Hajari tells the story of partition through dramatic storytelling
The partition of India in 1947 was one of the most gruesome events of the 20th century. Around two million people died in the bloodshed. It was also the largest forced migration in the history of the world, and caused fifteen million people to be displaced.
In his book Midnight’s Furies, Nishid Hajari attempts to answer how two countries, which were part of the same country for so long and had so much in common, became enemies in such a short period of time.
Hajari tells the story of partition through dramatic storytelling. It begins with personal narratives of the three vital political players in British India at the time of partition: Jawaharal Nehru, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Nehru is described as “dashing”, “famously handsome”, and “irresistible to his many female admirers”; Gandhi as a “mystical, septuagenarian”; and Jinnah as slightly sinister, with “cheekbones jutted out of his cadaverous face like the edges of a diamond”. Here, Lord Mountbatten is “the Hollywood version of a British prince.” He describes how these figures were key players leading up to the partition.
Hajari describes the months of tension and escalation of communal violence, which led to two communities being ripped apart from each other, with striking prose. Not only was there a large forced migration, there were also division of land, armies, water and holy places. There are chapters of Kashmir, which still today is “the wound that keeps the paranoia and hatreds of 1947 fresh for both Pakistanis and Indians.”
Hajari ends by appealing to the current citizens of what used to be British India to put the “midnight furies” to rest. India and Pakistan needs to stop thinking of each other as enemies because, not so long ago, they were one and the same.