The Silence of the Subaltern in the Partition of India: Bengali Gendered Trauma Narratives in Shobha Rao’s “The Lost Ribbon” and Ramapada Chaudhuri’s “Embrace”
The Partition of India was one of the crucial moments marking the transition between the colonial and postcolonial era. Partition has become ever since a long-term process that continues to elicit political, cultural and emotional contexts in South Asia. The creation of Pakistan as a homeland for South Asian Muslims involved the division of Bengal and Punjab along religious lines and while the celebratory narratives of decolonization and nationhood marked the official historiographies of 1947, trauma, loss and displacement were not part of the narrative.
The following article focuses on the experience of abducted women in Bengal in the communal riots during the Partition of India. This analysis stems from a brief overview of the silence that has permeated the partition of Bengal within historiography and the scarce literary response that has articulated those silences. It moves on to the analysis of the violence that abducted women suffered in this context. Finally, it deals with two short stories, “The Lost Ribbon” and “Embrace,” which situate gender trauma narratives by showing two radically different responses to the event of becoming a mother of an abductor’s child on the other side of the border and the effect that displacement and forced repatriation has upon female bodies.
Keywordspartition of India, Bengal, gender, trauma, abduction, displacement, repatriation.
ALEXANDER, JEFFREY C (2004). “Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma.” In Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander, Ron Eyerman, Berhad Giesen, Neil J. Smelser and Piotr Sztompka, 1-30. Berkeley: University of California Press.
BAGCHI, JASODHAR, & SUBHORANJAN DASGUPTA (eds) (2007). The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India. Kolkata: Stree.
BANDYOPADHYAY, SEKHAR. (2009). Decolonization in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-Independence West Bengal. Abingdon: Routledge.
BASU, SAJAL (1982). Politics of Violence: A Case Study of West Bengal. Calcutta: Minerva.
BHALLA, ALOK (2006). Partition Dialogues: Memories of a Lost Home. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
BROWN, LAURA S. (1995). “Not Outside the Range: Feminist Perspective on Psychic Trauma.” In Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited by Cathy Caruth, 100-112. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
BUTALIA, URVASHI (2000). The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India. 2nd ed. Durham: Duke University Press.
CAMPBELL, JACQUELYNE C. (1999). “Sanctions and Sanctuary: Wife Battering in Cultural Contexts.” In To Have and to Hit. Cultural Perspectives on Wife Beating, edited by Dorothy Counts, Judith K. Brown and Jacquelyne C. Campbell, 261-285. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
CARUTH, CATHY (ed) (1995). Trauma: Explorations in Memory. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.
CHAUDHURI, RAMAPADA (2008). “Embrace.” In Bengal Partition Stories. An Unclosed Chapter, edited by Bashabi Fraser, 337-344. London: Anthem Press.
DIDUR, JILL (2006). Unsettling Partition: Literature, Gender, Memory. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
FRASER, BASHABI (ed) (2008). Bengal Partition Stories. An Unclosed Chapter. London: Anthem Press.
GUHA THAKURTA, MEGHNA (2007). “Uprooted and Divided.” In The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India, edited by Jasodhara Bagchi and Subhoranjan Dasgupta, 98-112. Kolkata: Stree.
HARRINGTON, LOUISE (2016). “Crossing Borders in Partition Studies and the Question of Bangladesh Liberation War.” Postcolonial Text 11 (2): 1-16.
HONG, TERRY (2016). “The Recovered & The Unrestored: Q&A with Shobha Rao.” Bloom, Dec 7, https://bloom-site.com/2016/12/07/the-recovered-the-unrestored-qa-with-shobha-rao/ Accessed 8 October 2019.
HERMAN, JUDITH L (1997). Trauma and Recovery. New York: Basic Books.
MENON, JISHA (2013). The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan, and the Memory of Partition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
MENON, RITU (ed) (2011). Making a Difference: Memoirs from the Women’s Movement in India. New Delhi: Women Unlimited.
MOOKERJEA-LEONARD, DEBALI (2015). “Quarantined: Women and the Partition.” In The Indian Partition in Literature and Films: History, Politics, and Aesthetics, edited by Rini Bhattacharya Mehta and Debali Mookerjea-Leonard, 11-35. Abingdon: Routledge.
MOOKERJEA-LEONARD, DEBALI (2017). Literature, Gender, and Trauma of Partition. The Paradox of Independence. Abingdon: Routledge.
PANDEY, GYANENDRA (2004). “Disciplining Difference.” In Poscolonial Passages. Contemporary History-writing on India, edited by Saurabh Dube, 159-176. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
RAO, SHOBHA (2017). An Unrestored Woman. London: Fleet.
SAINT, TARUN K (2010). Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction. Abingdon: Routledge.
TOMSKY, TERRI (2009). “Fifty Years On: Melancholic (Re)collections and Women’s Voices from the Partition of India.” In Trauma Texts, edited by Gillian Whitlock and Kate Douglas, 57-74. Abingdon: Routledge.
WEBER, RACHEL (2007). “Re(Creating) the Home: Women’s Role in the Development of Refugee Colonies in South Calcutta.” In The Trauma and the Triumph, edited by Jasodhara Bagchi & Subhoranjan Dasgupta, 59-79. Kolkatta: Stree,
WHITLOCK, GILLIAN & KATE DOUGLAS (eds) (2009). Trauma Texts. Abingdon: Routledge.
YOUNG, IRIS MARION (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Copyright (c) 2021 Dolors Ortega Arévalo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.