Memories of Partition: Shiv K. Kumar’s - A River With Three Banks
Shiv K. Kumar’s, A River With Three Banks is a novel delineating the theme of Partition. As Partition meant parting of ways between the Hindus and the Muslims, Kumar’s novel deals with the utter discord between the two major communities of India. The novel suggests the dissolution of the first pattern of communal discord that emerged with the Partition of the subcontinent. The ill-will and antagonism between the Hindus and Muslims has been projected through killings, arson and molestation of women in the novel. Communal hatred that engulfs the city of Delhi has been presented in all its ugliness through incidents described in ...view middle of the document...
Govind Nihalani, talking about Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas (1974), explains why it is necessary for a writer to relook at a traumatic even several years later, when he says:
A traumatic even usually finds the artistic/literary response twice. Once during the even or immediately following it and again after a lapse of time, when the even has found its corner in the collective memory of the generation that witnessed it. The initial response tends to be emotionally intense and personal in character, even melodramatic. On the other hand, when the event is reflected upon with emotional detachment and objectivity, a clearer pattern of the various forces that shaped it is likely to emerge 2.
Similarly, Kumar, like every Punjabi writer, felt the need to get the trauma of the partition out of his system. But in order to have a better understanding of his experience he chooses to look back at it after a gap of fifty years, as he says: “If you are too close to the canvas of your painting, you can’t see it in the proper perspective. You have to stand back a little from the canvas.”3 Thus he stands 50 years back from 1947.
The action of the novel is located in Delhi, the capital of independent India. For a brief period the action is shifted to Allahabad as well which is hot-bed of communalism during the time. It is the month of August and the Partition has take place. However, the city of Delhi is gripped in the barbarity of communal fury. Unlike Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Kumar’s novel has the urban locale. The writer depicts the communal differences and shows how these differences are deliberately fostered. The communal discord has assumed such proportions that the two communities are at a dagger’s drawn with each other. Both Hindus and Muslims are on a killing spree in the streets of Delhi. The joint pillars of the gateway to the composite culture of India have crumbled and columns and columns of displaced humanity are moving across both sides of the border while the bloodiest of the acts are being enacted. Delhi is in the throes of the worst communal discord.
The writer points at the incidents of killing, looting, arson and molestation of women, rampant in the streets of Delhi. Though the novel opens on a day that happens to be the quietest day of the week,with only one death reported. The victim is a helpless Muslim, killed by a fanatic Hindu as an act of vendetta for what the Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan have suffered at the hands of Muslims. It is after a hectic spell of arson, rape and massacre that Delhi is gradually reverting to normalcy, at least temporarily. Before another curfew paralyses life in the city, people are seen buying groceries and a “a few refugee vendors have spread their wares: coarse woolens (sweaters, stoles, stockings, gloves), necklaces and bracelets in coloured beads, and tiny bronze gods and goddesses “4.
Gautam Mehta, the protagonist, who is a journalist, has come to see Father Jones because he wants to...