I have been hearing a lot about the writing on Khadija Mastur for her book ‘The Women’s Courtyard’ in which she has written about the Partition when our country broke into two. So, when I got a chance to read A Promised Land, I started off with high expectations and thankfully they were justified. Its a wistful and sorrowful tale of how women dealt with Partition fearing rape and living in make shift camps with no privacy or sources of income.
As is normally the case even in today’s times, it is the men who are the decision makers, be it the war or where to live. And so, Sajjidah and her father end up in a Pakistani refugee camp dependent on the handouts they get as tea and food. Sajjidah’s father dies in the camp and she is left all alone in a country which is unfamiliar to her trying to survive. How she copes with life hereon is the crux of the story.
The book is also about broken promises just the way the title sounds as its only ‘promised’ but never ‘realised’. The book revolves around different women who are caught up in the partition be it the servant girl Taji, or the fiesty college going Saleemah, her mother Khala bi, Amma bi or the dowry harassed Lali.
Sajjidah is herself hoping to meet the love of her life Salahuddin whom she had met in Delhi. Despite all her hardships in Pakistan, she is not ready to give up on her love. Even after she had two children, she feels she is unable to love her husband as her heart still holds warm memories of Salahuddin.
Does Salahuddin keep his promise to find her post Partition? Will Lali’s zamindar husband ever stop beating her for dowry? Will Taji find an honest man to hold her hand?
And I want to write so many more things but it will give the plot away. Its indeed a beautiful read.
I received the book from Penguin India in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Penguin India for the review copy.