Excerpt from Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel:



The novel is about the Partition of India in 1947 as seen through the candid eyes of a Parsi child. It has been made into the film ‘earth’ by director Deepa Mehta.

"I have many teachers. My cousin shows me things.

‘You want to see my marbles?’ he asks, and holds out the prettily coloured glass balls for me to admire and touch - and if I so wish, to play with. He has just returned from Quetta where he had a hernia operation. ‘Let me show you my scar,’ he offers, unbuttoning his fly and exposing me to the glamorous spectacle of a stitched scar and a handful of genitals. He too has clever fingers. ‘You can touch it,’ he offers. His expression is disarming, gallant. I touch the fine scar and gingerly hold the genitals he transfers to my palm. We both study them. ‘I am also having my tonsils removed,’ he says. I hand back his genitals and look at his neck. I visualize a red, scalloped scar running from ear to ear. It is a premonition."

"There is much disturbing talk. India is going to be broken. Can one break a country? And what happens if they break it where our house is? Or crack it further up on Warris Road? How will I ever get to Godmother’s then?

I ask Cousin.

‘Rubbish,’ he says, ‘no one’s going to break India. It’s not made of glass!’

I ask Ayah.

‘They’ll dig a canal…’ she ventures. ‘This side for Hindustan and this side for Pakistan. If they want two countries, that’s what they’ll have to do - crack India with a long, long canal.’

Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Mountbatten are names I hear.

And I become aware of religious differences.

It is sudden. One day everybody is themselves - and the next day they are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. People shrink, dwindling into symbols. Ayah is no longer just my all-encompassing Ayah - she is also a token. A Hindu. Carried away by a renewed devotional fervour she expends a small fortune in joss-sticks, flowers and sweets on the gods and goddesses in the temples.

copyright Bapsi Sidhwa

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