Where the River Parts by Radhika Swarup is a book about Asha. We follow Asha in this book from a girl to a woman. This book is also about partition. I received this book as a review copy from Rupa Publications and would like to thank the publisher for the book. This is one book which brought about a lot of things that I had heard when I was a kid.
‘Blood had begun to trickle down Asha’s starched cotton salwar, and once more she tried to will herself to stay calm. It was nothing. These things happened. ‘
But these things haven’t happened before. It’s August 1947, the night before India’s independence. It is also the night before Pakistan’s creation and the brutal Partition of the two countries.
Asha, a Hindu in a newly Muslim land, must flee to safety. She carries with her a secret she has kept even from Firoze, her Muslim lover, but Firoze must remain in Pakistan, and increasing tensions between the two countries mean the couple can never reunite.
Fifty years later in New York, Asha’s Indian granddaughter falls in love with a Pakistani, and Asha and Firoze, meeting again at last, are faced with one more – final – choice.
Spanning continents and generations, Where the River Parts is an epic tale of love, loss and longing.
Asha Prakash and Nargis are neighbours and best friends in Suhanpur, Pakistan. They go to school together, share each other’s secrets and fast with each other, Nargis fasts for Karwa Chauth and Asha observes Ramzan. The two houses exchange delicacies and Asha falls in love with Firoze, Nargis’ brother and her father’s protégé, he reciprocates her feelings. She wants to marry him and he feels that her family will not accept her. They meet secretly and Nargis knows their secret. He advocates for a separate country for Muslims because he knows that there would be no place for Muslims in India. Om Sharma, a regular visitor to their home, wants to marry Asha, but her father is not ready and when Firoze asks her father for her hand, he tells him that they would discuss it later. Meanwhile, Nargis’ wedding is finalized and preparations are on full swing and India becomes free.
The Prakashs and many Hindu families are forced to leave Pakistan for the sake of their own security. Firoze escorts them to the bus station from where they would take a bus o Delhi. But before the bus comes, all of them are killed by the mob except Asha and Roopa who were not present at the bus stop at that particular moment. And Asha is saved by a Muslim family and then she finds a safe escape to Delhi with a couple in their car. On reaching Delhi, she looks for Om, whose address her mother had given her and her brother, in case they are lost when they reach Delhi.
And Om offers to marry her much against his mother’s wishes. After her marriage, she leads a purposeful and happy life helping Om in his ventures. She meets Sanam, an orphan, who had also lost her family during the partition and gives her shelter. They share a bond, a secret and a daughter, Priya.
Life comes a full circle when Asha’s granddaughter, Lana, falls in love with a Pakistani boy, who is Firoze’s grandson. And Priya is against the match. What will Asha do when she comes face to face with Firoze after half a century? Read on…..
The story has been told from Asha’s point of view and divided into four parts, Asha as a daughter, Asha as a wife, a partner and a mother, Asha as a grandmother and Asha in old age.
The story has been written in a simple language and the author has used words in the local dialect which has made the story all the more interesting. The book is fast paced especially near the end, it moves very fast. The author has laid stress on young Asha, Asha who lives in Pakistan and migrates to India with her family but reaches India alone.
The description of the incidents during partition was hair-raising. I really felt for the people who lost everything during that time and the author has portrayed the feelings through her characters. The characters themselves have been developed well, be it Asha, her parents, Om, Nargis or Firoze.
The scenes have been described well and were easy to visualize. The marriage songs, have been mentioned in English, had the words been mentioned in the original dialect with English translation in brackets, it would have been more interesting.
The book has been beautifully written and is unputdownable. I am looking forward to reading more from the author.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.