on 23 September 2007
Published as Ice Candy Man and Cracking India (and made into a movie called Earth) the book tells the story of the partition. Initially I was put of by the fact that we had a child narrator, but Lenny's insights and interpretations of the events around her can be almost hilarious and work very well in what is otherwise an almost violent read. Much has been made of the pro-Pakistani slant to the book, it's a bias that's hard to deny but it is an almost impossible to task to find literature on the partition, both from fact or fiction that is truly objective. Sidwa presents a view point and it is a view point shared by many and therefore should be read for that reason alone. As a work of literature this is almost with equal and is the finest piece of partition fiction I have read to date. It's not a tale of politicians, but of people and how they react to the events unfolding. Central to the story are the many men of all religions courting Lenny's Ayah, we meet the Ice Candy Man, the masseur, the butcher all vie for her affections. The book, though it takes a few chapters to get going soon becomes impossible to put down, the mixture of humour and violence can leave one laughing one minute and almost reduced to tears the next. A must read.
Bapsi Sidhwa's Cracking India will expand and alter your view of India, Pakistan, and the British Raj. Using a child-narrator, a literary device over-employed and often unsuccessful, this author has found the perfect vehicle for conveying the heart-breaking story of the Partition of India in l947, without being coy and without descending into bathos.
Lenny, as the child of a Parsee family, roams freely through the Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Parsee society of her household and neighborhood in Lahore. Because she is lame and receiving private schooling, she is at home when momentous events and important conversations occur, and because she is very young and has no ethnic biases, she observes the disintegration of her society with the puzzlement of an outsider.
An active, loving person, Lenny makes us see the personal and emotional costs of the founding of Pakistan, especially to women and children. Whether your interest is historical, literary, or feminist, Cracking India will illuminate the dangers and tragedies of creating artificial geographical boundaries. Mary Whipple
on 19 January 1999
Ms. Sidhwa does a wonderful job of presenting the tensions that exist to this day on the indian subcontinent. I do however feel that she doesn't aptly portray the lives of poor or middle class indians. Probably because the minute percentage that make up the ruling and wealthy classes on the subcontinent are out of touch with the reality that exists in their own country. The only poor people they know are their servants (often unpaid child labor from their tenant farmer's families) and its not like they bother to sit down to tea and ask about their day.
While I saw a previous review that accused Ms. Sidhwa of being racist and inaccurate, I have to disagree. During the time of the partition there were murderers on ALL sides. Muslims slaughtered Hindus...Hindus slaughtered Muslims. While each side bickered about who attacked first, thousands continued to be murdered. I feel Ms. Sidwha presents the both sides impartially.
If only the murders of 1947 could be isolated incidents, but they are not. There is an aftermath that follows such brutal acts. Take for example Nusreen, a woman from a middle class muslim punjabi family. In 1947 she, her two sisters, two brothers, parents and cousins were forced to flee their village because hindu raiders had come to kill all muslims. They didn't have time to pack belongings or take their savings. While migrating to Pakistan her brothers were murdered, leaving the family with nothing for dowries, no means to provide such, and only an old feeble father. As a result she and her sisters were forced into marriages far beneath where they would have been arranged. While Nusreen and her sisters were beautiful young women, respectable and mannered, they were married to brothers who were considered the village bullies. It was the only match that could be obtained without dowries. While that may be a tragedy, and her life was difficult, her influence affected all of her children in positive ways. Her husband may have been a lowly dude wallah but her sons grew up to be doctors, engineers, lawyers. Nusreen, a poor village woman in the punjab and also my mother-in-law, is a woman for whom I have the greatest respect and love.
I hold Ms. Sidwha in the highest esteem for portraying accurately the events on the subcontinent and the cultural differences between the various religious sects but I feel she, like all people from her class have no real understanding of the other 95% who inhabit the subcontinent.
There were far greater tragedies that occurred in 1947 than a rich girl losing her Ayah.
on 10 October 1997
I read this book a long time ago when it was called "Ice Candy Man". Although I prefer that title to Cracking India, change of title itself seems to be part of plan the novel. The character of the ice candy man represents the cracking of India from a young girl's perspective. There are scenes in the novel that are etched in my memory. I read the book as a young boy and I could still see very clearly how Lenny's mind was working. There were lively and funny events, horribly tragic ones, and then there were shocking moments that had me put aside the book until I recovered.
on 5 December 2005
miss sidwa claims this to be a historical account but she was only a child herself back then. some people here have said that as a parsi she was an unbiased observer, but the fact is that this book is the outcome of the post-partition prejudices of pakistan which she grew up in and obviously absorbed.
one reviewer correctly pointed out that whilst the depiction of muslims in the book is sympathetic that of the hindu and sikh characters is far from so (all the hindus are depicted as cowhardly, weak and conniving and all the sikhs as oafish, mosterous brutes). the portraits of everyday white characters are equally as crude.
the history is censored- no mention of any build up, or the 'direct action days' of the muslim league etc etc. there is no balance of 'both sides of the story'. she totally omits any context and throws in a chronologicaly inaccurate and wholly fictional encounter with gandhi. infact the historical liberties she has taken in this book are quite disturbing.
and so if you are interested in actually understanding the partition and the events around it i suggest you find a good history book by a truely unbiased observer, to supplement this or any other fiction you read.
however miss sidwa IS a good writer with a gift for aesthetics. the book DOES have some fascinating insights into human nature.
putting the flaws aside Bapsi Sidhwa is a bold and gifted writer.
on 24 May 1998
There have already been many excellent customer reviews of this book, with which I wholeheartedly agree. The book starts out with a mundane, even boring upper-class existence seen through a child's eyes, and builds up to the violent wrenching apart of the country into India and Pakistan, when millions of Muslims and Hindus were displaced, butchered, slaughtered, tortured, including some of those closest to the main character, Lenny. What is interesting is this follows (in 1947) directly on the heels of the more well-known Holocaust in Europe, indicating that few lessons are learned even from recent history and man's unlimited inhumanity to man goes on. The author makes this point nicely and subtly at the very end by having a Jewish doctor, a refugee from Nazi Germany, move into the neighborhood after the Hindus and Sikhs have left or have been driven out. The author does not take sides in this novel. She points out that wrong behavior and the "eye for an eye" mentality on either side can escalate out of control, doing irreparable damage. This is a powerfully moving book and should be read just to learn that such things continue to happen and are not limited to one part of the globe.
on 29 November 2013
This is a really informative book as Sidhwa writes very well indeed about a tragic moment in time and brings out the frailty and courage of humans.
The book arrived very promptly and in good condition.
on 26 June 2005
Sidhwa's book is a warm depiction of one child's experience with an atrocious moment in history.
But what I want to discuss is the comment below, by V. Sharma. It's ridiculous to say: '...this would be akin to Jews in America demanding a separate state -- it would never happen.' Excuse me? Since the reviewer does not live in this world, let me state the obvious: Israel IS a separate Jewish state that came into existence in 1948 (one year after the Partition of India), and that today would not exist, certainly not as the political and nuclear power it is, if it weren't for Americans, both Jews and non-Jews. It's unfortunate that in this day and age, when the war against Palestinians has killed, displaced, and tortured millions, murders that are in large part being funded by American taxpayers, this needs to be pointed out.
Pakistan and Israel are both separate states that were made on the basis of religion. However, since the Jewish faith is innate (that is, there is a Jewish race, you cannot become Jewish by conversion) while Islam is not race-based (anyone can become a Muslim), the two states do not have much else in common. As human rights activists keep pointing out, Israel practices Apartheid: state-sanctioned supremacy of one race over another, i.e., Jews over Arabs.
The Partition of India was an awful event, and I agree with Sharma that it is simplistic to blame Hindus or Sikhs. But that is all I can agree with. Bapsi Sidhwa does not blame them. And Sharma should not blame Muslims either. The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had innitially wanted Muslims in India to have provincial autonomy, not a separate state, but because the Indian Congress (which was entirely Hindu) did not agree, his goals -- fortunately or unfortunately, that I can't say -- switched to a separate state. I know Pakistanis and Indians who say that if Congress had allowed space for Muslims within it, Partition would not have occurred. Some would even argue that it is Hindus who wanted the Partition, not Muslims. The bottom line is: Clearly, there is a lot to this episode that still needs to be learned so there is no point blaming any one side.
That is why Sidhwa's book (she herself is Parsi -- not Hindu, Muslim or Sikh) is so valuable. It is refreshingly unprejudiced.
on 4 August 2010
I bought this book in order to have the opportunity to spend more time with the wonderful characters I first encountered in Earth, one of my favourite films, which I couldn't bear to end. A couple of chapters into the book Sidhwa indicates that Ghandi's Salt March occurred shortly after the end of WWII. This is a serious error, which I can't quite believe wasn't picked up by the editor and could have possibly gone in a book written by someone who grew up on the Subcontinent. I am fairly new to this topic (but not so new I wouldn't have picked up on THAT error) so not sure how to view some of the other information here and the historical picture she presents as a whole, although the story remains readable if not as tightly wrought as Mehta's film (Mehta wrote that script). Treat this book with care.
on 26 June 1999
Many books have been wriiten about the partition of India in 1947. But this is the first book,where the story is told from a young child's point of view. The books revolves around Lenny, a young Parsee girl, who turns eight years old in 1947. The religious strife in the country, make her realize the frailities and unpredictability of human nature. Like every book on Partition, this book too remains unbaised. It does not hold one person or community responsible. It is truly unfortunate, that some people feel that the author is racial and prejudice. It is amusing to see that people who write this, fail to see their own preduices. It is about time that people realize, We are all to be blamed. To say the 'Hindu-Sikhs are not to be blamed for the partition or vis-a vis is not only ignorance, but a way to justify actions. It is about time we realize that this event took place because the people of our country allowed themselves to be swayed by the people in power. Innocent people died because of their beliefs. We should learn from the mistakes of the past and make sure that it is not repeated in the present or near future. Instead of blaming each other, we should find a constructive way of living in harmony