A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition

by Salman Rashid

Read time: about 4 minutes

Salman Rashid is a journalist in Pakistan who travels to India searching for his roots here. Salman Rashid is neither fashionably nationalistic nor blind to corruptions of the state. He, in many ways, reminds me of Taslima Nasreen in Lajja.

Read further to know more about a Pakistani man’s search for his ancestral home in Jalandhar, India.

Cover Page

The cover page is simple and impactful. The picture of a man looking at you with solemn expression, women covered from head to toe and children much directionless tugging to each other speaks a lot about the state of affairs. The clean font below compliments the book.

Cover: A Time of Madness: A Memoir of Partition


The book begins with a beautiful dedication

Dedicated to those Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who lost their worldly possessions and sometimes their lives for the creation of Pakistan.

The very first line of chapter one establishes the meaning of ‘Home’ to the author.

On the twentieth day of March 2008, I headed home for the first time in my life.

Here the author talks about entering India as homecoming. Then what begins is an endless comparison of Pakistan and India in terms of their natural possessions and infrastructure. Rashid talks about Pakistan as how and Indian may talk about India. It makes you believe that the way people think on either sides are similar. The lack of good roads, skipping signals are very much prevalent in Pakistan too. We are killing our trees like a mad country and Pakistan is no different. The native trees are being felled there too. The corrupt politicians are rotting the both the countries from the inside whereas the army is trying to protect the nation from the outer forces.

The author slowly dives in he history of his ancestral house. He accounts for his journey across different towns. He describes each person that has helped him to make the trip a success. He also comes across a gory massacre that his ancestors had to face in this land called India. Rashid has no enmity though. He knows the time as ‘a time of madness’ where nobody was themselves.

There is a lot that Rashid has to say. Unfortunately it comes as broken parts and not as a complete narrative. Rashid, as any normal resident would talks about the religious leaders who have divided us and continue to do so all these years. The author ends with a short history of the time of partition blaming the prominent leaders that time excluding Mahatma Gandhi for the mass massacre that followed after the borders were announced. Role of Mountbatten and Radcliffe is analysed which further digs his wound.

The Book reminded me about another book that I had read a few years back when I never wrote down my thoughts after I read the booo. The book was ‘Lajja’ by Taslima Nasreen. Here Nasreen talks about the result of Babri Masjid demolition in Bangladesh. The Muslims were slitting the Hindus in that country as well. The book too began with her personal experience in the country and went on to give a statistical account of autocracies against Hindus in the country.

A Time Of Madness too feels statistically heavy. There are too many people in the book to meet and too many places to visit, to an extent that it becomes difficult to keep a tab of it down the line.


The language is simple and understandable, considering the background of the author. However, the parts seem broken at places, as if the book was written in separate chapters and wasn’t stitched well later. The flow is definitely not seamless.

Good points

The cover page is beautiful. The content is heartbreaking. The zest of the author to visit his home country touches you in more ways than one. The writing is very simple and easy to understand.

Bad points

Even though it is a short book it is saturated with information to an extent that it gets difficult to keep a tab of the events. The flow of the book is not seamless.


It is a good book to hear about the partition from someone who has direct link to the generation who suffered due to it.

Whom do I recommend this to

This is for those who enjoy short pieces of history and memoirs as well.

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com