Home, Uprooted: Oral Histories of India's Partition

By Devika Chawla | Go to book overview

THREE
A Story Travels

I would like to tell you a complete story, if there can be such a thing. I could begin dramatically, by asking you to imagine the moment when the Musalman’s axe hits Labbi Devi’s head and her husband’s,1 leaving them half dead on the rail tracks. They are on a goods train that is bringing them from Pakistan to India in September 1947, a month after the country has been partitioned. Before they are attacked, a Muslim mob has tried, repeatedly to abduct Labbi Devi. She is a twenty-year-old beautiful young woman who describes herself, simply, as having had thick long black hair. She tells me, “They took me. I came back. They took me again. I came back. They were about to take me, and we were in the space between the train wagons, when the military arrived, so they left me right there. I was saved.” Seventeen family members traveled together on that train; only four adults survived to reach Amritsar on the Indian side of the border.

Once I start, you may find your own beginning for Labbi Devi’s story. Because, as Jeanette Winterson astutely tells us, there is surely “no story

-35-

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Home, Uprooted: Oral Histories of India's Partition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • One - Beginnings—In HeadNotes 1
  • Two - Fieldwork/Homework 8
  • Three - A Story Travels 35
  • Four - Home outside Home 62
  • Five - Adrift- Reluctant Nomads 96
  • Six - Hearth Crossings 148
  • Seven - Remnants 180
  • Eight - My Father, My Interlocutor 201
  • Glossary 227
  • Notes 229
  • Bibliography 253
  • Index 265
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