This book ‘Hiraeth’ (Partition Stories from 1947) was sent to me for review by ArtoonsInn Room 9 publications, after my interaction with the author Dr. Shivani Salil on Twitter. I have previously ‘Liked’ the ArtoonsInn page on Facebook and the ‘Room 9 Publications by Artoonsinn’ page also on Facebook. I’m a member of the Artoons Facebook Group.
I learn that Dr. Shivani Salil, MD., is a Mumbaiite who always wanted to become a doctor but who was also interested in literature. She belongs to a family of refugees, for whom “the place they called home was not just a geographical zone, but an emotion.” This is her first book.
The book is inspired by true events. It is a slim volume of only 143 pages.
The book has 24 stories, each named after an Urdu word. The English translation of the Urdu words is also helpfully provided.
The titular story Hiraeth( Longing) is about a little girl Paro who is facing the pain of partition. With Diwali around the corner, Taro reminisces about her past. Diwali, a time to ring in the new, now means she has to settle in a new home. The uprooting she had faced, thoughts of her little brother who once lived like a prince but is now in tattered clothes, the emotional turmoil, the grief, the confusion – swirl in her head. She takes out The Ramayan and reads the chaupayian( couplets). Her favorite has always been the ‘prashnavali’. It is like a tarot card, which gives you answers to your questions when you “consult” it. She is filled with questions. And then, neatly folded in the pages, she finds her answer. (No plot spoilers here)
The book is a quick emotional read that moves you in different ways. It would be of interest to anyone who wants to read real-life stories about the partition or those interested in Urdu. Tighter editing and the removal of clichéd expressions would have improved my reading experience.