This week’s Your Shout comes from Amrit Kaur Lohia who has co-produced a new play on Partition. Here she outlines how and why she and her fellow students at SOAS chose to represent this harrowing topic:
‘The politics leading up to the Partition of India in 1947 is well documented – as are the lives and actions of the key figures of Nehru, Jinnah, Gandhi and Lord Mountbatten.
‘But what about the masses? The violence and forced mass migrations in unimaginable numbers seem to get lost in the narrative. The numbers seem so big that the presentation of the statistics alone fails to humanise history.
‘Before such politics Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs did not necessarily define themselves by territory or by religion. Many describe 1947 as a ‘moment of madness’ – a time in history where actions of many cannot be explained. We sometimes fail to remember that beneath the staggering statistics were humans, individual lives who endured unimaginable suffering.
‘Since the Partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the politics has been continuously studied and debated. In this ‘blame game’, the voices of the ordinary people and their stories have not always been heard. It has been up to recent historians and anthropologists to recover them. The Arts – through films, theatre, music and literature have also played an important role in educating and questioning aspects of Partition.
‘Following suit, to address these silences, I and my colleagues have been working on a production at our university, The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London.
‘The play is multilingual (with subtitles) and based on Saadat Hasan Manto’s ‘Toba Tek Singh’ and the memories from the Partition of India and Pakistan. It is accompanied by live music.
‘Our dramatic adaptation of Manto’s work tells the story of the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu inmates in a Lahore asylum who are supposed to be transferred to India after Partition. The story revolves around Bishan Singh, a Sikh inmate from the town of Toba Tek Singh, and his search for his home town, and essentially his identity.
‘In his search for Toba Tek Singh, Bishan escapes from the asylum and meets many people who have experienced the tragedies of loss, rape, death, and overall confusion related to dramatic changes in the aftermath of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.’
Director: Marta Schmidt
Music Director: Amrit Kaur Lohia
Costumes and Scenography: Yumna Islam”
Margaret Bourke White
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