Stories about history

Partition 1947: Their worlds suddenly changed, never to be the same again

Partition. A simple word used to refer to the extremely traumatic events of August 1947. A word that seems devoid of any emotion whatsoever; concealing the atrocities committed and the thousands slaughtered in the name of religion. As boundaries were rashly drawn by the British and their colonial country was left ravaged by war, how aware were these higher orders that communities, families and friendships would be so ruthlessly ripped apart? Everyone from both sides of the border have their own tales of Partition. My own daadi and naani (paternal and maternal grandmother respectively) often narrate their accounts of pre-Partition India, Partition, and ...

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I dedicate this Pakistan Day to my grandfather, a PoW, and my father, a war veteran

Lieutenant Colonel Shuaib was posted in Bahawalpur, West Pakistan when he was informed of his new assignment in East Pakistan as G1 to a three-star General. This was in the late 60s, when tensions were high between the East and the West wing of Pakistan. As is usual with army postings, he packed up and left to report to his new posting. His family of six – a wife and five children – were supposed to follow him soon. As fate would have it, before his family could arrive and the house could be furnished with belongings that would later be ...

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“I was going home after 71 years”: The emotional ‘homecoming’ of an Indian in Pakistan

“I am going home… after 71 years.” I mumbled something along those lines to passengers sitting beside me, while taking a flight from Karachi to Islamabad on Christmas morning. Late in October, a friend of mine who is like an elder brother and a bitter critic of Indian state policies, asked me for my passport. I quickly took some pictures and sent it over to him. A week later, he sent me an affidavit with an invitation to his daughter’s wedding in Karachi that was to be held in late December. And that is how my journey of going home began. It is ...

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Audacious, hypnotic and intense, Kangana Ranaut was made to play the Queen of Jhansi

Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi chronicles the tale of one of India’s most prominent historical figures. Manikarnika, better known as Lakshmibai or the Rani of Jhansi, was one of the foremost freedom fighters of the 1857 rebellion. The allegory of Rani of Jhansi has personally fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Hence, writing even a review of a film based on her gallantry gives me great bliss. A warrior queen riding a horse, a sword in her hand, a child strapped onto her back, Manikarnika is an old-fashioned, simplistic film underlining the core values of bravery, valour and ...

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To Baku and beyond: A melting pot of ancient history and modern architecture

Known as the city of winds, Baku offers warm hospitality, rich culture, inspiring architecture and natural beauty to amuse all kinds of travellers. The city is soaked in history, and almost every turn you take will give glimpses of its glorious past and aspirations for the future. The architecture and food are inspired by the millennia of cultural influences from Romans, Mongols and Turks. Today, the city is a melting pot of ancient history and modern architecture. Baku ticks all the boxes on the list of any discerning traveller and I couldn’t resist the first opportunity I got to visit ...

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From Delhi, with regret: How a postcard from India revived painful, unhealed memories of the Partition

From history textbooks and family accounts, we often hear about the intense emotions and trauma felt by those who were forced to leave their homes behind for a new country during the Partition of British India in 1947. These days, it is hard to truly understand those feelings when we are so far removed from the experience itself. But tangible, everyday artefacts from that era – like a simple letter exchanged between separated friends – can suddenly resurrect those devastating and unhealed memories. That’s precisely what happened when my mother was recently looking through old papers in my grandparents’ home in ...

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The phoenix of history: Nothing captured my heart like Berlin did

From the moment I stepped out of the Berlin Tegel airport on to the city that possesses one of the richest histories in the world, the air around me transformed. Compared to the noisy Karachi streets where each nook and corner is densely populated, streets in Berlin seem fairly less crowded. The very air reeked of its past, almost as if it is haunted by the disputes once started on this very land. When I entered my apartment in West Berlin, I was unaware of the significance of my position, its only days later when I realised that the East-West ...

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Some Seoul searching: Paris, New York, Chicago have their charm but Seoul has my heart

Whenever I’ve heard people plan vacations, Seoul, South Korea has never been part of the conversation. Maybe because of the language barrier or simply because it’s so underrated, but Pakistanis in general don’t consider Seoul a place to vacation in. This is why when I found out I’d be going to Seoul for a journalism conference, I was a little cautious. I did not know what to expect and since I didn’t anyone who had been there, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like it. However, after spending eight days in the city, Seoul easily tops my favourite cities. Paris, New York, Chicago have ...

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Manikarnika: Only Bollywood’s real ‘Queen’ can play Jhansi ki Rani with such valour and brilliance!

Gone are the days when Bollywood was associated with movies that only portrayed the valour and gallantry of male protagonists. Filmmakers are now finally shifting their focus from male-oriented films to powerful women-centric movies. Successful films such as English Vinglish (2012), Queen (2014), Dangal (2016), Neerja (2016), Pink (2016), and Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) are just a few names that kept filmgoers spellbound with their feminist storylines and audacious leading ladies. The Queen-famed Kangana Ranaut’s highly anticipated biographical film, Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi, is one more addition to these powerful women-centric flicks. These movies that revolve around ...

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The stone crushers of Taxila: Are we ready to lose pieces of our history and heritage?

Taxila valley, which lies just beyond the Margalla Hills bordering Islamabad, is a picturesque, rural place with sleepy villages nestled below its green hills. Located less than an hour’s drive from Islamabad, the area is famous for Khanpur Dam and a series of archaeological remains which were declared as world heritage sites by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) back in 1980. Ideally, Taxila should be preserved as a tourist destination steeped in history, but over the years, stone crushers (a machine used to break down large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel or rock dust) have been ...

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