The most decisive formative moment in modern South Asian history, Partition has remained a site of constant engagement, investigation and memory-making for over three generations. Over the years, Partition discourse has been shaped by prevalent politics, the use of faith for political reasons, a nod to nostalgia, a cocktail of facts and rumours laced with speculation, and the scholarly exchange of memories. Marking a watershed, generational moment of change in this discourse, This Side,That Side brings together graphic narratives on this epochal moment by comic artists, writers, artists, illustrators, filmmakers, theatre artists and storytellers from across South Asia. This anthology explores a dominant theme in contemporary South Asia—an enduring curiosity about the 'other side'. Poignant, contemplative, and often even playful, these narratives are creative explorations by those who may not have witnessed Partition, but who continue, till date, to negotiate its legacy.
I wanted to like this collection, I really did. But I was disappointed by the insufferable self-absorption and privilege on display in most of these stories. For many of the writers, Partition seems to be a vague source of angst and the other side is a focus of dimly understood nostalgia. If Partition had not happened, these writers muse, perhaps their marriage prospects would have been enhanced and they would have more vacation destinations on which to expend their disposable incomes. Sprinkle a few cutesy drawings of birds and call it Art. What happened to Art's responsibility to disturb, to dissent from the status quo? It is the outsider--a German film maker--who uses her contribution to draw attention to the liminal people, the refugee women still struggling in a camp. A wealth of Partition literature has focused on the abducted woman, the female refugee, the raped or converted women who were then coercively recovered by the governments on both sides of the border. I get the impression from reading the story responses penned by many of the writers and artists of South Asian origin, that the plight of such women are completely beyond their purview. Thinking about Partition can help us think about statelessness, internal displacement, gender violence--this could have been a chance to stretch readers/writers/artists' critical faculties. Seems to me that certain contributors took it as a invitation to rehearse tired cliches and platitudes. I give it 3 stars because I still think it is an important effort and there are a few careful pieces in there amidst the mediocre majority.
Nice and insightful. Some stories were very beautiful. The best part about this book was the confluence of people from different fields sharing the same topic of the partition. A take from this side and people from that side.
A must read for everyone. Besides the graphics being beautiful, the stories are thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and eye-opening. For example I knew very little about what happened in Bangladesh post-Partition.
The work of graphics in a graphic novel should be to assist in telling the story. The artwork should flow so smoothly that the reader is left wondering whether it would have been possible to do so in any other medium. An example would be the works of Joe Sacco, where the graphics and the story complement each other to such an extent that it becomes impossible to think of one without the other. This quality is, unfortunately, missing from 'This Side, That Side'. While the artwork is beautiful in itself and the initiative, to anthologize partition stories from India and Pakistan, is commendable, the graphics, more often than not, distract the reader from the content. In some of the stories, like 'A Letter From India', the artwork, while beautiful, stands jarringly in contrast to the content. You are left wondering whether it was really needed and if the story could have been told much more effectively in a plain text form. There are, however, some beautiful exceptions. 'I too have seen Lahore' and 'A good education' being a couple of them. But they are too few and too rare. If this is a benchmark of where the Indian graphic novel stands today, it still has a long way to go.
Stories on displacement? Maybe. In graphic novel form? Well of course! This is a splendid collection put together by Viswajyoti Ghosh narrating the stories of Partition, on the eastern as well as western flanks of the country. And I'll admit that I would never have come across such storehouses of talent had it not been for this collection. With wacky as well as simple illustrations and letterings, the stories deliver their message brilliantly.