Fiction, Short Stories
(Paperback | ISBN 9789387693258 | 256 pp | June 2018)
After Partition, India exchanged the Muslim patients in its Mental Hospitals for their Hindu and Sikh counterparts in Pakistan. These interlinked short stories explore the impact of this decision, together with the ongoing consequences of Partition. Rulda Singh and Fattu (Fateh Khan), patients at Lahore’s Mental Hospital, are separated, possibly for ever. Years later, Prakash Kohli, an Indian psychiatry student, hears Rulda’s account of his journey to India, with its casual official cruelty and unexpected tenderness. When he visits Lahore, Prakash discovers the story of his own birth in 1947, forms a lifelong friendship with a Pakistani colleague—and realizes that nobody knows why so few mental patients survived the exchange.
As Prakash becomes curious about this, he realizes that Partition continues to have a profound effect on the psyches of his patients. A middle-aged woman passes on a delusion of being chased by murderous mobs to her children. A young boy from Simla is convinced that Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistani President’s daughter, loves him and they have discussions in his dreams every night. And Prakash, seeing Punjab go up in flames under a militant call for another land of the pure, wonders if Partitions can happen again.
These stories, and more, with their recurring and shared characters, remind us that Partition does not merely lie in the past. Powerful and unsettling, this collection is essential reading.