Saturday, April 20, 2024

Special Stories

Reconciliation is what the Partition Museum hopes to achieve: Kishwar Desai

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | February 24, 2024 05:27 PM

AMRITSAR: No matter how many times one visits the Partition Museum in Amritsar, the 'Gallery of Hope' always makes you stand still. Amid the horror of 1947, this life-affirming space asserts the painful yet important process of reconciliation, of certain acknowledgements and the will to move forward without trying to erase.

Kishwar Desai, an Indian author and columnist on visit to Amritsar said "Memory is the most important cultural heritage and must be preserved for it anchors us. No matter how painful, memories of tragedies like the partition must be preserved for future generations. People pass on, and if we do not keep the records of such events, how will the future generations learn?"

While the Holocaust Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Apartheid Museum were the inspiration behind the Partition Museum which also opened another in Delhi last year, Desai says that it is important to record people and not just leaders.

"And this kind of recording of memories has to go on consistently. It is the difficult moments in a nation's history that must be recorded -- to reconcile and acknowledge the truth, " says Desai, who is part of the ongoing 'The Sacred Amritsar-2024', presented by Sleepwell and produced by Teamwork Arts.

The Partition Museum in Delhi was inaugurated in May 2023 and was meant to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India's Partition, but got delayed. It is the first museum in the world to dedicate a gallery to the lost homeland of Sindh.

"It is called the Dara Shiko Library. And now it's open to the public and schools and colleges are an important target group.

While there may be no plans to open more museums, considering the huge effort and the resources involved, she says, "We had to complete the work very fast as most people whose stories were recorded were in their sunset years. It was a race against time. Not to mention the huge financial resources."

The few people from Pakistan who have visited the museum have shared positive reviews. There have been some write-ups in newspapers from across the border too. "The way I look at 1947 -- it was a humanitarian crisis. Someone asked me long back, why not help to put up such a museum in Pakistan. But I am clear, they have to bring forth their narrative."

During the pre-COVID era, the museum organised several exhibitions and pop-ups at different schools across the country to explain the history of the Partition. "In fact, we get several visitors from abroad, both NRIs and foreign nationals who would like to know more about 1947.

Pleased with multiple private museums coming up in India, Desai says that for too long now, it has been an exclusive domain of different governments.

"Of course, it is good that the states maintain them, but there has been a huge space for the private sector to pitch in. The new ones focus on a particular aspect and give opportunities to young people too."

Currently working on a novel on the partition that will include her parents' experiences as well, she is also writing a political biography which she does not want to talk about right now.

Have something to say? Post your comment