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The Way Forward

- Ramanjit Singh

The border between the two has become permanent.

The border between the two is pulling us apart and the gulf is ever widening.

The border is a permanent fissure that cannot be bridged.

We are so close yet we see each other from afar. The part of India that we lost cannot become part of us anymore. The people have become different. They look at us differently and we look at them differently.

I have, over the years, struggled with a dual identity of what makes me an Indian and what makes me a Punjabi. I see my roots on both sides, struggling to figure out who am I. A part of me sees the other side as home and a part of me recognizes this side as home. It seems, for some of us at least, that our souls are suspended at the border, unable to decide which side we need to go. Hesitant, unsure of what it means to be something that does not fully defines us.

It is said that on August 14-15th when the partition of India occurred, Gandhi was all alone and did not want to talk to anyone. For days his silence represented the sound of a million screams of all those who were dying across our land. Our mistakes were so many, vanity of our false distinctions became our own worst enemy, our ego and stubbornness pushed the lives of millions into an abyss.

Yet we have to look for a way forward.

The way forward is about changing our minds. How we look at each other, it is about tolerance, it is about putting religion in the back burner and not making it the primary way of governing our lives. It is about accepting and respecting differences. Religion cannot entirely govern our lives, it can give us spiritual peace of mind but how we interact with the rest of humanity is entirely dependent on us and how we treat others. By not making them look inferior to us simply because they don't follow our religion or our way of life. Our success is entirely dependent on how much we allow hate to govern us.

Partition is a test of our will. It is testing us everyday about whether we have the power to forget the events of the past and have the will to move forward. To extend that hand, to find a way forward. We must find a way. The law of probability is stacked against us. I don't see a way yet, I am trying to find it, but every time I try to find it, the hate among communities is unrelenting and it pushes us further away.

It is indeed a battle of minds. Our minds have become unstable, toxic. We have seen too much, heard too much. We have seen the worst of them. They have seen the worst of us.

In today's world, the way to move forward is becoming an impossible task. It has become easy to pull the rug from under someone's feet. It has become too easy to raise our voices in anger. It has become too easy to point finger at the other and tell them how wrong they have been, yet forgetting our own culpability.

Partition is not just an event of the past, the tragedy is that Partition is as much part of the present as it is part of the past. It is alive, it is thriving, keeping us separated, giving birth to the worst amongst us. We are beholden to its permanence, its greatest victory was not only to separate the land but more importantly to separate our minds. Today it seems we can never bridge that gap, but somewhere deep down in my heart there is a flicker of hope that someday we will overcome.

We will overcome.

About the painting:

Satish Gujral created his own personal experiences on the canvas for the world to see. The artist rhythmically and obsessively painted ordinary Partition victims. In an interview published in India Today in the mid-1980s, Gujral said, ‘Partition provided me a reason to discover my inner temperament. . . If it had not been suited to that tragedy, I would not have been able to paint it.’

India’s most significant modernists passed away at the age of 94 on March 26, 2020.


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