Shilpi Sunja: My name is Shilpi Suneja. I received an Artist Fellowship in Fiction from Mass Cultural Council in 2018. This is an excerpt from my novel, A House of Caravans.
Shilpi Suneja: So, it’s basically my grandfather’s story. It’s about the long shadow of The Partition of 1947. It’s this big giant event that still shapes the sociocultural fabric of contemporary South Asia. To date it’s the greatest mass migration in modern history. And with that migration, it brought about the disruption, the breakage of families. People had to basically leave behind everything they owned, everyone they knew, and just basically make a dash for it to save their lives to cross a border that was basically very hastily created.
And there was a lot of silence around this, because of the shame that’s involved. When something bad happens, that’s when partition is invoked as an original sin. People say things like oh well, we gave the Muslims Pakistan, what more do they want? You know, when you practice a culture of hate and isolation, it has repercussions for all of us. Again, it goes back to the fact that this event is not remembered in the way that it should be.
So in a way this novel does that. It makes the links between the generation that experienced it and then the second generation that silenced it and then the third generation – that’s my generation – who’s trying to dig it up.
I’m an only child so books were my constant, constant companion. So much so that I would not do homework. I would just read a novel a day. And that was my education, basically. Nancy Drew was my middle school education. All of it.
So, in writing, it’s like every day I make this decision. It’s not even like a conscious decision. It’s basically this subconscious urge I have to just recreate the feeling that I get when I read a favorite book or a favorite passage, that feeling of intense pleasure and intense engagement and empathy.