Everyone on either side of the border has a Partition story. It is passed down like a tissue-wrapped heirloom with its loose seams sewn and missing buttons replaced with imagined accounts. For the few old enough to remember, it is worn habitually like a chiffon dupatta that rises and falls with the beat of their two lives, back and forth in their history. They are moving, eternally moving, to either side of a wrinkle in a zafran-dyed map.
Fazal Ka Bangla played on my screen with many echoes that I tuned into instantly, I recognized the imagery, the pauses and the rhythms of the story simply because I am a South Asian who’s family also made the border crossing under horrifying circumstances. Mrs Nirmal Chawla’s voice and face merged into my Bari Khala’s as I listened with one foot in the door of memory and the other in the present, to how they both woke up one day and found themselves in the wrong country. With no time for breakfast or a suitcase, they crossed through a mirror image through to the inside out place. I wondered whether they were in proximity to each other. Two points going in opposite directions, towards and past to take each other’s place.
Illustrating this narration was an emotional experience for me and a responsibility that I was daunted by. I couldn’t fathom nor touch upon the stories of millions of refugees, but I could illustrate a tiny portion with love and beauty that has been passed to me to sew and button. I want to give dignity to the story of this lady and the one who first told me hers. The women who were plucked from the homes of their childhood that they could perhaps only visit in memory, maybe in Lahore, maybe in Darjeeling.
With love and beauty,