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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Bapsi Sidhwa, 2013 April 7.
Oral history with Bapsi Sidhwa, 2013 April 7.
Sidhwa, Bapsi and Bhalla, Guneeta Singh
Author (no Collectors):
Sidhwa, Bapsi, Bhalla, Guneeta Singh, and Bhalla, Guneeta Singh
Dr. Bapsi Sidhwa is a renowned author from Lahore, whose book "Cracking India" (aka "Ice Candy Man") was made into the popular film "Earth" which takes place at the time of Partition."I'm sharing this story because I wanted to share how Partition affected every single life. It affected my life by taking away my son and it put me through a grieving period for years! You don't forget it." Dr. Bapsi Sidhwa was born Bapsi Bhandara at her paternal grandparents' home in Karachi in 1938. She was raised in Lahore, where she moved about three months after her birth. The Sidhwa family descends from one of the original Parsi families that arrived by boat to Gujarat over 1000 years ago. Because of this, they are still entitled to a tithe from the fire temple. Her books have popularized the story of the fire temple that was founded in Gujarat by the first Parsis: They sought refuge but the local king refused gently and sent them a jar full of milk, symbolically communicating that the kingdom was filled to capacity and there was room for no more. The milk was sent back by the new arrivals with some sugar in it, sending the message that they would not burden the kingdom further, but rather sweeten their lives. The king agreed but required that they assimilate in dress, language, and several other local customs. Dr. Sidhwa also recalls other tales from her family. Her grandfather who had lost an eye during a war in Sudan, came to Lahore from a village called Bhandar in Gujarat. Lahore was considered the commercial and cultural hub at that time. The Bhandaras owned an ancestral wine shop. After Partition her father, Mr. Bhandara, acquired the Murree Brewery in Lahore. She notes that her father was fond of giving money away to charity. In fact, her grandfather was one of the founders of Mama Parsi School in Karachi. On the other hand, Dr. Sidhwa's father-in-law, was a freedom fighter and as a child her husband grew up as interacting with popular leaders of the time, including Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi. Dr. Sidhwa had two brothers. They spoke Gujarati at home, Urdu and Punjabi with their neighbors and Urdu and English with friends. When she was a bit over two years old, Dr. Sidhwa traveled to her maid's village, where she contracted polio. She later had surgery in Karachi by a renowned doctor, Col. Birajker, and she was "running around and climbing mountains" by age 13. Because of her polio however, she did not attend school with the rest of the children her age. Instead, she was home schooled and as a result grew up being very introspective. She was also deeply curious about the world around her. She became an avid reader, devouring any magazine, book or piece of literature that came her way. She also recalls being very close to a childless woman in her neighborhood, whom she credits with making her an affectionate person. A few months before Partition, she was walking with their gardener when they both came across a gunny sack. The gardener opened it and the body of a very young man was inside. She recalls being deeply struck by that sight as she realized the futility of a young life with so much potential lost. She recalls the skyline in Lahore being full of fires. There was also an "incessant jaunt" that filled her ears. It was the noise of chants from the various communities mixing together. Her next door neighbors had three children whom young Dr. Sidhwa recalls playing with. One day, they decided to avoid the violence by temporarily moving east and left their home keys and belongings in the care of the Bhandaras. They planned to return when the violence subsided. However, they never returned. After Partition, at the age of 19, Dr. Sidhwa married and moved to Mumbai. She had a son and a daughter, though her marriage ended when she was 23 and she moved back to Lahore. However, she was not able to bring her son with her, who remained in Mumbai with his father's family. Due to border restrictions, she was unable to see her son again for over a decade. She describes this as a devastating time as they went from embassy to embassy in Rawalpindi and Delhi. Dr. Sidhwa married Mr. Sidhwa during this time. When her son's father passed away, they were able to secure a passport for him after a tremendous effort that took months, and he finally was able to join her in Lahore during in his late teens. She recalls going to Wagah border daily for four months to receive him, until one day he finally arrived. It was during her second marriage that Dr. Sidhwa began to write. Many episodes from her life and her memories of Partition are captured in the fictionalized story that unfolds in Cracking India (which was also published in South Asia under the title "Ice Candy Man"). Today Dr. Sidhwa lives in Texas, not far from her son and her youngest brother.
History and History
Physical Description:
7 video files
Publication Info:
Berkeley (Calif.)
Berkeley (Calif.), April 7, 2013
Filmed interviews