Joyeeta Dey is currently working with a non-profit research team in West Bengal. She has a Masters degree in Sociology of Education from the Institute of Education, University of London and Bachelors in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University. Joyeeta most enjoys contemporary poetry and modern art.
Thank you for inviting me to this conference.
I am not used to speaking to such large numbers so please bear with my fumbling attempts. I had rarely spoken about my experiences growing up, because I didn’t know that in polite company one could speak of the things that
happened to me. I did not know that what I thought of a ‘political event’ could matter. All that had mattered to me is I could tell my children in cold anger that they will not mix with Muslims. All
that had mattered is that I too had the power to draw some lines.
I live alone now but last summer my grandson had come to visit me. He is eighteen, unlike any boy I would have brought up, because all he ever seems to want to do is cook or sit and chat. He would ask for stories from my childhood, I would tell him about the enormous ancestral house we had, how beautiful it looked when the light from the lanterns flickered in the portico. I would tell him about the nautch-house and giggle. I would tell him about the rolling stairwells. What about Partition?, he suddenly asked one day,
throwing me off.
I was too young, I said. I don’t remember.
He called me a silly forgetful grandma and opened his laptop to show me something called a partition archive where ‘victims’ (some
preferred to be called survivors) of Partition had told their stories. I never understood this habit of talking about everything. Good lord, someone had described how she had walked towards the bus leaking blood from rape on the marble floor. Just like me. I leant back on my pillows, overcome with remembrance and a need to vomit.
“You’re such a liar dida”, that young brat said.
“Go to sleep”, I commanded.
You see, that girl had been headed to Pakistan.
Samir is an able pest and within a year he had me talking about what had happened. It was easier on the phone. And I was rewarded for overcoming the deepest of my inhibitions and confiding my most private memories to my grandson of all people, by being turned into a fictional character in the book all of you are holding in your hands. I hope he pays.