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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Gayatri Chakraborty, 2014 July 2.
Oral history with Gayatri Chakraborty, 2014 July 2.
Chakraborty, Gayatri, 1938-, Biswas, Sarmishtha, and Sengupta, Debanjan
Author (no Collectors):
Chakraborty, Gayatri, 1938-, Biswas, Sarmishtha, Biswas, Sarmishtha, and Sengupta, Debanjan
Gayatri Chakraborty was born in 1938 at her maternal uncle’s home at Patuakhali Sub-Division Town, District: Barishal, East Bengal, erstwhile undivided British India (now Bangladesh). Though she grew up in a joint family and lived her early childhood days with her kin and cousins together at their ancestral home situated at Charadi village, near Raanir Haat Steamer Ghat of Barishal Dirstrict, but later she spent most of her childhood days at her maternal uncle’s place. Because, her father Capt. Sudhangshu Ranjan Mukhopadhyay was in British Indian Army and that’s why he had to stay away from his home months after months.Gayatri’s father was the only earning member in the entire family. He used to send some money at his home every month and with his regular financial support, the whole family managed to survive somehow. Though they had nearly 10 Bighas of land to cultivate, but it was under mortgage when Gayatri was growing up as a little kid. Beforehand, the family had another source of income from their traditional family business of tobacco. But as soon as Gayatri’s father joined the Army and left home, her only paternal uncle was unable to run their family business alone. Hence, he had to give up and since then the family fell in a deep financial crisis. Meanwhile, Gayatri’s maternal uncle got a job in Calcutta and moved over there. And then in a short while, he found new jobs in the colonial city for Gayatri’s paternal uncle and her elder cousin. So, they also moved to Calcutta in order to join their new jobs. As a result, there were no adult male members left in their village home at Barishal to look after the kids and their young mothers.In this circumstance, Gayatri was not admitted to any school. Though she was very keen to study and go to a school, but nobody in her family paid much attention to a little girl’s desire at that difficult moment the whole family were going through. So, Gayatri had to stay confined within her village and spent her days by playing with her little brother, cousins and friends. She had some close friends of the same age group who also lived in the same village as her neighbours. All of them were from upper caste Hindu families, although there were a large number of Muslim families in her neighbourhood. But the Muslim population was mainly poor farmers and remained marginal in the existing social hierarchy. Nevertheless, there was no such tension or rivalry among the two communities in her village, rather they lived in peace and harmony and the relationship between them seemed to be very smooth and friendly. But there was a clear, visible divide between the two. Most of the Muslim families in her locality were landless agricultural labourers who worked in the land owned by the Hindu landlords. And primarily due to this overt, distinct divide in economic class and social strata, Gayatri didn’t have any opportunity to get a Muslim friend in her childhood days.So, a little village girl was growing up in such a critical juncture when the colonial history of South Asia was awaiting a rupture. And at that point of time, in 1946, her family got completely shattered with the sudden and unexpected news of her father. Through a telegram message they came to know all of a sudden that her father was caught by the royal police of British Indian Army and sent to prison as he was an active member of the Indian National Army (INA). Nobody in the family ever heard before that Gayatri’s father had already left the Army and chose to fight for the freedom of his country against the oppressive British rulers. In spite of living in dire straits, the family was proud of her father being a freedom fighter.However, soon after they heard of the incident, the senior family members decided to leave their home at Barishal, East Bengal and take a temporary shelter at her maternal uncle’s place in Calcutta as there was no other earning member in the family who could feed them at that critical moment of their life. So, left without any other choice for survival and driven by the uncertainties embedded within their everyday existence, Gayatri, the little girl, had to migrate from their home to Calcutta in search of a refuge for the first time in her life along with her hapless mother, younger little brother, aged grandma and one elder cousin brother in the year of 1946. And finally, they arrived in Calcutta in order to stay together with her uncle for the time being. Gayatri wasn’t very sad about her migration from a village to a big city, rather she felt quite excited about the possible changes in her life once she would arrive in Calcutta. She started dreaming as though it would bring a break in the monotony of her stagnant village life, whereas the city would appear before her with full of its surprises and bring some new opportunities for her. So much she longed to get admitted in a school like all other kids. Now, while she was in Calcutta, she had a strong conviction that her dream would come true this time. But again, her dream remained marooned as the Partition of 1947 came into being and the political turmoil and unrest started affecting the life of the ordinary people to a great extent in the city.After the Partition, her father was set free from the prison and he came to Kolkata to get reunited with his family in 1947. But the happiness didn’t last long. Again in 1948, only a few months later since the Partition, Gayatri, the 10-year-old girl, moved back to her ancestral home situated in Charaadi Village at Barishal of former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) along with her parents and the little brother in order to escape from the riotous situation in Kolkata while their other family members continued to stay back in the city. Few months later, her father returned again to Calcutta in search of a suitable job leaving behind his wife and children at their home.Meanwhile, Gayatri’s mother became pregnant and died all of a sudden at their village home in East Pakistan in 1949. So finally, haunted by the threat perception of a violent riot amid the wary environment filled with widespread fear, panic and suspicion, Gayatri was forced to leave her home permanently and had to flee along with her little brother and elder cousins to the post-Partition India in the year of 1950 just before the violent 1950 riots started spreading over around her native village at Barishal. As the member of an uprooted refugee family, she then reached a suburb of Kolkata to reunite with her father and other family members again who had already shifted to India for the sake of their survival and since then she started living together temporarily with her family at the uncle’s place in a refugee colony at Belgharia.Her father then tried to start a business venture but his attempt was in vain. In the meantime, Gayatri’s maternal uncle joined Indian Railways and shifted from Kolkata to Chittaranjan, a township in West Bengal, India. So, left with no other means to feed the children, her destitute father decided to take a shelter at his brother-in-law’s quarter at Chittaranjan and finally they settled over there permanently. Since then Gayatri and her little brother were raised by their grandma in a district township, faraway from Kolkata. But her dream to attend a school never came true. As she was forced to move constantly from one place to another like a shuttlecock all through her childhood, she never got a chance to go to a school. Hence, catching up her lifelong craving, she started studying at home at the age of 20-21 and preparing herself to appear in the board examination privately. And thus little Gayatri turned in a woman. So one day, instead of appearing in the examination, she got married to Mr. Mantu Sona Chakraboty, a central government employee, in the age of 24 and became a homemaker. She gave birth to three children – two daughters and one son, and has been living for last 35 years in her husband’s house situated in a suburb of North Kolkata called Agarpara in the district of 24 Parganas (North), West Bengal, India. Only one and half years ago, she lost her husband, and being a widow she now continues living in their own small house with her only son and granddaughter. But there is no sign of affluence in their everyday living as the entire family solely depends on the monthly income of INR 10000.00 only what she receives as the family pension on behalf of her deceased husband. So, poverty lurks in every corner of her household stilltoday while her son Mr. Debasish Chakraborty can’t even contribute anything as he is currently suffering from a huge loss in his business endeavor.However, after the Partition, Gayatri Chakraborty never had any scope to return to Bangladesh in order to pay a visit to her ancestral home. She lost any connection even with her childhood friends. At this age of 76, she doesn’t really feel any urge to re-connect with the past or going back to her birthplace again. Nevertheless, at present she still lives with the vibrant memories of her lost childhood, and not yet she finds any rationale behind the Partition. She asks a simple question, “Why the hell did the Partition happen? What did I get in turn except suffering, pain and loss?” Still she is seeking an appropriate answer, but the answer, she knows, is blowing in the wind!
Physical Description:
48 video files
Publication Info:
Kolkata (India)
Kolkata (India), July 2, 2014
Filmed interviews