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Tracking Meaning between Continuous Coming and Continuous Going: The Train in Bengali Short Fictional Narratives on the Partition

Abstract:The Partition of India in 1947 that resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people continues to inhabit the cognizance of the people of South Asia as a historical phenomenon laden with violence. Although the bequest of the Partition is palpable in episodes of religious tension, discourses on minority belonging, secularism, nation and nationalism in India, critical exploration of the phenomenon as a tension-ridden historical episode has largely been restricted. Nevertheless, despite its limited representation, the Partition of India has continued to dwell in Indian cultural discourse as an alternative episode to the glorified incident of Indian independence from the British. It is feminist scholars, filmmakers, subaltern historians, creative writers and other intellectuals who have sought to encounter the elision of the Partition through their own documentation of the event and the trauma it engendered. The present research paper, attempts to study there presentation of the railway space in Partition narratives from the two sides of Bengal. Although violence as a cultural phenomenon is an inextricable part of the mimetic history of the Partition of India, a study of the literature of Partition suggests that violence is not recorded the same way it was produced, that a sweeping disjunction exists between an apparent or perceptible act of violence and the way it is communicated creatively or historically or orally. In contrast to the stories of Partition from Punjab, where the train is generally represented as a locus of violence, the narratives of Bengal Partition fiction in short format dramatizing the train as a locus of horror are few in number. As writers directed their attention to the protracted socio-cultural and economic consequences of the Partition, violence (actual, physical and communal) as an element in the chain connecting communalism, nationalism, homelessness, large-scale socio-cultural disjunction in the context of the Partition, is largely ignored. Nevertheless, although fewer incidents of actual violence on the train during the Partition in Bengal has resulted in fewer narratives depicting naturalistic communal violence, there are stories set on the railway space that represent Bengal Partition and deserve to be read as major counter-narratives of postcolonial secular modernity that India’s independence from British rule famously celebrated.

Dr. Barnali Saha
Creative Forum (Issn 0975-6396) Vol. 33, No. 1-2, Jan-Dec 2020, 2020