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The 1947 Partition Archive Survivors and their Memories

Oral history with Manika Banerjee, 2016 July 25.
Oral history with Manika Banerjee, 2016 July 25.
Banerjee, Manika, 1942- and Das, Udayan
Author (no Collectors):
Banerjee, Manika, 1942-, Das, Udayan, Das, Udayan, and Das, Udayan
Manika Banerjee was born on January 6, 1942 to Dr. Usha Ranjan Bandopadhyay and Mrs. Uma Rani Devi in Kolkata. Her father was a Doctor who worked for the Indian Railways and her mother was a housewife. Her paternal family belonged to Comilla while her maternal family traced its roots from Faridpur. Due to the transferable nature of her father’s job, Mrs. Banerjee had spent her childhood across multiple cities. 
While she was almost three years old, the family moved from Kolkata to Faridpur for two years. From there, her father was transferred to Chittagong. Mrs. Banerjee remembers Chittagong to be a magnificently enchanting city. “Even though I was very small, Chittagong is so beautiful that I can recall it by closing my eyes”, she says. Mrs. Banerjee along with her family lived in the railway quarters. She distinctly points out that the quarters differed on the basis of ethnicity. The Englishmen would have large luxurious quarters with gardens while the smaller and relatively less equipped quarters were reserved for the natives, even if they were of higher ranks in terms of service. 
When the August of 1947 arrived, Mrs. Banerjee was in Chittagong. “I was just above five. More than the idea of a nation and its Partition, what caught my eye was the fact that we were not independent”. She recalls that her grandfather, who was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and follower of Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, was charged of sedition and he had to flee to Tripura leaving his huge property at Comilla in a span of few hours. A month later, Mrs. Banerjee with her family migrated to Ranaghat, near Kolkata. 
“We were always on the move from one city to another, hence the attachment to the land never quite grew within me”, she mentions. She understood the implications of the Partition later while they were at Ranaghat. The railway quarters were very close to the station and everyday she would see trains filled with people heading towards Sealdah. People travelling with their families and baggage barely contained in the compartments, the sight repeated itself every day. Once, Mrs. Banerjee accompanied her father to Sealdah station. The station was overcrowded with the refugees then. She remembers that her father would wipe his tears while she looked at the families who were scrambling for food and shelter. The sight of the station moved her to the core. Years later, she penned down her memory in a poem describing the state of refugees who were in dire straits. 
Adjusting to the new atmosphere was not difficult though people who already belonged to West of Bengal were not entirely welcoming, she mentions. Often insulted as “bangal”, a pejorative term used to describe people from the East Bengal, she remembers how people would taunt her regarding her accent. With time, she says, the discrimination faded. 
Mrs. Banerjee also recalls the year of 1971 when Bangladesh got its independence. She mentions that through the year, Kolkata would light up to the speeches of Mujibur Rahman. She even once travelled to the Airport to get a glimpse of Rahman while he was going to Dhaka via Kolkata. However, a last moment change in the schedule saw Mujibur Rahman going straight to Dhaka and the crowd returned disheartened. 
After graduating, Mrs. Banerjee was married to Mr. Dilip Kumar Banerjee, a high ranking official at LIC of India. Incidentally, after marriage she again put her travelling shoes on due to the transferable nature of her husband’s job, travelling and living across multiple cities in India throughout the rest of her life before settling down in Kolkata after retirement. She mentions that throughout her life, music and literature had been her two companions. She is a trained vocalist and writes occasionally.
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12 video files
Publication Info:
Kolkata (India)
Kolkata (India), July 25, 2016
Filmed interviews