The Literary City

The Voices Of Trauma. Reliving The Partition With Kavita Puri

August 03, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 2 Episode 31
The Literary City
The Voices Of Trauma. Reliving The Partition With Kavita Puri
Show Notes Chapter Markers

For those who might not know, when Pakistan was carved out of India to serve as a separate country for Muslims in the sub-continent, people on both sides—of a hasty defined border—found their lives uprooted.

The tales from the Partition are many and horrific. The stories expose the raw side of a humanity filled with hatred, with mobs red in tooth and claw setting upon each other. The announcement of Partition caused Hindu-Muslim violence to break out—some say unexpectedly.

Millions fled their homes in fear to cross the border to safety. Most of them had to leave their lives and all their possessions behind. 

Some of them found a new home in England. They dug their heels in and got their lives back.

My guest today, Kavita Puri is a British journalist and a radio broadcaster. She is also the daughter of one of those who fled their homes. For many years now, Kavita has documented the oral histories of the immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, to a postwar Britain. 

Her series called Three Pounds In My Pocket told the stories of these pioneer immigrants. Her show—Partition Voices—record the first person accounts of people directly impacted by Partition.

What are oral histories?

Academics will tell you that oral history focuses on recording and interpreting the voices of individuals who might have been left out of history. It's all about preserving an alternative form of public history. 

But that’s the boring version.

Any writer or journalist will tell you that stories are about people. And their lives. Their thoughts, fears and their dreams. Recording their history requires a good measure of sensitivity. The more you feel a connection to their story, the better you can retell it.

Kavita Puri has lived inside the story of the people who were victims of the Partition and she is deeply attached to the stories she retells in Partition Voices.

Kavita was reading from the final chapter of the latest release of Partition Voices, at one point she was overcome with emotion and we had to stop recording. For this reason maybe, her book is compelling. I understand now why the book spoke to me.

And it is my privilege to be able to introduce her to speak to us all.

So here’s Kavita Puri joining me from what I suspect is a hotel room in Spain.

Kavita, welcome to The Literary City.

Kavita Puri is a British journalist, radio broadcaster, and author. Her 2019 book, Partition Voices: Untold British Stories, is based on her award-winning BBC Radio 4 documentary series of the same name. Puri has worked on BBC Newsnight as a political producer, film producer and assistant editor, and as the editor of Our World, a foreign affairs documentary programme. Her 2014 BBC Radio 4 series, Three Pounds in My Pocket, told the stories of South Asians who migrated to post-war Britain. In 2015, Puri was named Journalist of the Year by the Asian Media Awards. In 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Puri as a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum for a period of four years.

Buy Partition Voices here:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the phrase "Red in tooth and claw".

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