Where The River Parts is a love story of sorts. Not completely a love story but more about how love is destroyed (or almost destroyed) by the partition that separated India and Pakistan. The story starts with Asha falling in love with Firoze and secretly meeting and planning their wedding. How they would break the news to their families, how her father would take her having to raise her children Muslim (the guy’s religion or caste is always followed here) and how they will stay together despite the tensions and the rumours they’re hearing of violence at the borders.
Everyday they hear horror stories of something happening to their Hindu friends and an equal amount of horror stories of what’s happening to the Muslims who haven’t fled India yet. Of murders, rapes, disfigurations happening in both countries. Their family help leaves, as do their friends and neighbours. But Asha and Firoze are blissfully focussed on each other.
Her father refuses to leave claiming that Suhanpur is his land, his home, and Asha agrees with him but for different reasons. Despite her mother’s worries and secret stashing of things for their safety in India, they refuse to leave till it is too late. Their journey to the border is made with the company of Firoze, he accompanies them to make sure they reach safely and leaves them at the border reluctantly promising Asha that she will come back when it is safe and be the daughter in law at his house. That he will wait for her.
However when Asha reached India she realises that thing are different. While I am from the south and we lived without a sign of the horrors that were happening in the north, we did hear of them, especially from people in Delhi. About how people who were once best friends were no longer able to speak to each other, where lovers were wrenched apart by fate even though their families were accepting of their religions differences, where there was nothing good to be had.
Cut to years later, Lana, Asha’s granddaughter, is in love with Hussain, a Pakistani from Suhanpur and she wants to marry him. Her mother, despite having moved to New York and becoming completely American, her Indianess and the childhood horror stories haven’t allowed her to accept that a man from a country so terrifying can be good to her daughter. In trying to negotiate between granddaughter and daughter, Asha ends up meeting Firoze and they find out what happened to each other, to their home, to their love.
This is a story about circumstances beyond our control and how life throws our plans and hopes for a toss. Radhika Swarup is an author who has magic in her pen, IMHO. She’s woven a story that seems so simply written and easy to read but stays with you for a long time. Where the river parts is a story that’ll tell you about the differences that people feel now between each other here before they were the best of friends.
I gave this four stars, not five. While I completely enjoyed the book the ending did leave me feeling a bit unsatisfied, I wanted a few more pages. Not the happenings, but the abruptness of it. I really wanted to be completely satiated by this book and a slow winding down might have suited it better. Other than that, the author does an amazing job showing you both sides of the story, without emotionally siding with one. There is no portion in the story where you felt she was favouring a side more and it is so refreshing to read. Written in simple language that makes it a quick and easy read, this is impossible to put down. I cannot wait to see what else Radhika Swarup comes out with and will be first in line at the bookstore.
Asha, a Hindu in a newly Muslim land, must flee to safety. She carries with her a secret she has kept even from Firoze, her Muslim lover, but Firoze must remain in Pakistan, and increasing tensions between the two countries mean the couple can never reunite.
Fifty years later in New York, Asha’s Indian granddaughter falls in love with a Pakistani, and Asha and Firoze, meeting again at last, are faced with one more – final – choice.
Spanning continents and generations, Where the River Parts is an epic tale of love, loss and longing.
I was very kindly sent a review copy by the publisher, Rupa, but opinions expressed are my own.