Marcy's Reviews > Cracking India

Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa
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Mar 26, 11

Read in March, 2011

The beginning of this book was a little slow, probably deliberately to show how normal life was in India pre-partition as Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus lived together in peace. The story is told by a child, lamed by polio, born to a Parsee well-to-do family. Her "Ayah" was always surrounded by suitors of all religions...until the official news of the partition was pronounced. The violence and holocaust that followed was horrifying. Sikhs attacked Muslims and soldiers rolled up in trucks to evacuate Muslims from their homes. Women were abducted, raped, and killed and their breasts were cut off. Abducted women tried to go home, but husbands would not have them back due to the shame the rape had on the rest of the family. This historical tragedy is told through a child's view of a "broken" India. I did not really feel the child's pain in the story until she lost her "Ayah," a Hindu caretaker who was betrayed by one of her suitors of another faith after the partition.

"I feel so sorry for myself-and for Cousin-and for all the senile, lame and hurt people and fallen women-and the condition of the world-in which countries can be broken, people slaughtered and cities burned-that I burst into tears. I feel I will never stop crying."

More emotion was shown by a "fallen" Ayah, who begs the child's godmother to take her away from the home of the suitor, now poet and pimp, who had betrayed her. The words are narrated by the child:

"She looks achingly lovely: as when she gazed at Masseur and inwardly glowed. But the illusion is dispelled the moment she opens her eyes-not timorously like a bride, but frenziedly, starkly and says, "I want to go to my family." Her voice is harsh, gruff: as if someone has mutilated her vocal cords. Even Godmother can't bear the look in her eyes."

This is definitely worth the read, especially if you want to know about life before and after a partitioned India.
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