‘This arrogant, conceited history strides ahead with her head in the clouds and never looks down. She does not realize how she crushes millions of people beneath her feet. The common people. She doesn’t understand that one may cut a mountain in two, but people? It’s a hard task, Bhai, to cut one people into two. They bleed.”
For years we’ve seen the literary brilliance of Gulzar. And with Two for the first time, he
ventures into a longer literary format. Two is a string of disjoint stories strung together to speak of the cataclysmic Partition and the riots that followed. It is the story of two generations of people who got their identities divided by the border of politics and religion. Without being political, Two simply takes us through human experiences of love, loss, anguish, brethren, and identity.
Two is novella/novel in three parts describing life before, through and after the India-Pakistan partition of 1947. The book that spans across less than 200 pages takes us through many lives, some that perished and some that survived the partition. It takes us through the refugee life of sustenance and survival.
The story revolves around Campbellpur, a hamlet near the northern part of Punjab province of Pakistan near the capital of Islamabad. Master Fazal, Lakhbeera, Fauji, Panna maiyya, Kartar and his grandfather, Karan Singh and his wife Harnam Kaur, Hariram and his pet dog Tiger, the twins Moni and Soni are all characters who will live with you much after you’ve folded the book.
Gulzar, the Mozart of words, has often written about the Partition.
His shayari, poetry, essays and short stories even have stood testimony of how deeply he is affected by the Partition. However, in his first venture into longer fiction Two is in no way a conventional novel. This is many stories in one. A poetry in prose. With a simple language and disjoint sentences, Gulzar weaves in the emotion with a dexterity rightfully expected of him.
Two was originally written in Urdu, Gulzar’s ‘medium of writing’. In the Foreword, he notes humbly that he isn’t at ease with the English translation he did himself. However, he has, as he takes credit, been able to write the story of “refugees, and how life planted them all over the world.”
70 years hence, the India- Pakistan Partition of 1947 is still a wound searing at the seams. As Gulzar puts it, Partition is “like a family secret which everyone knows of but is uncomfortable to talk about, we have pulled a curtain over it.” And yet, even after all these years, it is a reality there’s no hiding from. Two comes as a catharsis of those haunting memories from a man who lived the horror.
Verdict : Two is a short read brimming with emotion. It reeks of the blood and sweat of the refugees whose lives got torn apart by a line on a map and whose destinies were shaped out of the politics of religion.