He feels that the process of partition is ongoing and in a constant, dynamic state. While the original two-part Pakistan partitioned into Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Khalistan movement was and is an attempt to partition India yet again along religious lines.
“Much of Dravidian politics in South India fantasizes about a severance. Partition is not a thing of the past. It may well be a feature of India’s future, de-facto if not de jure,” says US author Amit Majmudar, whose latest novel ‘The Map and the Scissors’ (HarperCollins India) recently hit the stands.
The novel by Majmudar, a poet and diagnostic radiologist specialising in nuclear medicine, is about the epic origin story of modern South Asia, brought to life by two London-educated lawyers — Gandhi and Jinnah, mirror-image rivals who dreamt the same dream of freedom-in catastrophically incompatible ways.
Majmudar named the first Poet Laureate of Ohio in 2015, who had written about the human fallout for ordinary people in his book ‘Partitions’ (2011), felt that he had not explored, in full detail, the political process that led up to the event and had shied away from portraying the main political players of the time.
While investigating the time period, he found an interview in which Lord Mountbatten, a quarter of a century later that spoke of how Jinnah had largely been forgotten even though he was the main reason the partition happened at all.
“This led me to research Jinnah, and in doing so, I realised that Gandhi, whom I already knew much more about, was a perfect foil for him. And so the dramatic structure of the book was conceived: The duel between these two figures.”
Even as major publishing houses have brought out several titles on the partition in the past two years, he feels that the events of 1947 were definitional for the subcontinent — both cartographically, and when it comes to identity.
With four poetry collections to his name and the same number of novels, Majmudar smiles that he is the same person when he writes prose and verse.
“However, I sequence words by emphasizing different principles when doing either. With verse, I emphasize patterning. With prose, storytelling or logical argument.”
Despite contemporary times when people just need an excuse to get offended, Majmudar whose work ‘Godsong’, which is a translation of the Bhagavad Gita, says that he was not apprehensive while working on it.
“I do not create my art in prose or verse to offend anyone — that is too trivial a motivation for writing a poem or a novel. Neither do I insult people or groups even when I tweet, and insults are 95 per cent of what Twitter is. None of my work is polemical.”
A diagnostic nuclear radiologist and a writer — with the former paying the bills and “freeing me up to write esoteric rhymes or translate Sanskrit if it pleases me,” the pandemic allowed him to isolate himself and write extensively.
“One product of that is ‘The Mahabharata Trilogy’, a massive prose retelling of the epic, with a full-scale recreation of the Gita embedded in it, that is forthcoming in India in 2023. Keep an eye out for it — it’s my pandemic epic,” he concludes.