Two – Gulzar: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Gulzar| Genre: Historical Fiction, Indian Fiction| Pages: 200

It’s the winter of 1946. A truck leaves the village of Campbellpur after news of the impending Partition pours in. It is carrying people who don’t know where they will go. They have just heard words like ‘border’ and ‘refugee’, and are struggling to understand how drawing a line might carve out Pakistan from Hindustan. As they reach the border, the caravan disperses and people go their own ways. Gulzar’s first novel tracks the lives of the people in that truck right from 1946 up to the Kargil war.

Image Copyright: Asha Seth

Two is set in a small town named Campbellpur; now a city Attock in Pakistan. Pinned in late 1946 around the partition period, ‘Two’ captures the psychological and physical turmoil of locals, seeking a place they can call home. It revolves around a group of people aboard a truck bound for the proposed partitioned land. No one knows where each is headed but with hopes galore, they leave behind everything that belonged to them to set up paradise in unknown lands. They face trials and tribulations; mostly fatal in nature, but no sooner have they reached the destination, each go their own way, with a heavy heart, a bleeding soul, and scarred memories for belongings.

Known as the greatest tragedy in Indian history, the partition of India sowed seeds for political, social and communal unrest for decades to come, and even today, we are just as much tortured by the atrocities as the populace suffered then. This book attempts to showcase the incidents that have led to the differences the nations nurture, and truly have become ‘Two’ from one magnanimous nation.

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The language of the book is simple yet captivating. Gulzar’s choicest of vocabulary make the perils of the characters come alive that tear your heart to pieces. Most characters are real only with different names because this is a personal story, one the author has lived himself. But of course, the characters are redone but their stories are the same. You live them long after you’re through the 200-page partition saga, and yet that’s not all. You wish you could go back and erase the memories the book just etched in your mind.

Of course, it’s been 70+ years of Independence, and of course, no man on either side of the border hates another enough, blames another enough, but what needs to be remembered is that the tragedy fell on both, massacres and riots scarred both, it was not one nation’s doing. The country that was one was made two, and it is still bleeding, and it will go on this way unless conscious, considerate steps of humanity and love are taken by the two. This one message as a leaving note, is compelling enough for humans on both sides to break-free of the shackles that hold them prisoners, despite being free, even after so many years.

Have you read ‘Two’? How did you like it? Share your thoughts in comments below.