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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Cracking India

Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa Published in 1991, it’s set against the turbulent backdrop of Pakistan’s birth in 1947 during Partition. The story is told from the perspective of a young Pakistani girl. The girl living in Lahore at the time. Sidhwa paints a vivid picture of ethnic and religious violence. It broke out as India was divided. It provides powerful eyewitness insight into that dark period in South Asian history. Give it a read to experience that complex time through rich prose in Sidhwa’s skilled hands.

Summary of Cracking India 

Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa. Published in 1991, it tells the gripping story of a young Parsi girl named Lenny who experiences the turmoil of Partition firsthand from her home in Lahore, Pakistan in 1947. Through Lenny’s eyes, the book really transports you to experience what everyday people went through when religious riots broke out as Britain left India. Sidhwa does a beautiful job painting a picture of a once diverse community torn apart along sectarian lines. Even though it covers a heavy topic, it’s very readable and will give you insightful perspectives into that traumatic time in South Asian history.

Themes of Cracking India

Communal Violence

The novel starkly depicts how quickly societal divides transformed ordinary citizens into extremists, highlighting Partition’s immense human costs.

National Identity

Characters like Izra question where they belong as borders redrawn allegiances, reflecting millions caught in the new nations’ ambiguous amalgamation of religion and ethnicity.

Childhood Innocence

Through Lenny’s shifting playscapes, Sidhwa shows innocent lives permanently impacted by the madness of politics and fanaticism beyond their control.

Women’s experiences

From Lenny’s Ayah Izra to refugee tropes, Sidhwa illuminates gendered vulnerability during upheavals that disproportionally endangered women.

Minority plight

As a Parsi, Lenny belongs to a tiny community and her trials signify minorities caught between warring factions amid ethnic configurations in flux.

Secular past

Communal coexistence before Partition is represented in Lenny’s friendships, emphasizing what was lost as syncretism exploded amid exclusive nationalism.

Historical insight

Sidhwa offers intimate perspectives on an under-explored period that help understand India and Pakistan’s lasting inheritance from their violent conception.

Memory and trauma

Lenny’s shaken psyche suggests lingering wounds of cataclysms with impacts echoed across generations in former victims.

Major Characters of Cracking India


As the young Parsi protagonist, Lenny provides the story’s point of view. Through her innocent eyes, readers experience the escalating tensions in 1947 Lahore. Her carefree hijinks with friends Iqbal and Imam symbolize pre-Partition harmony. However, witnessing extremism’s violent rift leaves Lenny psychologically scarred, showing communalism’s impact across ages.


Lenny’s Ayah (nanny), Izra dotes on the girl yet inwardly battles her emerging Bengali identity. Ultimately fleeing Lahore’s riots to rejoin family, Izra exemplifies divided loyalties as borders blurred ethnicity with faith. Her departure marks Lenny’s awakening to new complexities in her once simple world.


Iqbal’s Muslim friend who regularly plays with Lenny, Imam’s radicalization mirrors rising Islamic fervor which informs later massacres as communities turn on former neighbors. His chilling transformation illuminates fundamentalism’s capacity to warp ordinary relationships.

Through these multi-layered characters, Sidhwa deftly portrays Partition’s devastation across gender, religion, and age while bringing 1947 Lahore vividly to life.

Minor Characters of Cracking India


Lenny’s young friend who plays dolls with her, Rice symbolizes childhood innocence destroyed as her family is attacked during riots. Her abrupt absence drives home the very personal impacts of wider political upheavals on ordinary people.


Lenny’s close Muslim friend, Iqbal initially treats religion as secondary to joyful play. However, he later joins extremist rallies, reflecting how the British exit radicalized whole communities through opportunistic rhetoric. Iqbal’s destabilizing underscores the lingering effects of polarized communalism.

Ayah’s Son

Izra’s offspring whom Lenny cares for like a sibling highlights familial bonds ruptured across borders during Partition. Through this nameless child, Sidhwa emphasizes the chaos of uprooting vast cross-sections of traumatized populations.

These minor players enrich the novel’s depiction of communal harmony undone while representing many silenced ordinary victims of division.


Cracking India portrays the human costs of Partition in 1947. Through innocent Lenny, violence and lost friendships vividly haunt them. It underscores religion is harshly manipulated for political ends, destroying coexistence. Sidhwa honours many unsung souls still healing from history’s heavy toll.

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