PARTITION Stories of separation by Sonam Kalra

Currently this is, perforce, a Delhi-NCR-centric review, but one hopes that this latest show by Sonam Kalra will travel the country and beyond…

“Partition Stories of Separation” was performed for the first time at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre in front of a sold-out audience this weekend.

A show devoted to the trauma and sorrow of Partition was never going to be easy viewing and there were moments of great sadness.  Great, heart-wrenching sadness.  When the elderly Sikh spoke about the death of his sister, I could hardly breathe, it was so raw and painful.

But this pain, which Sonam Kalra talks about in the programme, cannot –  and must not – be avoided or ignored:

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This trauma is part of the DNA of the subcontinent and it has to be commemorated and shared, especially with the gradual passing of the brave generations who lived through the horrors of Partition.

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Through song, and poetry, and interviews with amazing people who lived through Partition, this traumatic period of history is brought to life by Sonam Kalra, Salima Raza and Sonam’s team of amazing musicians.

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But for me, what moved me the most, was not so much the looking backwards at history, but the positive looking forward towards peace and reconciliation.

And here the energy and thrust of a younger generation with a different mindset was in evidence.

I loved the inter-active feeling of the show –  from old fashioned postcards on which we were asked to write our message of peace starting with the positive words “When we meet…”, to the hashtags to be used on social media to build a dialogue with “The Other Side.”

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There were cute, quirky touches, such as a “postbox” for the postcards for Pakistan.

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We were even given pens, ensuring that there we all had no excuse not to write.

A pile of old luggage in the entrance to the auditorium spoke volumes.

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I hope that this show travels the length and breadth of India, and more than anything else that it travels to “The Other Side.”

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Shabash to Sonam Kalra for giving voice to painful memories, but than anything for presenting the pain with so much love and, most importantly, hope.

Aravali Bio-Diversity Park, Gurgaon

I first discovered this impressive park last year, when I went to listen to the divine Sonam Kalra in concert.

These last few weeks have seen me re-acquainting myself with the park in a very different avatar.  I am training for a high altitude trek in Ladakh next month, and since one of my fellow trekkers lives bang next door to the park, it has become our Sunday morning training ground.  Sunil and I meet at the park at 5.30 am and walk for several hours, all rucksacked and hiking-booted-up.  I can tell you in the never-ending pre-monsoon heat and humidity, we are both seriously overdressed…

The park is huge, and since there has mercifully been no attempt to prettify it, what you have is kilometres of original vegetation – thorn trees and low scrubby bushes, with good paths winding through them.  It has a wild feeling to it, and certainly makes for more interesting walking, rather than –  say –  somewhere like Nehru Park in south Delhi (where we also train, by the way).  The land was apparently heavily mined, and you can still see the results of quarrying, but as nature takes over, that raw ugliness will soon disappear.

In the early mornings, the park feels safe. There are a couple of guards, and there are always gardeners doing their stuff-  mainly watering the kikar trees – and there are enough people out walking, running, cycling, bird-watching – it’s all quite energetic, despite the searing temperatures.

Over the course of our walks we have seen nilgai, a jungle cat, a “dhaan” or rat snake, a mongoose, birds galore – last Sunday was bee-eater convention day, clearly.  We were told there was a litter of jackal pups last Sunday, too, but we couldn’t spot them.

There are stray dogs, but they don’t seem overly aggressive.  There are often herds of cows grazing.  All quite rural, considering the back drop is the tower blocks of Gurgaon.

A good parking area, otherwise no facilities at all.  No loos, no benches, nothing.  The open-air auditorium is there of course, very close to the entrance.

For those of you who live in Gurgaon –  go use a great facility on your doorstep.

Dawn breaking over the park.

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The open-air auditorium as it usually looks…

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…and during the wonderful concert I mentioned earlier.  Magical.

 

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“Soup for trees” always makes me smile

 

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Nilgai

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It may not be our ultimate goal, Mentok Kangri (all 6250 metres of it –  help!!) but let me tell you that on a baking hot morning, this slope is a killer.

And here is Sunil acing it.

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DLF Phase 3, Sector 24, Gurgaon, HR 122002