Remnants of Partition
21 Objects from a Continent Divided
Seventy years on, the Partition of India fades from memory. Can it be restored?
Shortlisted for the British Academy’s Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2019, the Hindu Lit for Life Non Fiction Prize and the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize
A Hindustan Times ‘India @ 70’ book
The emotion and trauma of the Partition are buried deep, but Aanchal Malhotra has found a way to recover them. Through the possessions saved by her own great-grandparents as they fled their homes, she discovers the unique power of such objects: to unlock the secrets of a colossal human migration, and a life that once was.
Remnants of Partition is a remarkable alternative history, telling the family stories hidden within items carried between the new India and Pakistan, amid chaos and violence. They uncover a rich tapestry of pain and rupture, but also of hope and connection – in belonging through belongings, and identities reforged.
From a string of pearls to a young woman’s poetry, this extraordinary book gives voice to the voiceless, restoring the everyday to a great drama of the twentieth century. Its power and poignancy will haunt the reader.
Aanchal Malhotra is a New Delhi-based artist and oral historian. She is the cofounder of the Museum of Material Memory, a digital repository tracing family histories and social ethnography through heirlooms, collectibles and antiques from the Indian subcontinent. She can be found on Instagram (@aanch_m), Twitter (@AanchalMalhotra) and her website (www.aanchalmalhotra.com). This is her first book.
‘[Remnants of Partition] is one of the most compelling books I have read in a long time. It is a searing account of the power of memory to shape and reshape worlds. … This is oral history at its best.’ — Family and Community History Journal
‘This is a book of startling originality, weaving stories of intimate connections with objects and harrowing histories of displacement into beautifully cadenced prose. It is a book to treasure.’ – Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare With Amber Eyes
‘A well-researched and richly readable book.’ – Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi
‘A wonderful idea stylishly executed.’ – Andrew Whitehead, former BBC India correspondent
‘Aanchal Malhotra evokes one of the world’s great tragedies in moving, beautiful prose, woven through everyday objects treasured as relics of a shattered age.’ – Shashi Tharoor, Indian MP and author of Inglorious Empire
‘Artfully weaves travel, memory and materials—all without guile—reminding us why India is one of the world’s greatest storytelling cultures.’ – Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound
‘This is a truly original way to approach the history of Partition. Malhotra’s writing is evocative and, through the finely observed details of everyday life, brings depth and empathy to understanding this event.’ – Yasmin Khan, author of The Great Partition