After a long wait, I finally laid my hands on the debut book of Dr. Shivani Salil, Hiraeth and devoured it in 6 sittings. Though it is a book that is hard to be kept down without finishing in one go only. But, I would advise the readers to go slow and let the essence of the stories sink in.
I had read Dr. Shivani’s posts during Blogchatter #A2ZChallenge last year and was hooked to every story. Throughout the challenge, her unique theme garnered a lot of attention and praise. Later, she shaped those stores into a book to make it accessible to a larger audience and now it is available across the globe. Thanks for doing this, Dr. Shivani. This book certainly needed a larger reader base.
So, here goes my Book Review of Hiraeth: Partition stories from 1947
Hiraeth is not just a book, its an emotion.
Based on the true events during the partition in 1947 and inspired by real people and their experiences, this book is an anthology of 24 spine-chilling yet heartwarming stories. The book has been written beautifully with a lot of research keeping the minutest details in mind like food habits, clothing, geography, etc. Every story is only 3-4 minutes read but how effectively the writer has conveyed every emotion in a few words is commendable.
Hiraeth is a Welsh word which means “longing” or “homesickness” and the title is apt for the book. Another thing that makes this book authentic is the use of vernacular language and keeping the titles of every chapter in Urdu which was the widely used language then. Five stars to the beautiful book cover as well that conveys a lot about the book.
My parents-in-law who also moved to India from Pakistan during the partition often tell me the stories of their life back in Lahore and Karachi, their friends, home, neighborhood and the memories that were etched in their minds and hearts. I could feel the pain and longing for their place and loved ones and the helplessness too.
While reading Hiraeth, I could actually visualize them in many chapters. This is one book that I would be reading to them on my next trip to India. These stories tug at the heartstrings and evoke a gamut of emotions like happiness, helplessness, suffering, joy, pain, betrayal, separation, love, hatred, agony, compassion, empathy, breach, friendship, anger, admiration, etc. all at the same time.
I congratulate Dr. Shivani for writing a fantastic debut book on such a sensitive topic with a lot of care. Her stories will make you cry and angry but at the same time, will give you a ray of hope and comfort. Though the theme and common binding string of every story is the partition, still there is no monotony of the plot, characters, settings, narration, etc. Each and every story is unique and screams a lot of sentiments and thoughtfulness.
A heartfelt story about the reunion of two friends who were separated during the partition. This story conveys how pure the emotions were and love, unadulterated, irrespective of religion. I was in a pool of tears while reading this one as it gave me light and hope.
Since the writer has a personal connection to the topic as her ancestors had moved during the partition, she has managed to portray every single feeling with so much ease.
This book takes you on an emotional ride and transports you to that horrific era. An era when numerous families were perished, separated, and killed. A few lucky ones who managed to survive tried to start afresh picking up the tattered pieces of their lives. All this because some higher authorities decided their fate and ordered to leave their home, their belongings, their everything.
It made me ponder was that really, independence? Does independence look so terrifying? Does it make one leave his/her own nest and loved ones? I had seen many movies on the partition but I had never experienced something like this before what I felt while reading Hiraeth. It is a real, intense and hard-hitting account of those personal experiences.
You will feel the pain and struggle people had gone through during the partition. It makes you realize how happy people were living together without any discrimination of caste and religion and how dreadful it was for them when suddenly a Radcliffe line was drawn between them and their homes. Leaving was not a choice but a compulsion, a majburi to save their lives. Their fates changed overnight as they were given no choice but to leave. Their abode, their belongings, their friends and a piece of their heart and soul.
Even if you don’t have any personal connection with the partition times, like me, you should still read this book. I feel it is even more relevant in today’s communally charged time when we are fighting over religion, spreading hatred and killing each other, Hiraeth is a must-read. This book is for every person who has an emphatic heart. It makes you cry and smile, makes you uncomfortable and calms you. It is surely for keeps.
Grab this book and read it to your children too. An excellent job is done by the author. It doesn’t look like the work of a debut author as it has all the ingredients of an entertaining book. Every story is crafted with love and truckload of emotions with simple language and smooth narration. A page turner book that keeps you hooked till the end, It will stay with me for a long long time.
You can buy your copy here