Notable works on post partition India

By Priya Chetty on July 24, 2015

Literary works on post-partition India generally deal with people’s experiences during the period following the partition of India and Pakistan. The period following partition was a period of great suffering, trauma, sacrifice and adjustment. People were trying to build their life anew but the experience of partition haunted them. As Freud asserts, to dispel a traumatic experience one needs to use the “talking cure”. Many people expressed themselves by retelling their story of partition, some of which saw immense popularity and controversy. The writings post-partition even decades after the event dealt with the violence and the psychological, emotional and ideological consequences of partition. It shows the bitter side of the partition, how insensitive, arbitrary political processes uproot and destroy happy, settled lives and contains nostalgia about the lost, irrecoverable past.

A few words which are notable in this category and have also been adapted and re-interpreted in various movies, plays, and art and TV serials are:

The ice candy man or cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa (1991)

It is the first novel by a female novelist from Pakistan depicting the experience of partition in Lahore, during and after partition. The novel is narrated by a strong, observant protagonist; a girl, Lenny growing up in a Parsee family, surviving and experiencing partition. The Parsee community has a history of mixing with other cultures but with the background of communal riots, they had to face the consequences of religious fanaticism. The book signifies the cracks that occurred in the geography, psyche, culture and people. The book also inspired the movie “Earth” by Deepa Mehta.

Tamas by Bishan Sahani (1974)

Tamas means darkness, the novel was set in the backdrop of the riot stricken Pakistan during and after partition. It shows the plight of emigrant Sikh and Hindu families as a consequence of partition. It also depicts the plight of innocent people trapped in communal riots and changes their lives drastically.

Midnight’s children by Salman Rushdie (1980)

The novel deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition, a historical fiction. It won the Booker prize, 1981 and the “Booker of Bookers” prize too. It’s a loose allegory of India before and after independence and partition. It depicts the story of Saleem Sanai who is born on the midnight of 15th August 1947; he experiences and reflects on issues independent India goes through like cultural, linguistic, religious concerns and political differences in the diverse nation. Critic Clarke Blaise asserted that Midnight’s Children sounds “like a continent finding its voice” and Tariq Ali says “no other novel about India has such an impact”. Midnight’s Children is a narrative about the emerging Indian nation and emerging national identities (Needham 1993).

Toba Tek Singh, Thanda Gosht, Khool Do and other short stories of Sadat Hasan Manto in his collection of short stories in Kingdoms end

These stories show the dark side of the partition, the bitter experiences, the cruelty and the sheer violence: psychological and physical. The confusion and incomprehensibility of people regarding the partition, even after a few years of the event is depicted. The dislocation and uprooting of people from their homes where their past, their culture, their memories and relations are had led to the breakdown of their identity and mental solidarity. It shows how women were used as a tool by men to show their ethnic masculinity. Violence during partition was also sexual in nature.

Train To Pakistan by Kushwant Singh (1956)

It is a historical novel recounting the partition, not in political events rather it focuses on the human dimensions of the event. it gives a sense of realties of horror & believability; detailed characterizations increases ones cultural and social understanding of the event. Showing that the blame could not be placed on one group alone rather both Hindus & Muslims were responsible for the violence & the horrors (Thakur 2014).

Pinjar by Amrita Pritam (1950)

It is a Punjabi novel depicting the story of a Hindu girl Puro, abducted by a Muslim boy Rashid and her parents refuse to accept the defiled girl due to the fear of communal slaughter. When the British leave India, a chance of migration and the start of a new life is presented to her but she decides to stay where her home was. The novel deals with the image of women during the partition era and their real status. It tries to explore the silence women experienced during partition. It depicts the struggle of a woman and her helplessness, highlighting the situation and status of women, especially in rural areas.

A Bend In The Ganges by Manohar Malgonkar (1964)

The novel starts with the slogan “ Boycott British Goods” and ends with “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” giving the expression of the fire of freedom burning in Indian hearts and contrasting the thousands of similar fires burning all over the country (Sharma 2014). Malgonkar marks the reactions to partition, ranging from disappointment, cynicism, frustration to partial happiness and ultimate betrayal (Sundararajan 2015). Malgonkar uses a swiftly moving narrative for an epic portrayal of complex forces which leads to partition tragedy and presents the authentic rural world and the changing trends in the society (Sharma 2014).

Sunlight On A Broken Column by Aatia Hussian (1961)

The novel depicts a subjective, fictional retelling of the histories during partition. Partition was not a grand narrative alone; it was a radical change in lifestyle. it was an emotional and ideological experience (Dwivedi 2009). Nationalism constructs itself as the singular, homogeneous truth about national identity & experiences. They focus on the masculine and public sphere but it includes women having indirect relationships with men (Bohan 2012).

There are many other significant works of the post-partition period but these works have attained a status of “the timeless classics”. These depict the common and unforgettable experiences and consequences of the partition of India & Pakistan. Many still search for the identity, history left behind beyond the impenetrable boundary. The same issues of boundaries & divisions, religion, politics and culture between the two new nations still persist. But these stories are constantly retold reminding and re-interpreted the people of their hard-earned independence and nation-building.


  • Bohan, E., 2012. sunlight on a broken column. the quarry, november, pp.1–8.
  • Dwivedi, A.., 2009. tribute to meenakshi mukherjee. transnational literature, 2(november), pp.1–4.
  • Needham, A.D., 1993. Multiple Forms of (National) Belonging: Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column. MFS Modern Fiction Studies, 39(1), pp.93–111.
  • Sharma, R., 2014. bend in the Ganges: a trauma of partition. IJELH, International Journal of English Language, Literature and Humanities., vol 2(6), pp.223–226.
  • Sundararajan, J. dr. anand kumar, 2015. The Impact of Partition On Indian Writing In English With Referance To Kushwant Singh’s Train To Pakistan, Manohar Malgonkar’sA Bend In The Ganges, And ChamanNahal’sAzadi. EJELLH International Journal of English Language, Literature and Humanities., 3(march), pp.30–33.
  • Thakur, S., 2014. train to Pakistan : a direct gaze at the ugliness of partition. the criterion, an International Journal in English, vol 5(feb 2014), pp.306–312.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).