Oral historian Aanchal Malhotra’s first book, Remnants of a Separation, was published in 2017 to mark the seventieth anniversary of India’s Partition. It told a human history of the monumental event by exhuming the stories lying latent in ordinary objects that survivors had carried with them across the newly made border. It was acclaimed for the freshness of its approach to a decades-old, much-written-about subject. But more significantly, it inspired conversations within families: between the generation that had witnessed Partition and those who had only inherited its memories.
In the Language of Remembering, as a natural progression, explores that very notion as it reveals how Partition is not yet an event of the past and its legacy is threaded into the daily lives of subsequent generations. Bringing together conversations recorded over many years with generations of Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and their respective diaspora, it looks at how Partition memory is preserved and bequeathed, its consequences disseminated and manifested within family, community and nation. With the oldest interviewees in their nineties and the youngest just teenagers, the voices in this living archive intimately and sincerely answer questions such as: Is Partition relevant? Should we still talk about it? Does it define our relationships? Does it build our characteristics or augment our fears, without us even realizing?
As the subcontinent marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Partition, In the Language of Remembering will most importantly serve as a reminder of the price this land once paid for not guarding against communal strife – and what could happen once again should we ever choose division over inclusion.