Beneath Divided Skies by Natasha Sharma- A book Review

by Chandrika R Krishnan

Beneath Divided Skies by Natasha Sharma- A book Review

What amazes me about human beings is the dichotomy present within the species.  On one hand, we have a few butchering  human beings in the name of differences- be it religion, race and ethnicity and on the other,  ordinary and altruistic men and women rise to the occasion and try and save other human beings, often risking their own lives.

What is known to all of us through text books and other history stories is the fact that during the partition, the countries of India and Pakistan faced unbelievable carnage carried out on both sides. As often happens, women bore the brunt. They turned into war spoils only to be raped, used and discarded or imprisoned. They often took their own lives to be spared this humiliation.

What Natasha’s debut book strives to do is to bring to life these extraordinary times. Satya, a teenage girl, witnesses the brutal end of her own family members. She also lives through the abduction of her sister and hopes to find her.  She is one among many refugees who moved to India. But then, she does not rest easy. She becomes a part of an undercover operations run mostly by women to assist in the rescuing of  other Indian Hindu and Sikh, women who are imprisoned in Pakistan.  A similar operation is also conduced by the other side.

This novel makes us a part of the rescue operations as also witness  a budding romance between Satya and a young Pakistan Army officer. The relationship is doomed from the start as both countries make a law that conversion to stay married is null and void. But, then the heart hardly listens to the mind.  Through her journey, she finds her way to help herself forge ahead and work build a legacy in memory of those horrific times when men and women were forced to leave behind their homes, property, their jobs, their livelihood and often enough witness the death of their loved ones and become a refugee overnight.

Despite the horror, this story makes us feel  hopeful with so many good men and women coming together for a cause. The nitty-gritty of how the rescued women are rehabilitated in the various Ashram and the friendship that they forge over there makes this a remarkable read.  It is ultimately the ordinary that moves us deeply and touches our heart and soul.

The book is set in two parts- the newly divided India of 1947 and then part II in 1988- 89 where the events from the partition days finds a lease in the form of an interactive museum, lest the younger generation fails to know and learn from history.

What stood out was the way Natasha Sharma handled the very difficult part of our history. It was with honesty rather than reducing the events to sensationalism.  The characters were well-etched.  From  a very personal angle, Ikankar replaced my all-time favourite literary hero- Mr. Darcy!

What could have worked better was the pacing of the story in the early part of the novel.  Stick with it, you won’t be disappointed.  It very soon turns unputdownable.



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