Archiving Grief
Aman Nawaz
MEMORIES OF ARRIVAL: A VOICE FROM THE MARGINS by Adhir Biswas. Translated from the original Bengali by V. Ramaswamy Samya, Sage, Select, 2022, 303 pp., 595.00
August 2022, volume 46, No 8

Following the Partition of the subcontinent, the migration of refugees from East Pakistan into West Bengal did not occur in a single wave, as it did along Pakistan’s western frontier, where over fifteen million people crossed the border in the year of Partition. The former’s border crossing had various crests and troughs throughout the decades, which is why the problem has been viewed differently and often goes unacknowledged.

Adhir Biswas, a young lad of twelve, was one of the six million who crossed the border with his family in 1967, a year that has significance in the history of not just Bengal but the entire country. In the absence of adequate state policy, the refugees were mostly left on their own while the Government pretended they did not exist. A memoir about the singularity of lives, Memories of Arrival is not just about the event in the sense that Badiou defines, but also the rejects of it; the everyday(ness) of struggle and survival strategies in the absence of any state support. It chronicles Adhir’s departure from East Pakistan and his arrival in India, his lived experience of hardships and precarity with hunger and the memories of his dead mother as his constant companions; the writer and his family’s struggle to settle in the slums of Motijheel Basti, owing to the Government’s position to not redistribute the property of Muslim evacuees from Bengal to the incoming Hindu refugees.

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