjani Sengupta is the author of The Partition of Bengal: Fragile Borders and New Identities, (CUP, 2016). She has edited a volume of stories, Mapmaking: Partition Stories From Two Bengals (2004 rpt. 2011) and has co-edited another volume, Looking Back: The 1947 Partition of India 70 Years On (Orient Blackswan, 2017). She translates from Bengali and her translation of a contemporary Bangla novel The Roundel Moons won the second prize for translation in the Delhi World Book Fair (2011). Her translations have been anthologized in the Oxford Anthology of Bengali Literature (OUP, vol. 2) and in The Essential Tagore (Harvard University Press). Debjani Sengupta completed her doctoral work on the Literatures of the Bengal Partition from the Center for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is an Associate Professor of English at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi.