1947 marks a year of independence for India and Pakistan; from the British rule, and unfortunately, from one another. A partition that devastated an entire subcontinent, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and displacing nearly fifteen million, left bitter memories and simmering hatred in its wake. On August 15, 1947, one country, rich, diverse, colorful, and shared, became two countries with ever-entwined souls.
For two years now, I’ve sat awake until midnight on August 14, aware that I’m straddling two extremely important parallel events in India and Pakistan’s history, their independence days (Pakistan celebrates theirs on August 14, while India celebrates on August 15). I’ve wondered about all the people who witnessed the anger, revenge, and murder of loved ones and those who made it to the other side sans any of their belongings. This important period of our combined history is spoken about much less often than other unfortunate massacres and genocides, but it is such a critical reminder of what religious fanaticism and mob-mentality can lead to. Throughout the partition, bloodshed and violence marred what used to be a peaceful coexistence and nothing was the same. Millions of people were affected by this immense tragedy and their stories might never reach generations who can learn from what they went through.
As it turns out, this might not be the case. Not if the 1947 Partition Archive can help it. This wonderful and much-needed initiative is a people-powered non-profit organization dedicated to documenting, preserving and sharing eye witness accounts from all ethnic, religious and economic communities affected by the Partition of British India in 1947. They provide a platform for anyone anywhere in the world to collect, archive and display oral histories that document not only Partition, but pre-Partition life and culture as well as post-Partition migrations and life changes. They are dedicated to bringing knowledge about the Partition into widespread public consciousness through creative and scholarly expression and their collected works are being made available in limited capacity via their online Story Map. Their videos are poignant compilations of a forgotten past.
As an Indian, growing up, Pakistan was akin to a distant uncle I’d occasionally hear about. Someone I had never met but knew I was related to; someone familiar, yet unknown. Pakistan was unlike any other country, and Pakistanis unlike any other foreigners. I was especially convinced of this when I hosted two amazing girls from Pakistan over two summers who quickly became like family. I was excited by our similarities and enjoyed discovering our differences. Over time, the number of Pakistanis I call friends has only increased. And with each new friend, I can’t deny that I’ve found a comfort and ease that you’d normally find with your own countrymen. I’m glad that initiatives like the 1947 Partition Archive and even Coke’s Small World Machines ad identify, highlight, and celebrate the bond between the two countries.