In 2015 the Goethe-Instituts in Kolkata (India) and Dhaka (Bangladesh) began a collaborative project entitled ‘Inherited Memories’. The project began with a key question that grew out of discussions on memory and history: was there such a thing as a ‘culture of remembrance’ in India, something akin to the Erinnerungskultur in Germany? The question was asked specifically in relation to the Partition of India in 1947: why was it that such a major historical event found little reflection in public memory? Soon, other questions came up: why was it, for example, that whatever memorialising existed was largely in the West, in Punjab, and the Bengal region, which had lived through two partitions and a war that could be likened to a third partition, was given such little attention? At the time these discussions began, many, perhaps most, of the survivors of the 1947 Partition were no longer alive and their memories therefore lost to us. It is often said that memory jumps a generation, so a decision was taken to talk across borders with the children and grandchildren of Partition refugees in the Bengal region, to look at how memory is passed down, what is retained or lost, and how it is owned and shared by subsequent generations.
This book, which comprises interviews from both Bangladesh and West Bengal, is the result of these discussions. Guided by a committed and engaged group of writers from both countries, the book explores, through the stories of ancestors the memories people carried with them, the things they never forgot, the yearnings that did not go away, the journeys that remained unfinished, and those that were accomplished. Through these, it examines how history simultaneously looks so similar and so different from either side.
FIRDOUS AZIM is a professor of Literature in the Department of English and Humanities at Brac University. She is also a member of Naripokkho, a leading feminist organization in Bangladesh. Her works include The Colonial Rise of the Novel (1993), a special edited volume (with Nivedita Menon and Dina Siddiqui) of Feminist Review, ‘Negotiating New Terrains: South Asian Feminisms’ (2009), and a special issue of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (2011) entitled ‘Islam Culture and Women’.