Of Partition and the resilience of the human spirit


Here’s a powerful story of a family in Delhi living through the heartbreak of Partition, set during Indias Independence, by Melody Razak, one of the London Observer’s Ten Debut Novelists of 2021.

Ma and Bappu are liberal intellectuals teaching at the local university. Their 14-year-old daughter — precocious, headstrong Alma — is soon to be married: Alma is mostly interested in her wedding shoes and in spinning stories for her beloved younger sister Roop.

Her husband-to-be is training to be a doctor and is fair-skinned – both highly regarded attributes. Alma’s enthusiasm is focussed on which wedding shoes she’ll wear or which wild story to tell the death-obsessed Roop next.

Ma and Bappu, liberals at heart, are unsure about marrying their eldest daughter off so young – but with political unrest brewing they feel it could be the safest thing for her. “Moth” (Orion) is set against a conservative backdrop, yet deals head-on with realities such as rape, grief and displacement.

It’s a story with a dark heart, an examination of the human condition looking at what it means to love and lose beyond anything we could imagine. But ultimately it is a celebration of the human spirit and its resilience, beauty and strength.

What it proves is that the resilience of the human spirit is an extraordinary thing.

Melody Razak owned a cake shop in Brighton for eight years (Treacle & Co, serving, she says, “the best cake on the south coast”) and most recently worked as a pastry chef at London-based restaurant Honey & Co.

She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck and has had short stories published in the Bath Short Story Anthology, the Brick Lane Short Story Prize and the Mechanics Institute Review.

“Moth” was inspired by her ongoing love affair with India and was written on long train journeys across the country (when she’d often have to pretend she was travelling with a husband to avoid unwanted attention).