Sukrita Paul Kumar, born in Kenya, lives currently in Delhi, writing poetry and teaching literature. An Honorary Fellow of the prestigious International Writing Programme, University of Iowa (USA), Cambridge Seminars and a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she was also an invited poet in residence at Hong Kong Baptist University. A recipient of many international fellowships and residencies, she is Honorary Faculty at the Durrell Centre at Corfu (Greece). Her books of poems in English include Without Margins and Folds of Silence, in addition to two bilingual collections Poems Come Home (with translations by Gulzar) and Rowing Together (with Savita Singh). She was the Guest Editor of Crossing Over (University of Hawaii).

Amongst others, Sukrita’s major critical works include Narrating Partition. Her edited/co-edited books include Speaking for Herself: Asian Women’s Writings (Penguin) and Cultural Diversity in India (Macmillan India). She is also a translator and an artist

Exorcising Partition Violence: From the Archives of Memory

For a long time, amnesia seemed to have served as a survival strategy. From where would the Partition victim, whether a refugee or the victim of rape or even the one who may have killed his neighbours have mustered that extraordinary fortitude to be able to confront the gruesome past, specially when the present urgently required their full energy to construct not only new homes but also a new identity. Thousands of people traumatized into silence found voice in the writer’s use of memory that negotiated the present with the past. Memory as a site then acquires a very critical importance, as it enables an alternative record and interpretation of history The revived past in Mohan Rakesh’s short story “Malbe ka Malik” (“Owner of the Rubble”), for instance, is regenerative because it brings the protagonist to terms with the present. Manifested in literature, such fragments of memory, in the words of the well-known Pakistani writer, Bapsi Sidhwa, sought a poetic license. “Lahore would keep burning” for an inordinate length of time in memory, she said, till it is confronted squarely. In order to reconstruct the event, a fresh configuration of memory is bound to take place when filtered through the present. The devices used by the writer maybe that of interrogation, introspection or even a faithful and clinical depiction of events of the past
The multiple uses of memory include the use of nostalgia, of taking a sentimental journey into the beautiful past, as if to salvage humanity or to recover moments of solidarity and connectedness. The imaginative transcription of history in such literature creates meta-history or meta-narration, extracted painfully from the courageous dialectic between history and literature. This presentation will engage with the aesthetics of representing Partition in literature.

Sukrita Paul Kumar