Set in Delhi in October 1947 as India gains independence from Britain, this book shows the impact of partition and the ensuing unprecedented mass movement of people by providing an insight into the impact on individual lives through the fictional stories of two boys.
We meet Ibrahim first of all; he is from a wealthy Muslim family who are about to flee Delhi for Pakistan. Ibrahim very quickly becomes separated from his parents and sister and thrust into a volatile, perilous situation. Finding himself at the train station he tries to join others escaping the city and, while there, witnesses the horror of a trainload of murdered Hindus spilling onto the platform. This incident provokes understandable rage from Hindu onlookers meaning Ibrahim, an unprotected Muslim child, is now in even greater danger. Meanwhile he is being watched by Amar, a Hindu Street child, armed with a catapult and on the lookout for a suitable wealthy Muslim victim for reasons of his own.
Ibrahim appeals to Amar for help and a connection gradually forms between them. Amar protects Ibrahim, helps him hide, feeds and disguises him, and although he is unable to take him to Pakistan he helps him find safety at a refugee camp.
The story moves on with chapters narrated alternately by the two protagonists. The reason for Amar’s anger is gradually revealed as we find out about the friend he lost.
There are glimpses of happier times before partition as well with shared memories of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs living peacefully as neighbours and enjoying each other’s festivals.
Although a serious subject, there are touches of humour, for example where Ibrahim tries to get into role as a Hindu beggar and overacts, adopting an unnecessary and rather conspicuous limp.
This book tells an important story in an accessible way, describing a key event in world history with which many children in UK will have direct family links. It may lead to a broader look at the impact of British Imperialism and its aftermath and could also lead to consideration of the ways people with different backgrounds and beliefs still have much in common.
The back of the book includes a brief timeline and useful glossary of Indian vocabulary. The cover artwork by ‘Two Dots’ Creative studio is very striking and perfectly matched to the story.