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Body spoke for the mind and conscience
Sep 07, 2016 05:51 PM 2007 Views



Written from a Sikh point of view against the Indian independence movement, the novel is indeed a delight to read. It is the stories of two Sikh women Roop & Satya; and a Sikh man Sardarji, with their associations. It is a novel of some 605 pages. Its theme based on individuality with a theme of partition which led British India to be divided into modern day India & Pakistan. The first half of the novel is completely individualistic and personal. It tells the stories of Roop & her childhood days in Pari Darvaza with her brother, sister, aunt, friend, father; then her marriage with Sardarji who is almost same of her father's age and her becoming of chhoti-sardarni of his household . It is also the story of Sayta, the first wife of Sardarji who has to have a co-wife just because she could not perform the task the'women are made to perform'! The novel also counts the life & feelings of Sardarji who was a chief civil engineer under British govt and hold a powerful post. Beside the main characters, the supporting characters of the novel; Jeevan, Papaji, Gujri, Abu Ibrahim, Pandit Dinanath, Shyam Chacha, Sardar Kushal Singh, Mani Mai, Jorimon, Atma Singh, Denha Singh, Rai Alam Khan etc.; also contribute with their certain & concerned importance which moves the wheels of the novel reach to its very end. The first half of the novel may give sometimes a monotonous feeling but the end part of it holds tightly to the reading comfort.

The theme of partition comes at the very later part of the novel and when it comes it is with its bloodshed, violence, fierceness, ferocity, fury, wildness, and vehemence. The skillful mastery of Nehru, Jinnah, or Gandhi changed the fates and lives of millions of people who once lived together and in harmony irrespective of their religion, caste or alike. The sudden partition made the friends enemies just on the basis of religion. As Khuswant Singh told in his'Train to Pakistan' that the truth was each side murdered, each side raped, each side plundered. As the country catches flame in the background, Baldwin plays out the myriad betrayals of Partition. But the novel could not become a document of the common masses who faced the horror of partition and were forced to migrate. Sardarji being a high rank holder in the govt service, manages to give his family protection in a good scale even the aftermath. But the novel tells nowhere about those people who did not have that economic support and was forced to leave behind all their fixed source of incomes which run their livelihood. So the novel could not become the novel of everyone who faced the holocaust despite having all the elements of becoming so. Sometimes it gives the feelings that novel is an account of only Sikh people being its writer a Sikh and the locale of the novel is mainly the north-west. The novel could be treated as a feminist one also as some part of it draws towards the doctrine.

Apart from its some very little minor faults, 'What the Body Remembers' is indeed a powerful saga of a Sikh family set against the Independent movement of 1947. Baldwin's handful of mastery makes the novel worth reading. It is to read and to be read where truly it is not the mind, not even the conscience but the body that remembers.

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What The Body Remembers - Shauna Singh Baldwin