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Independence and Partition

A train crammed with refugees leaves for Pakistan from the border city of Amritsar during the 1947 partition.

Written by

Sana Javeri Kadri

Founder & CEO


This coming week marks 76 years of Indian and Pakistani independence from British colonialism, 77 years since a bloody Direct Action Day, and honestly there is still so much we don't know, aren't taught, and haven't processed about our own South Asian history. Since I moved back to Mumbai last month (peep my home lunch series here!) I've spent the past few weeks immersed in every form of media trying to make sense of both my own personal history and our many shared histories of pain, hope, love, and family that were broken or built by partition. By popular demand, here are all my recommendations for y'all: 

🎧 Listening: 

  1. The EMPIRE podcast by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand - the entire first season has made for phenomenal listening, but I especially appreciated this episode on Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 
  2. Husna by Piyush Mehra is a beautiful song about a love cut in half by Partition that I've now been listening to on repeat all week. And whilst you're at it, might I recommend binge listening to all of Coke Studio Pakistan's music
  3. The Brown History podcast by Ahsun Zafar is such an important archive of our history and our culture, and I was very happy to find that he actually interviews many of the authors in the reading list below, making the podcast a great companion to the book list! 
  4. If you'd like a single hour long podcast that will give you an introduction to Pakistani and Indian partition and its effect on the generation that endured it, NPR Throughline's Road to Partition is a good start. 

📚 Reading: 

  1. The Book of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra is an exquisite, aromatic and very beautiful love letter to pre-partition Lahore. 
  2. Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of three sisters and how their lives are completely changed by Direct Action Day in Kolkata, 1946. 
  3. And in case you're eager for more, we've compiled a comprehensive Partition reading list of fiction and non-fiction recs from the DiasporaCo. community! It's pretty special, if I may.  
  4. 1947 Partition Archive has interviewed and recorded over 100,000 life stories that were shaped by partition and is one of the most comprehensive oral history and migration tracking projects in history. If you have a family member with a Partition story, I highly recommend submitting your story to the archive. 
📺 Watching: 
  1. This video by PBS Origins is as much a deep dive into Partition, as it is into Ms. Marvel's representation of that time, and it's SO well done. 
  2. Ragini of Third Culture Cooks curated a wonderful series of videos with Indian and Pakistani chefs, home cooks and food researchers about Partition and their family recipes. It's such a special, well-done archive of food and culture from the likes of Asma Khan, Shubhra Chatterji and more.
  3. All three films in Deepa Mehta's Elements trilogy are incredible but the second - Earth (only available to stream via Mubi) is set in Lahore in 1947 and a must watch. 

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