Crossing Over is the most recent volume in the series from Mänoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, published by the University of Hawai'i Press. For two decades, Mänoa has been featuring contemporary literature from countries and regions in Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas. Many of these works have never before appeared in English translation, or have not been readily accessible to American and other English-speaking readers.
According to the Bowker Global Books in Print database, works of translation account for about three percent of all books published in the U.S., and almost three-quarters of those translations are nonfiction. American readers are thus not only deprived of the abundance of fine international literature, but also of the insights and intimate knowledge of other people which only literature can provide. Given recent U.S. intervention in global affairs, there may have never been a time when reading the literature of America's transnational neighbors has been more important.
Crossing Over comprises stories from three South Asian countries—India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—with a combined population of over two billion. The works here focus on the cataclysmic experiences of Partition in 1947 and its aftermath, including the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. The selection is by no means exhaustive. At best, it serves as a sample of a rich and vast body of literature being produced in many languages of South Asia. The purpose of gathering these stories, however, has been neither to offer solutions to intractable political and social issues nor to assign collective blame. Instead, the stories in Crossing Over depict the responses and emotions of ordinary people caught in a tragic turning point in history, when tolerance, respect, and compassion broke down. Written by some of the region's finest writers, these works make us aware that such responses are not exclusive to South Asia. They are possible everywhere.
During the last few years, renewed attention has been given to what is called Partition Literature. These works of fiction, poetry, and memoir describe [End Page vii] and explore the events that occurred when the British colonial government departed South Asia, and the nation of Pakistan was created by hastily drawn borders that carved out portions of eastern and western India. Paki-stan gained independence just after midnight on August 14, 1947, and India on August 15. This caused frantic Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and other communities to cross the newly formed national borders in both directions in a massive migration, as sectarian violence broke out immediately.
In the tumultuous hours and days following the British exodus, more than a million people experienced unprecedented horrors: communal rioting, murder, rape, abduction, disease, and starvation. The tragedies of Partition, however, did not end with the migrations and resettlements; they continue today. On several occasions, open warfare has broken out between Pakistan and India, and communal violence and riots continue to erupt in parts of the Subcontinent. Partition also has had ramifications beyond the region, not the least being the precedent it set for other nations locked in communal strife.
Authors writing about the enormity of the social violence and the complexity of individual experience of Partition were, and continue to be, challenged by a difficult task. The shock of incomprehensible barbaric acts drove many to silence, denial, rage, guilt, lamentation, and despair. What is there to say, and how should it be said? To whom can an author speak about such things without giving in to the temptation of assigning blame to a particular community, or of withholding sympathy and compassion for all who suffered, regardless of religious or ethnic affiliation? How can storytelling give us the courage to accept our complicity in creating a world where atrocities are committed and endured by people very much like ourselves? How can stories tell what "really happened" while also giving us reason to believe that an ethical, humane future is possible?
An aesthetic shaping of the incidents of Partition has been of deep concern to the authors in Crossing Over, especially those who lived through the events. Their subject was and continues to be the working of the human mind and heart at the collective, as well as the individual, level. The great task they have faced has been to describe and attempt to comprehend how normal human beings could so easily be swept into barbarism. Their approach does not derive from sociology, history, or political science. The best writers work in a more subtle realm, where the truth is revealed in a nonpartisan narration of life experience, and where such essential human values as social justice, compassion, and love are not put aside. At the same time, these writers do not flinch from the reality of combative feelings, criminality, vengefulness, and cruelty. Some have rendered events with stark realism; others have created parabolic stories; and still others have explored the psychic responses that give rise to nostalgia, the wish to recall and value a lost connectedness that transcends communal strife. Prafulla [End Page viii] Roy's Bengali story "Where There Is No Frontier" comes to mind in this context, along with Mohan Rakesh's Hindi story "The Claim," which ends with the driver of a horse-drawn carriage reminiscing about the mango tree he has had to leave behind—as well as his missing wife. Blessing his old horse, he says, "If God keeps you well, Afsar, the old days will return again."
Researchers have accumulated statistics—the numbers of migrants and refugees, rapes, murders, and so forth; they have reexamined the political debates and scrutinized the positions and motives of leaders during and after Partition. Other researchers have concluded that, for millions of individuals who were involved, the intensity of experience was so deep and powerful that quantification and theorizing alone cannot provide a true calibration of the events. These tools of the academic and the researcher hardly begin to yield a comprehensive and satisfactory description of what so many individuals endured. For many years, people from all professions and facets of society seem to have made a deliberate effort to bury the stark truth of those experiences in their subconscious—to engage in a collective amnesia. From what depths would the refugee or the victim of rape, or the person who might have killed his neighbors, be capable of mustering the fortitude to confront the gruesome past, especially when the present de-mands his or her full energy to construct a new home and a new identity? Collective amnesia has always served as a survival strategy for individuals, communities, and nations.
Slowly, however, the repressed memories have risen to the level of consciousness. Novelists Khushwant Singh (A Train to Pakistan), Bhisham Sahni (Tamas), Joginder Paul (Sleepwalkers), Intizar Husain (Basti), and others describe Partition as a rupture that was never healed and was therefore followed by reenactments of the same events. The project of engineered forgetting—whether conducted by the individual, the society, or the state; whether through censorship or simple denial—comes under scrutiny in the powerful literary works of these authors, and reveals the awesome and multifarious colors of Partition.
The numbness in the psyche of those aversely affected by Partition has been like the numbness that sets in after a devastating storm or earthquake: bewilderment, disorientation, silence, and a sense of helplessness. On the one hand, Partition meant the aspiration of Indian and Pakistani nationhood after independence had been attained: hundreds of people had become martyrs in the struggle for independence, and there had been countless idealistic, selfless acts by freedom fighters, which were celebrated. On the other hand, there had been unimaginable acts of cruelty and injustice. The euphoria of freedom and the horror of the riots could not be experienced simultaneously. In these contradictory circumstances, a profound emotional, psychic, and moral confusion ensued. Some novelists—as if to [End Page ix] salvage a sense of humanity or to recover elevated emotions of solidarity and communal harmony—produced nostalgic journeys into a beautiful past, the recalling of which might restore harmony in the present. A convincing and authentic reliving of that past is found in Krishna Sobti's magnum opus, the novel Zindaginama, which brings to life an era of peaceful cohabitation among several communities of the earlier decades of the twentieth century; the author delves into recapitulation, not amnesia. Aag ka Darya (The River of Fire), a novel by the eminent Urdu writer Qurratulain Hyder, also traces the long history of the composite culture of the Subcontinent disrupted so violently in 1947. Similarly, Kamleshwar's Hindi novel Laute hue Musafir portrays communities re-forming after Partition. These are but a few of many fictional narratives that have attempted to counter the era of violence by recollecting the time of peace.
Indeed, nostalgia and forgetting appear together in some examples of Partition literature. In many Hindi and Urdu stories, the protagonists struggle to remember and to overcome memory in order to recover. The intense process of remembering enables them to put their fragmented, bruised selves back together, to recover a dignified identity. In Lalithambika Antharjanam's story "A Leaf in the Storm," the protagonist must purge herself of the memory of her brutal rape in order to make space in her psyche for the birth of the baby in her womb. The immediate sensations of the baby quickening in her body connect her with her new self and a new life.
On the other hand, many characters in Partition fiction are doomed because they cannot forget or because they cling tightly only to sweet memories, hoping to escape the pain of the cruel present. In "The Thirst of Rivers," an Urdu story by Joginder Paul, an old woman cannot part with a set of keys to the haveli (residential compound) she and her family had to abandon when they migrated across the border. Unable to forget, she believes she will be able to open the locks of her son's new house with those keys, and in this way, she remains a prisoner of her past.
A number of Partition authors have skillfully intermixed subjective memory with collective memory, and further mixed them with centuries-old historical events and with larger, non-linear cultural mythology. In his novel Basti, for example, the Urdu writer Intizar Husain uses the term hijrat (emigration) to describe the massive displacement of populations that occurred first in 1947 and then in 1971, when civil war destroyed East Pakistan and created the independent nation of Bangladesh. In Basti, the protagonist, Zakir, is a Shiite Muslim professor of history who moved to Lahore with his family in 1947; the present-tense action of the novel takes place in 1971, in the months preceding the dissolution of East Pakistan. Zakir is aware (as are the novel's readers) that the term evokes the Hijrat of the Prophet Muhammad, when the Prophet fled persecution in Mecca in [End Page x] 622 C.E. and founded the first all-Muslim community in Medina. In that crucial moment in Muslim history, hardship was quickly converted into victory. The "emigrations" of 1947 began hopefully but on many levels became tragic. Basti alludes to the long history of changes in the fate and status of Muslims in South Asia, through eras of secular and sacred time, many of them colored by suffering as much as by glory. In the excerpt printed in Crossing Over, Husain skillfully intertwines the past and present, the individual and the communal. "Basti" is a word that can refer to any dwelling place, and thus the protagonist's city is given a mythic quality. "Zakir" means "one who remembers." The name of his beloved childhood sweetheart, Sabirah, means "patient" or "enduring"; as the excerpt suggests, their love—and the hopefulness of childhood—is never fulfilled. Neither person is able to cross over the borders to the other.
"What place do you come from?" After the initial greetings, this is a question asked whenever refugees, now a very senior generation of people, meet each other in India or Pakistan. The question underscores the lingering desire to reestablish some contact, if not with the place, then at least with someone who might have come from the same town or city. Identifi-cation with place could hardly be depicted more powerfully than in Saadat Hasan Manto's story "Toba Tek Singh." The narrative begins in a madhouse and ends on the newly created border between India and Pakistan—which, the story suggests, is itself a creation of insanity. In his confusion, the pitiful protagonist no longer differentiates among himself, his name, and the town he is from and to which he wishes to return. By altering his physical relationship to home, Partition has made his psychological ties all the stronger, and his insanity perhaps all the more intractable.
Similarly, Joginder Paul's Urdu novella, Sleepwalkers, begins with the words "This is Lucknow." As we discover, however, the city being referred to is not Lucknow, India, but Karachi, Pakistan; the mohajirs (migrants) who left Lucknow because of Partition transported their home city "within the folds of their hearts" to Pakistan and rebuilt it, more splendidly, in Karachi. The people's sense of their home territory consists not merely of buildings and streets; it encompasses their specific ancestry, social norms, moral order, and deep communal identity. The massive migration of people in 1947 resulted in many stories with themes of exile and cannot be understood without knowledge of the profound significance "home" has to people in South Asia. Even a pile of rubble that had once been a house, as we see in the story by Mohan Rakesh in Crossing Over, has extraordinary psychic meaning to the man who once lived there.
Many of the migrants who exited their homelands in large kafilas (columns) had no specific destination; theirs was a journey into exile and homelessness. For people who cherished and found meaning in long-established neighborhoods, extended families, and cultural networks, the [End Page xi] exodus was traumatic. The oral-history narratives in Urvashi Butalia's collection The Other Side of Silence reflect what she calls "the layers of silence" of survivors and their anguish as a result of keeping their stories secret for decades. In the words of Intizar Husain, their journey into the inner self remains forever an "unwritten epic." In Prafulla Roy's Bengali story "Father," the eighty-year-old protagonist bolts himself in his room and refuses to come out when his daughter, abducted thirty years earlier, locates him at his house in Calcutta. He would rather hide in the darkness than open the door to hear her story of what happened to her.
The Partition riots of 1947 and the subsequent riots in East Pakistan in 1971 were particularly brutal for women. Sexual assaults, abductions, and suicide (or martyrdom) are recorded frequently in Partition literature. Deeply seated notions of honor, purity, and chastity created a situation in which women were targets of savage abuse; many of those who survived abduction or rape, as in "Father," were often accused of bringing dishonor upon their families. After the riots subsided, the governments of Pakistan and India established programs to find abducted women and return them to their relatives. These so-called rehabilitation programs could not decondition the mindsets of people who condemned the women for having survived. Thus, "rehabilitated" women who were returned to their families were often victimized a second time. Rajinder Singh Bedi's Urdu story "Lajwanti" is particularly powerful because of its poignant irony. Laj-wanti—her name is the same as that for the mimosa or touch-me-not plant—has been abducted and raped. While she remains missing in Paki-stan, her grieving husband becomes secretary of the city's Committee for the Rehabilitation of Women and participates in demonstrations for the acceptance of those women who are found and returned. When at last Lajwanti is returned, her husband not only treats her with excessive care, but begins to address her as Devi (goddess). The painful irony is that, despite the best intentions, Lajwanti and her husband are unable to restore their past happiness. As Bedi tells us, "She had returned home, but she had lost everything."
Soon after Partition, journalistic writing thrived on descriptions of savagery and indulged in what came to be called "pornography of violence." Some important fiction writers, such as Saadat Hasan Manto, wrote stories that were so vivid in their depiction of violence that the writers were banned from publishing—or, as in Manto's case, prosecuted for obscenity. But Manto and other skillful writers shaped their stories so powerfully and memorably that such savagery is ultimately redemptive.
In an age when fanaticism, communal strife, and the politics of identity and "otherness" are increasingly destructive, it becomes imperative to seek an unbiased understanding of inter-community and inter-national relationships. The politics of divisiveness has been shown to have only tragic [End Page xii] results, and yet political interests and religious fanaticism make us blind. Wise and perceptive stories restore our sight and enrich our understanding. How could one not be moved by the fate of the little boy in Bhisham Sahni's "Pali," who undergoes religious conversion twice and is trapped in the meaninglessness of dogmatic religious affiliations? Reading the literature of Partition is bound to arouse comparison with present times; and having read it, we will perhaps be less inclined to dismiss a nostalgia for multiethnic, multireligious cohabitation as sentimentalism. Where will we find the wisdom to create a new future? Crossing Over suggests some answers, and the consequences if we fail.
A Karachi Family Album
Throughout Crossing Over are photographs from the family album of Teresa Vas Mansson, born and raised in Karachi (in present-day Pakistan) and now living in Hawai'i. Her family story is in some ways a counterpoint to the others in Crossing Over. For instance, her family did not suffer the level of violence that befell many of the real and fictional families described here, and thus her story might seem less dramatic and troubled. But there is no need to compare degrees of suffering. What unifies her experience with that of others in Crossing Over is the disruptive effects of Partition, the separation of close-knit extended families, the abandonment of beloved homes, and the scattering of friends and kin. Through her story, we realize that we need the narratives of many individuals to begin to comprehend the meaning of history.
Teresa was born to Cyril and Sophia Vas in 1927. Her grandfather had migrated to Karachi, possibly in the 1870s, from Goa, a verdant region comprising about 1,400 square miles on India's west coast. Goa and Karachi are strikingly different. Goa is moist and fertile, while Karachi is hot and dry. Since the early sixteenth century, Goa was separated from the rest of India, colonized by Portugal rather than Britain. In this Portuguese enclave, Goans developed a distinct identity. For example, a large minority of Goans were Roman Catholic rather than Hindu (today Christians still comprise about thirty percent of Goa's population), having been converted, sometimes by force, by the Portuguese. At the same time, many of the converted Goans maintained their Hindu culture. The language of the upper classes was Portuguese instead of the English spoken in the rest of India by the British colonists and those who worked for them. Most Goans in Goa, however, spoke Marathi or Konkani. In addition, many Goans took Portuguese surnames. Similarly, many towns and districts acquired Portuguese names; for example, the major port city is called Vasco, after Vasco Da Gama.
By the mid-1800s, large numbers of Goans were moving to Karachi to find work under the British. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, the city [End Page xiii] [Begin Page xv] became South Asia's closest major port to Europe, and by 1900 Karachi had become the biggest wheat-exporting port in the British Empire. Like other Goan migrants who hoped to do well, Teresa's Roman Catholic grandfather would have had to learn to speak English. While this was somewhat of an obstacle, Goans wanting to work for the British in Karachi had several things in their favor: Goans were predominantly Christian, they had long been familiar with European culture, they got along with everyone, and they were hard workers. Their British employers favored them, and Goans prospered. Moving up in the British civil, government, and defense services, they built homes and started families. They lived in communities with names such as Depot Lines, Soldier Bazaar, Cincinnatus Town (now called Garden East), Camp (later known as Saddar), and Catholic Colonies. By the time of Partition, Catholic Colonies and Saddar had become the city center of Karachi.
Religion played an important role in creating a cohesive Goan community. There was no church in Karachi when the large migrations began, so with support from the Irish Fusiliers and other Roman Catholic soldiers and individuals, the Goans built St. Patrick's chapel, which became a church and eventually an impressive cathedral. When St. Patrick's was completed in 1881, it had high vaulted ceilings, stained glass, and marble paving, and could accommodate 1,500 worshipers. With a fine private school supported by the church, St. Patrick's became a center for the entire Catholic community; adults and children gathered there for social events, as well as for religious services and festivals.
In 1886, the community was large enough to establish a library, which became the Goan Portuguese Association. Later, as the community outgrew this facility, the name was changed to the Karachi Goan Association. In 1905, the association completed construction of a lavish stone building that had Belgian tiles and teak flooring, used for cultural, sporting, and other gatherings. The building, called variously the Goa-Portuguese Hall and Goan Gymkhana, was one of the most elegant and prominent structures in the Saddar Bazaar, an area of sprawling shops with expensive imported goods, food markets, and sellers of all manner of merchandise. The area included the Empress Market (named after Queen Victoria, Empress of India) and Elphinstone Street (now Zaibunnisa Street), which had the largest number of shops of any street in the bazaar. Across Bunder Road (now M.A. Jinnah Road) was a forty-three-acre park, laid out by the British in 1874, called Government Garden or Rani Bagh (later Gandhi Garden, and now the Zoological Garden). The park had a large bandstand as well as grounds set aside for cricket and croquet. The Goan community thrived in Karachi, and many Goans became entrepreneurs, business managers, and professionals.
Teresa's grandfather also did well in Karachi, rising to the post of Customs Inspector. Members of his large, cultured family became prominent [End Page xv] among the ranks of the military and professional classes. The oldest son, Joseph Anthony, born in 1875, was the first Goan to pass the Indian Civil Service exam and had an outstanding career in the Service. After attending D.J. Sind College in Karachi (established in 1887), Joseph received degrees from King's College, Cambridge, in 1898. He was then posted to Bengal, where he died at age forty-six. He was survived by his wife, Mattie.
Joseph's brother Alec joined the British Indian Army during World War I, perhaps encouraged by the fact that Karachi was then the headquarters of Allied Operations in the Middle East and a major supply depot for British troops. It was Alec who changed the spelling of the family name from "vaz" to "vas," to increase his chances of being taken for an Anglo-Indian, desirable for recruitment into the British Indian Army. At the time, the British Indian Army was the largest volunteer army in the world, and Alec was one of approximately 1.4 million Indians sent to help the allies in World War I. He was killed about 1915, possibly at the Second Battle of Ieper in Belgium, and buried in what has become known as Flanders Field.
The daughters of the family included Mathilda, affectionately known as Mitz, and Gilomena. And there were three more sons: Alfie, Cyril, and Fred.
Cyril graduated from Grant Medical College, Bombay, in about 1915 and became a doctor. Soon afterwards, he married Sophie, and they had four children: Patricia, Ken, Eric, and Teresa.
Teresa's brother Eric, born in 1923, joined the British Indian Army and was commissioned in 1942. He would have been on duty during Partition, as trains filled with fleeing immigrants were crossing the Indian and Pakistani borders. Later Eric went through the Staff College, Wellington, and the National Defense College, New Delhi. He became a highly decorated commandant and rose to the rank of lieutenant general before retiring.
Teresa's other brother, Ken, married a Karachi woman named Yolanda; after Partition, the couple opted to stay in Pakistan, despite their not being Muslim.
Cyril and Sophie Vas raised their young family in the area called Depot Lines, in a house directly across from the Karachi Goan Association Hall. In many of the family photographs, the large stone building is visible in the background. During these years before Partition, Karachi was relatively tranquil, clean, and well regulated, despite the city's rapid growth as an important British seaport. But the period was not without sorrows for the Vas family. Teresa's mother, Sophie, died in 1932, and the family moved in with Cyril's widowed sister, Mathilda, and her son, Bude (Vincent). They lived in the nearby area called Cincinnatus Town, named after a prominent Goan, Cincinnatus D'Abreo. In anticipation of marriage, Bude built a large house, Greyholme, for the extended family.
In the sweltering summers, many Goans, including Teresa's family, took vacations back in Goa, where the weather at the seashore was mild. [End Page xvi] Another getaway was the resort in Nainital, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas. Established in 1841 as an exclusive refuge, or hill station, for the use of British dignitaries, by 1925 it began to be used as a retreat by Indian professionals and high-ranking members of the British civil service. Located at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, the town was set between the snowy Himalayan range and the broad plains to the south. Teresa remembers vacationing there with her friends in the 1940s, after graduating from high school.
Partition dramatically and irrevocably altered Karachi. Before 1947, it was regarded as one of the most prosperous and well-planned cities in British India. Out of a total population of 400,000, Muslims comprised forty-two percent, while Hindus comprised fifty-one percent. Karachi had become the capital of Sindh Province in 1937, and the citizens were proud of their orderly city. Compared to cities in the part of the country that became Pakistan after Partition, Karachi—far to the east of the new border—was peaceful. When the riots began elsewhere in August 1947, migrants (known as mohajirs), streamed across the border into the newly created Pakistan, and within months more than 600,000 had reached Karachi. The numbers and desperation of the mohajirs put intense pressure on the local authorities to house and accommodate them, and many of the refugees found themselves having to live in refugee camps and squatter settlements (katchi abadis). Hindus were slow to leave at first, feeling somewhat secure in their numbers and their good relationships with the local Sindhi population. However, they soon felt overwhelmed by the newcomers, mainly Urdu-speaking, who needed shelter.
By early 1948, tensions were reaching the breaking point. In January, 200 to 300 Sikhs inexplicably arrived in Karachi by train. When the news spread, a mob of mohajirs, armed with hatchets and swords, surrounded the train cars. The Sikhs managed to lock themselves in a Sikh temple near the train station. When the mob could not break down the doors, they set the building on fire, burning alive most of the men, women, and children. Those who escaped the blaze were butchered as they fled. The riots quickly spread to other areas of the city, and many non-Muslims were raped and murdered. Rioting and looting continued for two days.
The incident shocked the local residents. Some—including a large number of the Sindhi-speaking population, who were of various ethnicities and held diverse political and religious points of view—had grown to resent the unruly refugees. In referring to themselves as mohajirs, the refugees were using the term adopted by the Prophet Muhammad's followers, who had fled to Medina in the sixteenth century to avoid persecution. In this sense, the refugees considered themselves the founding fathers of Pakistan. They were the ones who were sacrificing all for the new nation, and they felt themselves to have a special privilege over the Sindhis, whom they looked down upon as uneducated rural farmers. [End Page xvii]
The January riots led to a massive exodus from the city of 170,000 of the remaining Hindus, Christians, and other imperiled citizens. Further demographic changes occurred in May 1948, when, over the objections of the Sindhi population, Karachi was federalized and declared the capital of the new nation of Pakistan. Karachi's change of status meant that numerous senior officials and some 4,000 clerks who were needed to run the country were added to the congestion. In addition, Karachi's status as Sindh's provincial capital, having been superseded by the federal administration, resulted in the new government taking over buildings and land. Between 1947 and 1951, Karachi's population grew by 432 percent, as 815,000 new immigrants raised the population to 1.2 million. By 1951, the Muslim population was more than ninety percent of the total, and the Hindu and Sindhi-speaking populations less than ten percent. Today, the population of Karachi is 15 million and growing by 2 million per year.
These events took their toll on Teresa's family, as they did on many others. In addition, her father died in 1948, leaving only Teresa and Mathilda at home; her brother Ken had already married and moved into a house of his own. Teresa had been working since 1944, starting with her joining the Women's Royal Indian Naval Service (WRINS), so she was out during the day. Left at home by herself, Mathilda could not cope with the stress of ethnic tensions spreading through the city, and she was sent to Bombay, into the care of her extended family.
In 1945, Teresa took a job as a shore-based clerk in the Royal Indian Navy. In November of that year, Indian recruits in the Indian Civil Service and armed forces had staged a mutiny in Bombay. In the following months, the mutiny spread among the air force and navy, leading to street riots in sympathy for Indian independence. The mutinies may have hastened Britain's realization that its Indian colony was ungovernable. Military trials and inquiries ceased after Partition, and Teresa went to Bombay to join her extended family. She kept up her ties with Karachi, however, and even took a temporary job at the Indian consulate there before moving away for good.
In 1943, Teresa's cousin Alexander Athaide, known as Alec, married Phyllis de Lima. Alec was a sportsman of some repute in Karachi, but hardly on the level of his athletic wife. Born in Bombay in 1914, Phyllis was a national champion in several sports, particularly tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Having no opportunity to compete overseas, she played matches against world champions who passed through Bombay. As a young woman in her twenties, she left Bombay in 1942 to become an art teacher in Karachi, where she met and married Alec. In 1948, Alec and Phyllis moved to Bombay where they shared their two-bedroom apartment with displaced family members: Alec's parents; his sister, Kitty; his aunt [End Page xviii] Mathilda; and perhaps others as the need arose. The help that the extended family gave to one another was crucial in these difficult times.
In 1950, Teresa moved to London, encouraged by expatriate friends, Anglo-Indians from Singapore whom she had met in Karachi. She worked with her friend Coral in the East End and lived in a boardinghouse in Finsbury Park. Eventually, she got a job at the Indian consulate in London, allowing her to travel frequently to Bombay. Access to her home city of Karachi, however, was almost impossible. Her brother Ken died in Karachi, survived by his wife, who still lives there. Her brother Eric is now retired but continues to be active in international relations, writing for various journals and newspapers on the subjects of national security and peace.