The first Partition was in the Mahabharata: Interview with Intizar Husain

Author Intizar Husain talks on how the 1947 partition inspired him to write: Meena Menon in The Hindu

Intizar_husainWriting was a hobby for Intizar Husain. He has a B.A. in English Literature, Urdu and Persian, and a Masters in Urdu. He enjoyed literary criticism; and didn’t like fiction much. But on June 3, 1947, his life was turned on its head. He had just completed his Masters in Meerut, when people began to flee the city.

“Every day, one house would be locked up and there was tension in the air. Soon the riots began,” Husain recalls in an interview on the sidelines of the second Islamabad Literature Festival.

“I thought I should write about this and I liked reportage as a genre. I wrote my first short story, ‘Kayuma Ki Dukan’, about a shop that was a meeting place. People used to meet here and chat till late in the night. After the riots, the shop closed down.”

Husain was born near Aligarh in a town called Dibai, on December 21, 1925. But, “as a writer of fiction I was born with Pakistan. Partition made me a fiction writer,” he says. In 1947, his family left India, though they were not very happy about it. “The idea was not to go away forever. People packed their things and left giving their keys to their Hindu neighbours. There is a similar situation in my novelBasti.”

“The first Partition was in the Mahabharata,” he says, “and then it was me when I was exiled. Only the Pandavas and I knew the pain of leaving one’s land. The Mahabharata is such a powerful narrative of that pain.”

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