After Partition

by Sneha Subramanian Kanta

 

*for nani

Bhagwati had lost meaning of location—home was now an intersection of two points. She traced patterns on the edges of the ship deck with her fingers and played with shadows and sunshine.

The coast on the other side was a stranger to her eyes—but it is easy to be unmindful of things when you are a child. Dense cloud formations hovered around the large looming expanse. Her mother called out to her at once—

She lay a handkerchief with semi burnt rotis, some pickle and a raw onion on the ground. As the family sat together to eat, Bhagwati asked if there was rice.

“You cannot be stubborn, child,” her mother politely reprimanded.

“ . . . but why did we carry all our belongings,  Mother? Where are we sailing?”

“India and Pakistan have been divided, Beti.”

“What does division mean? Who divided it?”

Her mother gave her a long, deep look—and quickly running her fingers through Bhagwati’s hair, pulled her closer. She felt her mother sigh before she started sobbing. Bhagwati looked at her mother and began to cry as well.

In the evening, when her father sat by the deck of the ship, she hoped for an answer. He began to narrate to her tales about independence.

Bewildered, she asked, “Are we going to a place where we will be given independence?”

She did not know the feeling of otherness yet. Evening clouds gathered into a whirlwind—she asked her father, “Did the clouds spiral when Krishna tried descending down?”

Everybody laughed, and her younger sister playfully started tugging at her.

“Who won the war, Baba?” Bhagwati asked.

The aching kind of growing seemed to have begun.