Cracking India PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Spiegel   

Cracking IndiaNo matter the focus, setting, or perspective, the partition of India and Pakistan will always be a gruesome and heart wrenching moment in history.  Seen through the eyes of a young, polio-stricken, Parsee child in Lahore, however, this holocaust of the East assumes a uniquely candid and unfiltered quality.  In Cracking India, acclaimed Pakistani author Bapsi Sidhwa tells a coming of age tale, a love story, and a war chronicle through the gaze of somewhat autobiographical Lenny, an innocent but wise child living in Lahore during the partition. 

Although Lenny is physically disabled, she is mentally stronger than her peers and elders assume.  Her simple but discerning assessment of the atrocities of the times, as well as her keen understanding and sensitivity to the finer nuances of adult relationships – deeply emotional relationships further complicated by the ripping climate of war – make her a trustworthy and perfectly relatable narrator.  Neither Hindu nor Muslim, Lenny is Parsee, offering a further removed, and thus more reliable, stance towards the times, in addition to a personal insight into an often overlooked but highly significant minority in the region.  To round out this easily accessible but still greatly perceptive narrator, author Bapsi Sidhwa focuses much of her novel on Lenny’s beloved caretaker, Ayah, whose story effectively pulls at the reader’s romantic strings despite Lenny’s youthful pitch.  From cast to storyline, Sidhwa truly chooses apt ingredients, perfectly suited to stir the inevitable injustice of war.

The multi-meaning title, Cracking India, portends the consistently layered quality of all that appears on the pages to follow.  Dawning the front cover and literally lying atop the novel’s potent pile of pages, the title even sits as a uniquely physical representation of the true depth of this story.  As moving as it is insightful, Sidhwa’s novel unfolds remarkably effortlessly for a tale whose title alone holds such powerful meaning.

Born and raised in Lahore, turning nine years old at the time of Partition, Sidhwa knows well the setting of her story, her authority on the region and its people pristinely clear by the generous, minute details only an insider could relay.  Her compelling characters caught in a weave of relationships leaves little wonder as to why Deepa Mehta, acclaimed director of films Water and Fire, turned this beautiful novel into an award-winning, full-feature movie called Earth.  Read Cracking India. Watch Earth. Rinse. Repeat.  The multidimensional tale and characters that compose it ensure new meaning with every revisit.


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