Remembering the Juice Mango, Neena Kahlon, Rupa & Co., Pp 342, Rs 395.00
THIS novel is set against the backdrop of the Partition of August 15, 1947 and its aftermath when partitioning of the land along religious demography created a panic of such magnitude that it trigged the worst known riots in India’s history, killing over a million people and displacing ten million more. While Britain walked away from the bleeding land, ignoring the mayhem thus created, the novel tells the story of two families left behind to rehabilitate itself.
Nine-year old Ratna, an impoverished priest’s daughter, finds her employer Uma’s naked body bleeding on the road. On drawing near, she hears Uma whisper, “Cover me with a dhoti,” and ask her to find a pouch lying nearby. Ratna hands it over to the dying woman who hands it back to Ratna asking her to give it to her young son Dev’s aunt. A Sikh couple, Sukhdev and Raminder, on seeing the helpless two children, Ratna and Dev ask them to accompany them as part of a caravan crossing over to the other side of the border.
Now the story goes back to the time when Uma gets married to a rich landlord and has a son whom the parents simply adore. News of riots everywhere reach Uma and one day, while trying to escape from the Muslim mob coming to rape and kill Hindu women, she takes her son Dev and the temple priest’s daughter named Ratna with her to escape. But on the way, she is caught, raped and left to die.
Now coming back to the present, the couple brings up the two children like their own. Ratna tells Raminder how her father, the priest of the temple and his wife and other daughters had been killed by Muslims and asserts that all Muslims are bad. Raminder tells her, “Ratna, all Muslims are not bad, only some are, just like some Sikhs and Hindus are not good and some are.”
Dev and Ratna grow up and join college with the story now concentrating on the life and troubles of Dev and Ratna. It is a moving tale about the lives of the people who try to live with the scars of Partition.
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