History is written by victors.
– Quote Gurinder Chadha,
director of Viceroy’s House and film maker behind Bend it like Beckham.
I had a lazy afternoon yesterday at the cinema, watching a historical movie about the inside life of the Viceroy’s House in 1947 during the Partition of India.
An amazing opening with the above quote and introduction to the Viceroy’s House with numerous (some 500) Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants cleaning the Lutyen’s masterpiece, the lawns, carpets and marble floors to greet the last viceroy of colonised India, Lord Louis Mountbatten – or Dickie, as he was known.
His full name was Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten. Such a mouthful but Richard was not any of his name. His initial nickname among family and friends was Nicky which later became Dickie.
Viceroy House’s grandeur was alarming. It has 340 rooms and 12 indoor courtyards. According to Lady Pamela Hicks (Lord Mountbatten’s daughter), the house was so vast one had to allow 10 minutes to arrive at dinner on time.
I dozed off a bit at the earlier part of the movie but midway through till the end, my heart was heavy and sombre as I watched the Great Divide.
In August, 1947, when, after three hundred years in India, the British finally left, the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent nation states: Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Immediately, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Muslims trekked to West and East Pakistan (the latter now known as Bangladesh) while millions of Hindus and Sikhs headed in the opposite direction. Many hundreds of thousands never made it.
Across the Indian subcontinent, communities that had coexisted for almost a millennium attacked each other in a terrifying outbreak of sectarian violence, with Hindus and Sikhs on one side and Muslims on the other. Independence also brought violence and tragedy. Ten million people were uprooted from their homes. Hundreds of thousands died, and women were sexually assaulted and kidnapped, in the upheaval that followed.
This August will mark the 70th anniversary of the largest migration in human history.
Have Pakistan and India put their post-1947 partition feud to rest?
The End of an Empire. The Birth of Two Nations. VICEROY’S HOUSE tells the true story of the final months of British rule in India.
Viceroy’s House in Delhi was the home of the British rulers of India. After 300 years, that rule was coming to an end. For 6 months in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, great grandson of Queen Victoria, assumed the post of the last Viceroy, charged with handing India back to its people.
The film’s story unfolds within that great House. Upstairs lived Mountbatten together with his wife and daughter; downstairs lived their 500 Hindu, Muslim and Sikh servants. As the political elite – Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi – converged on the House to wrangle over the birth of independent India, conflict erupted. A decision was taken to divide the country and create a new Muslim homeland: Pakistan. It was a decision whose consequences reverberate to this day.
The film examines these events through the prism of a marriage – that of Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten – and a romance – that between a young Hindu servant, Jeet, and his intended Muslim bride, Aalia. The young lovers find themselves caught up in the seismic end of Empire, in conflict with the Mountbattens and with their own communities, but never ever giving up hope. VICEROY’S HOUSE is a film that is both epic and intimate, with an inspirational message that celebrates tolerance. Many of the events depicted are either unknown or forgotten, but all have strong contemporary relevance in terms of lessons to be learnt concerning the politics of division and fear, the origins of religious extremism, and our moral responsibility towards migrants fleeing violence for a better life.
It is a story that is deeply personal to the film’s director Gurinder Chadha, whose own family was caught up in the tragic events that unfolded as the Raj came to an end.
Click here to read Fatima Bhutto’s summary of the film in the Guardian
via Daily Prompt – Unmoored
I am still drifting as I tried gathering my thoughts on what to write on ‘unmoored’. Like a vessel that is not anchored, my thoughts are loose and scattered. The movie I watched yesterday had an impact in my mind so this blog is about my thoughts on Viceroy’s House.