Not often do we come across books which are telling in more ways than one. “Hiraeth” by debutante author Shivani Salil is not just a book, but is an experience that will stay in the realms of your world in perpetuity. It is for everyone. It is for every mood. It is truly for keeps.
Interestingly, the first line of the book – “I was 7 when someone referred to me as ‘refugee’s child’ – and its culminating lines – “He was born an Indian. But he died a refugee” – pretty much sum up the entire book. This is the essence of Hiraeth which is a collection of 24 “heart-rending” partition stories.
Unlike many who have read and reviewed the book, I have not known anyone at a personal level who has seen what it was like to cross borders at the time of partition. I have heard stories. I have read books. I have watched documentaries. I do feel the pain. I do tear up at the thought of it all. But, reading Hiraeth does much more. It almost made me feel as if I was present in that era. It gave me a much deeper cognizance of the agony, emotions and suffering of the people affected by the 1947 partition.
Shivani’s unassuming and sensitive narration gives the reader a gamut of emotions to dwell upon. The beauty of her writing is that it gradually percolates into your every pore and makes you emerge as a different person by the time you have finished reading the book. She makes you uncomfortable, yet there is a strange sense of calm you feel due to her words. She makes you cry, yet there is a strange sense of hope you feel as you ponder. She enriches you, yet there is a strange sense of void you feel at different points in the book.
I remember when Shivani had chosen this theme for the A to Z challenge, I wondered how different can partition stories be from each other. Full credit to her for ensuring each story is unique in its own way. Not even once did I feel the plot, settings, dialogues or characters seemed repetitive. All the stories are tied together by the same underlying string, yet each is told from a different lens and space.
You don’t need to necessarily relate to the subject of the book to pick it up as your next read. These are partition stories, but at their quintessence, these are human stories. If you have a heart that feels and a mind that thinks, then you will love “Hiraeth”. Please also encourage your younger ones to read it. One of my students borrowed the book from me and told me that she started taking interest in our history after reading it. So that says it all!
Publisher: Room9 Publications Artoonsinn
Purchase from Amazon using the following link.