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BRIDGES ACROSS TIME

PARTITIONS By Kamleshwar, Penguin, Rs 350

History is always interesting for people who have the time for it. But some periods of history never cease to fascinate, the partition of India being one of them. Even after 59 years, writers still find it a subject capable of appealing to readers because of its terrible impact on the people's imagination.

Partitions has been more than competently translated from the original Hindi by Ameena Kazi Ansari. At the heart of the novel there is an adeeb, or a writer, who has been assigned the job of holding public court to find out the truth of events that had taken place in times past and present. He has been given the power to transcend time and place, recall anyone to his court and pass judgments on them. Thus kings, emperors, statesmen, politicians, and even religious heads like Gautam Buddha come to the court of the Adeeb.

History had been written and rewritten, but the common man's voice has mostly gone unheard from it. In this novel, it is the common man who tries to sift through the dirt and pile of history to find the suppressed truth. If this plot can interest some readers, it may also be the cause of embarrassment to others. The story goes on and on, and one can read it from any page and not miss anything. There are several characters but all of them remain strangely lifeless. Kamleshwar does not even try to give them a shape, for his interest is in the unfolding of the storyline. But even the storyline is difficult to locate.

Partitions hardly seems to be a novel. At most it can be called a tale where mythology, history, and narration have coalesced to make it readable. The adeeb's job is to find out the truth, and yet he does not call characters that are bent on destroying the fabric of communal harmony of present-day India. Does that mean that the adeeb too had failed in his duty, or that Kamleshwar, like us, has feet of clay' Whatever it is, his intention is clearly to bridge the gap between people, and set straight some of the events of history distorted by time so that they are no more partitions of hearts or of countries.

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