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The pain of partition, through Parasher's sketches
Friday July 19, 2013 8:11 PM, IANS

The subjects in the mostly black-and-white sketches look out blankly, their heads almost too heavy to bear their own weight. Their hands fall loosely in despair. On display are never-before exhibited works of S.L. Parasher.

Parasher, who moved to India after partition and went on to found the Government School of Arts, Shimla, had served as the camp commander of a refugee camp in the immediate aftermath of partition in 1947. He recorded, in his sketches and line drawings, the pain of partition seen from close quarters.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid inaugurated the exhibition Thursday, and admitted it was a moment of discovery: "These sketches give us an account of how partition was felt by people who went through it. For artists, it must have been a sudden collapse of their universe, and living with those limited spaces must have had an affect on their creative freedom," he said.

"You can feel his determination in these sketches, that is not overwhelmed by pain, yet there is a melancholy associated with it. It is a moment of discovery for me," Khurshid said.

Parasher's daughters and son diligently took out the works from his trunk and preserved them in frames, making them a national heritage.

Parasher (1904-1990), had been sketching for almost a century. Although he witnessed partition, his children said he never spoke of it.

"He had become the camp commander at a refugee and hence he had first-hand experience of the emotional torment and turmoil of the people. These are extremely muted sufferings, something you can feel," Bela Sethi, his daughter told IANS.

"He never personally discussed partition. It is through these works that even we see how tough it must have been for him and those who witnessed this," she said.

Born in Gujaranwala, now in the Punjab province of Pakistan, in 1904, Parasher was already an established artist when he left his hometown along with other refugees at the time of partition. He died in 1990.

Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) played a pivotal role in putting together the exhibition. And as his daughter Bela Sethi says, an "opportunity" is more important that an opportune time.

Under the aegis of the ICCR, the exhibition is now open to the public. It is on at the residence of the Parashers in south Delhi.

"Partition was not only a political watershed but also perhaps the most tragic story of people and families across the line drawn on a piece of paper. What these sketches narrate are the visual impressions of human sufferings," said Suresh K. Goel, director general, ICCR.

"Our next step will be to think of an alternative space, more exposure and better platforms to display these fine works of history," he added.

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