For writer Reema Moudgil, who read from her book Perfect 8 recently at Atta Galatta, Partition wasn’t “the end of divisions, it was the beginning”. Moudgil said while the book was set against the backdrop of Partition, the story was relevant because we are “far more fragmented today than we were then”.
Indeed, the ‘8’ in the title was meant to connote infinity and the endlessness of partitions, she said: “Multiple partitions keep on happening across language, caste, gender”.
She said the book also depicted the split within its central character, mirroring the events of Partition. She read from the opening chapter of the book, set in Missamari Cantonment in Assam, where she grew up. A lengthy opening section, rich with imagery, located the novel in army homes – “into the crisp, happy, whitewashed cores of army homes where ovens grew warm”.
These were places “no rain could seep through”. The writer, who also runs a website for freelance writers, explained that her tendency for detailed descriptions was perhaps partly a generational feature.
“Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we experienced things as immediate, tangible, intimate. Today, there are too many distractions – people are cocooned in their virtual world”.
The book is narrated in first person, but Moudgil said it wasn’t autobiographical: “The geography is mine, but the history is not.” She also spoke of the pervasive power of major events such as Partition or the Holocaust, saying that one didn’t have to live through it firsthand – even a memory event sufficed. “For people who have experienced it personally, you are never the same. There is always a ‘before’ and an ‘after’.”
For Moudgil, there’s a sense of relief that the book is written, the story told. “It doesn’t matter if it’s lying in 200 boxes, unsold, the story is out there. I wasn’t carrying it inside me anymore,” she said. This urgency to tell the tale meant that she didn’t struggle with the lack of accountability that comes without a set deadline, she said. “The story is asking to be told. It won’t give you peace. If I hadn’t written it, after two years it’ll come back and say, ‘you didn’t write me’”.
Moudgil was in conversation with journalist Nirmala Ravindran, life coach Sindhu Ramachandran, and Aarti Mohan, editor of website The Alternative.