THIS work revolves around the testimony by Subhashini (1914-2003), who does not find mention in historical records but whose contribution cannot be overlooked. Written in first-person narrative, this book is a rich treasure trove of information on social history of gender, caste and community in a colonial and patriarchal context. Subhashini remembers most vividly the year 1942, when her father became a martyr. However, her father’s murder was avenged in 1947 with India gaining freedom from foreign rule and thus Subhashini celebrates Partition and mourns it too.
The book has three sections. The first chapter introduces Subhashini as a colonial subject and is devoted to her life history. As a child growing up in Mahra, Subhashini (born on August 1, 1914) works all day milking her buffaloes and cows, grinding corn, cooking meals, making cow dung cakes, preparing fodder, tending the cattle and fire and drawing water from the well. She has a stepsister. Her father sends Subhashini to live with Ram Singh’s family where subjected to harsh physical labour, she barely gets time to study. Six months later, she returns to her father. In 1919, she is initiated into the Arya Samaj where she attends the Gurukul jalsas and bhajans. She is sent to Kanya Gurukul Indraprastha in Delhi in 1923 and in 1927, the Gurukul shifts to Dehradun and so does Subhashini. The curriculum is based on the writings of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj. Though her father wants her to remain a brahmacharini, he gets her married in 1932 but after her daughter’s birth, she continues to remain devoted to the life of a brahamcharini and at her father’s instance, she begins to serve in the Gurukul.
Unfortunately that very night her father is murdered and Subhashini is convinced that the killer is ‘Mussalman Rangars’. But it is 1947 and she is 33 and she feels that Partition had avenged her father’s death. Jat peasants carried out a planned programme of killing Muslims in order to avenge her father’s murder in 1942.
The Jats till today identify themselves with the Gurukul which is a testimony to her father’s balidan, she says. Subhashini’s life is embedded within the economic, social and political history of Haryana, known as southeast Punjab till 1966. Her history as an Arya mahila is connected with a set of historical factors – the creation of southeast Punjab as an administrative unit of colonial Punjab, the emergence of the Jats as a dominant peasant community and the creation of an Arya Jat identity.
Chapter 2 is devoted to the subject of ‘A Daughter’s Testimony’, which is divided into three parts, narrating her stories within stories and presenting a constant interplay of testimony and history.
In the final chapter, the author writes to Subhashini a letter and juxtaposes fragments from Vash and writer Amrita Pritam’s parallel life histories, where Vash is a victim of Partition and Amrita Pritam, a survivor of the Partition’s violence.
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