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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Leela Mamtani, 2014 January 29.
Oral history with Leela Mamtani, 2014 January 29.
Mamtani, Leela, 1932- and Joshi, Prakhar
Author (no Collectors):
Mamtani, Leela, 1932-, Joshi, Prakhar, Joshi, Prakhar, and Joshi, Prakhar
Mrs. Leela Mamtani was born in Kandyara town of Nawab Shah District in Pakistan on October 21, 1932. Until the age of fifteen, she lived in Kandyara while her brothers lived in Karachi and Hyderabad. Her father was a prominent landlord and they lived in a huge haveli. The house had various secret cupboards called hoori, which were used to hide valuables. In 1947, the family had to abandon two hoori full of riches. Mrs. Mamtani walks down the memory lane when she describes the family life in Kandyara. Her family had very harmonious relations with Muslims and there were brotherly sentiments. Mrs. Mamtani recalls her mischief from childhood and shares memories with friends Devi, Tilli and Sheila. They used to bunk classes and ran into the orchards for fruits or the ponds and waterfalls.Mrs. Mamtani mentions a festival Thaddari which was celebrated during the monsoon months. It was not a religious festival but a community celebration when all the families got together for singing and merriment, and exchanged sweet breads. Mrs. Mamtani’s family offered prayers to the water god Darya Shah.Folk songs were a major part of all revelry- community or religious and all major activities like child birth, marriages, crop harvest. Mrs. Mamtani bursts into a melodious song that the women used to sing overnight during celebrations. Another unique aspect was the intricate embroidery work of Sind province, mostly done by Muslim ladies. The markets in Kandyara were elaborate and segregated according to commodities- cloth, general items and food.The Indian National Congress, in its bid to raise awareness about the national movement, was popularizing the spinning wheel charkha, which went on to become the symbol of India’s freedom movement. Mrs. Mamtani recalls they had a dedicated period at school every day for learning how to spin the wheel and weave yarn. The Congress organized rallied to ignite the patriotic fervor amongst everyone. With an air of pride for the country, Mrs. Mamtani says, “By the time I was fifteen, I had been to jail twice”.The months of 1947 that saw British India’s freedom and consequent division of the land were met with hardly any disturbances in Kandyara. Mrs. Mamtani recalls sporadic attacks and night long pelting of stones at her house. By December of 1947, the attacks increased in intensity and the family had collected stones and red chilli powder for protection. On Januray 1, 1948 Mrs. Mamtani’s family decided to leave and took a bus to Hyderabad with all that they could carry.On their way to the port city of Karachi, the family was robbed off everything. After five days, Mrs. Mamtani boarded a ship with her family for Mumbai. The captain of the ship did not know the directions for Mumbai and he anchored in the middle of nowhere. Mrs. Mamtani remembers the conditions of sea sickness and loss that had gripped everyone. The ship then docked in Kutch in Gujarat.After moving through several towns the family settled in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After her marriage to Mr. Satram Mamtani in 1952, Mrs. Mamtani moved to Delhi. Her talent in singing was acknowledged by a music director Darshan Singh, and he trained her in modern vocal music. Mrs. Mamtani went onto become a radio singer of repute. She sings in Sindhi, Hindi and Punjabi; and works hard to popularize and preserve Sindhi folk songs. Her radio programs are also broadcasted in Pakistan by the External Affairs Ministry of the government of Pakistan.In 2009, Mrs. Mamtani was invited by the Urdu Services of the BBC London to visit Sindh. She recalls with nostalgia the love and warmth she received as she travelled across the province. She also visited her old house and hometown. People loved her there and arranged for recording her songs.
History and History
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2 video files
Publication Info:
New Delhi (India)
New Delhi (India), January 29, 2014
Filmed interviews