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Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  967 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Remnants of a Separation is a unique attempt to revisit the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them across the border. These belongings absorbed the memory of a time and place, remaining latent and undisturbed for generations. They now speak of their owner's pasts as they emerge as testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, pain and belonging at an unparallel ...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published August 10th 2017 by HarperCollins
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Resh (The Book Satchel)
This book is one of my favourite reads of 2017. I read very few non fiction titles this year and I was amazed by how touching the stories are. I cannot even talk about the passages I have underlined or marked because there are that many! Aanchal Malhotra’s Remnants of a Separation tells the history of partition through heirlooms and gifts smuggled across the borders - thus revisiting the past through material memory.

Long before partition, Muslims and Hindus co-existed as neighbours, friends or b
Rakhi Dalal
I picked up Remnants of Separation because I was looking for books on Partition of India which happened in 1947. I wished to delve into the socio-cultural aspects of the region that was affected most during Partition. Part of it coming for the reason that my Grandmother was born in Rawalpindi and had gone through the pain of leaving her maternal home behind while escaping to this side of the border. Though I do know of some facts as told by her but I never ventured to ask her, while she was stil ...more
Mansi Mudgal
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite
A good book helps you feel and makes you think things you haven’t given much thought before.
Remnants of a Separation by @aanch_m does that and more. The book manages to talk about and discuss batwara (partition) of India and Pakistan through material objects brought by refugees on either side during what was perhaps the largest mass migrations in human history with violence on a scale that had seldom been seen before. With Trains full of dead mutilated bodies on either side, gendered violence on
Shreya Vaid
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a growing teenager in a Punjabi family, partition was the elephant in the room. I could see traces of it in the photographs, lines of my grandmother's hand that defined the treacherous journey she took that killed her two young brothers, her lost look during conversations. When I grew up, she started sharing stories with me from Rawalpindi, where she spent her childhood. She showed me the Peetal utensils she carried with her, the glasses engraved with her name and photographs, those yellow te ...more
Jun 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing

"After Pakistan was created, did you still think of it as home?" I asked.

"Oh yes, it was the same land, only now it had a new name," she said with a sense of surety.
"I say that even now. It was where I was born. The place you come from moulds you into the person you become. Remember that. You must never forget where you came from because a part of that soil stays with you forever."

The book is a compilation of 21 stories of the material objects that made across the border, with each one being
Divyasree P K
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Sporting an extremely attractive and eye-catchy cover featuring an exquisite piece of maang tikka amidst the neatly parted white hairs of an old lady with smiling eyes, this book attempts to revisit the Partition through the objects carried across the border. What started as inquisitive conversations around the items bought by the author’s great grandparents during their migration to India expanded to include the stories from other migrants culminating in 21 short stories.

In spite of being one

Namritha Murali
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Having followed Ms. Aanchal's work on Instagram for a couple of years now, I knew I was in for a treat with this one. I share no personal history with partition and Pakistan by extension, but for long this matter has intrigued me. That said, I thought Aanchal's Instagram, blog & the articles on Scroll, all have provided me as much exposure I could have on this subject, until a week ago, when I purchased her debut book Remnants of a Separation. The book comes with 19 chapters,19 personal accounts ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
For a change, something closer to a review than scattershot notes, because this book felt far more personal than much of my reading.

I would recommend this book to everybody based on how deeply it affected me. But I also acknowledge that for somebody who isn't Punjabi and with a family history intertwined with Partition, that same personal connection with the book might not be there. Even so, I would like to give this to everybody, even if only as a warning and antidote to the rhetoric we see the
Nikita Sharma
Mar 24, 2021 rated it liked it
I try to read as many books on the Partition as I can. This book has everything you expect it to be, but it is a little limited in its scope. Almost everyone interviewed by the author seems to hail from a fairly privileged background and so, for me, it does limit the scope of the book. Surely people who weren't living in havelis before partition too suffered and had to leave even their limited means back home or had similar stories to tell. Maybe it's just me, but I thought it was an incomplete ...more
Simran Sharma (Craartology)
Aanchal Malhotra's Remnants is a treasure chest I am fortunate to have explored. A unique and novel idea to reminisce the great divide through material possessions that survived the horror of the same.

Some mundane items and some heirlooms which later become the sole material belonging to the home on the other side. This book has experiences of people who have witnessed the "batwara" of the "British" India.

With no clear border people were displaced from NWFP, Pakistan, Bangladesh and today's Indi
“Hum yaad karte Jain toh jaan chali Jaati hai, mann karta hai zinda hi marr jaye“

I picked up ‘Remnants Of A Separation’ by ‘Aanchal Malhotra’ this month in honour of India Completing 73 years of Independence and in memory of the Partition, a calamitous event that affected the lives of millions.
The book contains 21 stories of refugees through the focal point of an ‘Object’ that travelled across the border and the memories of the experiences that the ‘Object’ evokes to its owner.
The author has don
Abhïshék Ghosh
May 27, 2021 rated it liked it
Malhotra is a master storyteller, not only because she describes the material: what one can see and hear, with unearthly lucidity, but also sensitively portrays the unsaid: the silences, the sudden ruminations, and the mixed chronology of stories that are recounted. While the attempt is laudatory and the emotions are very real, there are several aspects that rankled with me personally. The representation of stories could certainly have been more diverse. There were just two stories from the part ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book in the display section of my library in Decatur, Georgia, and was immediately intrigued for the following reasons:
1. I traveled to India 26 years ago.
2. I like books that talk about what an item means to someone.
3. I recently learned about the Partition from a woman whose grandparents were forced to leave their lands in what is now Pakistan. Though in her 40’s, she was upset that this legacy was no longer available to her family.

I liked how the book was laid out. Each chapter w
Maddhav Dhir
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seperation. A single word can inflict so much hurt just by reading it, without any context of of who, what, why or when. Now amplify this feeling by 15 million. Attach to them the significance of being your ancestors. Attach the feeling of the relief of independence and the grief of leaving one’s home. I still don’t have an answer on “why?”

Remnants. What remains after something has passed over taking with it most of what you had, except the little that was left behind, or rather, held on to, wit
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This year on Independence Day, I picked up Remnants of a Separation, on partition I have read very few books and I wanted to read something non-fiction. There are few books the moment you start you know it is going to be one of the best books you ever read. This book is tear-jerker, one of the masterpieces written very brilliantly. There are few thoughts which keeps on lingering after reading this book.

It is generally said there is no place like Home, Home is a place where we feel it is place of
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
I'm from South India, and here, while we all know and discuss the partition - I don't think it is ingrained as a cultural memory for many of us.

This book helped me understand a lot of things - how the partition ripped people apart - their lives, their livelihoods, families, land. Overnight, many people became refugees reduced to utter penury. Almost 72 years after independence, the generation which has seen the partition is slowly dying, with their children and grandchildren now growing up witho
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely beautiful, breathtaking book! Remnants of a separation consists of 19 interviews of people who have been affected by partition. Each interview is carried out with respect to an item brought by them during partition. There are stories here which have filled me with hope and stories which have left me with a heavy heart. I can see myself picking up this book several times and rereading favourite bits from it. I was also lucky enough to meet the lovely author when I started this ...more
Debasmita Bhowmik
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for everyone - whether you've read a lot about Partition, or even if you're just getting started. The personal touches to the anecdotes are sometimes piercing, and leave a lasting impression. The topic is intriguing, and the author explores the Partition through the objects in particular.
My only complaint (and the reason this book did not get 5 stars from me) is that the writing is still raw and not completely refined. There are places where the author sounds a little r
Anandarupa Chakrabarti
Jul 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Separation- a word that reminds of the remains of the past much connected to loss, grief and pain. A word that lingers in our hearts and only grows into a void like a recovered fossil telling us stories about its origin. Remnant is the feeling- a feeling absent in a community, in an atmosphere you really never belonged.

We all know how much independence had cost us to meet with the free living we lead today and that being said partition around the provinces of now India had suffered destruction,
Sep 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
The non-fiction book is a fine collection of stories in the form of nineteen interviews through the glorious voices of people across the Indo-Pak border. The author coherently attempts to extract the memories of the most critical partition of India that happened way back in 1947. Although the nation received the much-anticipated Independence the people settled across the border found themselves in great chaos for a long time. The book painstakingly reveals the harsh episodes of riots that grippe ...more
Pratikshya Mishra
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As I read through the book, chapter after chapter of poignant memoirs, juggling between the text and the endnotes or references section, I am overcome with such powerful emotions of longing and loss. I am witness to a series of nostalgia, suffering, migration, and pain of so many people through this 400-page book, author Aanchal Malhotra’s careful, sensitive and emotional archiving of oral histories around The Partition of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947 through material memory. I belong to the ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An attempt to revisit the Partition of India through objects carried by refugees as they crossed the border on both sides. Described as material memory, the author aims to identify belongings, mementos, gifts - things that people hurriedly picked up or chanced upon or happened to inherit - that hold memories of life in undivided India, and what those memories and objects mean to them now. An alternative history of the Partition viewed as a tangible event, the book can be described as a cross bet ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fair warning, Future Reader:You will cry!

Maybe a trickle, maybe bucket loads, maybe your eyes will begin to prickle suddenly but it's inevitable that you will cry. Unabashedly. Unreservedly. And if you're Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, then hysterically.

This is the book that deserved to be written so much but until Aanchal Malhotra came along, nobody really did.
Surabhi Geetey
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is my most favorite read of 2021, and possibly one of the best books I've ever read. This book has my whole heart ! ...more
Shridevi Krishnakumar
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this without expecting anything and I was so impressed. The effort and time involved in the research is truly commendable! This is such a new perspective; I loved this journey.
Mar 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Remnants of a Separation is a poignant book, one that for me solidified the futility of the partition of India- the biggest migration of people the world has ever witnessed. The Partition was the culmination of certain fanciful politicians and done in such a haphazard manner that it cost innumerable lives and destruction. The ones who survived suffered immense trauma, such trauma that their brains had hidden those memories in the recesses of their minds.

I was intrigued by the Partition in my sec
First I would like to thank the publisher HarperCollins Publishers India for sending me this book to read. I love to read historical fiction and non-fiction books. This book is a treasure of memories from the Undivided India.

Today we live in a free India, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis each stay in their own free country. But we never thought what is the price our ancestors had to pay for this. We don't know what they had to go through during the partition. Who had ever dreamt of an Divided India.
Sumallya Mukhopadhyay
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourite
Remnants of Separation, Aanchal Malhotra
Human memory is a dangerous thing, wrote Milan Kundera, for one cannot be certain which image/event/information will have a lasting impression on your mind. Moreover, malleability of memory means that memory changes over time. It gets shaped, influenced and conditioned by the changing nature of the socio-political order, symptomatic of the institutionalized process of disbelief and denial promoted by the dominant ideology of a particular geopolitical loca
Zinnia Sheoran
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very interesting and intriguing account of partition of India told in form of 19 stories, each story describing an heirloom or a gift that lived through the years of partition. Thus revisiting the historical exodus through material memory. While these objects survived the transition of time, circumstance and geography, each one of them also beautifully showcases extraordinary quirks and oddities of a dying generation that has seen a very tough period of our history.

The Independence Day
Tanish Chachra
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The only thought that persisted with me while reading this book was that this is personal. Having all four of my grandparents crossing the border during the 1940s made me reminisce the stories they used to tell me of their homeland. On all 21 accounts, I could relate to the people narrating their stories, making my eyes moist on several occasions, considering among the people I love, few of them witnessed this traumatic series of communal divide and displacement.

The above statements may make my
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Aanchal Malhotra is an artist and oral historian working with memory and material culture. She received a BFA in Traditional Printmaking and Art History from the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto and an MFA in Studio Art from Concordia University,

Aanchal is the co-founder of the 'Museum of Material Memory', a digital repository of material culture from the Indian subcontinent, tracing fa

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When author Amor Towles published his second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, in 2016, everything changed.   Towles’ first novel, Rules of...
32 likes · 4 comments
“Memory dilutes, but the object remains unaltered.” 9 likes
“We should have realized it sooner, at least my father should have, that there was no coming back. Not in September when the riots died down, not in October when the subcontinent still lay in shock, not even in November as he had hoped and promised us. Lahore was now lost forever” 7 likes
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